December 13, 2016
When the Final Frontiers Have a Witness for Christ
Post by Brittany Tedesco
"I'm the first person of my nationality to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior."
These were the words of a woman from the Talysh people group in Azerbaijan who spoke to one of our Area Directors.
"There are 180,000 of us in Azerbaijan and 200,000 in Iran," she said. "I want to see my people coming to Christ."
I looked up the Talysh people in the Joshua Project and, sure enough, the percentage of Christians is zero. They are 100% Islamic. Well, technically not 100%--we know of one Christian.
The woman explained the difficulties of sharing Christ in this economically depressed, Muslim country in the former Soviet Union. And then she explained her strategy for reaching her fellow Talysh people: publish a book containing the sayings of wise men revered in Azerbaijan, and include in it the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Christian Aid Mission sent funds to help her start printing her book, because this is the kind of strategy we get behind.
If we're going to finish the task of establishing a witness for Christ among every people group, we need to think strategically. Instead of just sending missionaries to places where the body of Christ already exists, why not identify those people groups who have no witness for His name?
The goal of missions is not to convert all people to Christianity—we know this is not possible or even biblical. The goal is to establish a witness for Christ among every, single ethnic group.
Our Finishing the Task campaign seeks to reach the last remaining unreached people groups—those "final frontiers"—with the gospel.
Central Asia is one of those final frontiers, where hard soil needs plowed, but we're seeing the modest beginnings of a harvest in countries where less than 1% of the population currently knows Christ.
For a church in Kazakhstan to be officially registered with the government (and hence not be illegal), it has to have 100 members. . .and each member has to send in their name, address, and other identifying information to the government. With this information, the government can find and persecute native Christians.
But despite the danger and challenges, the number of Christians in Kazakhstan continues to grow. Christian Aid Mission assists ministries there that have planted more than 120 underground churches comprising at least 12,000 believers.
A large number of nomadic Kazakh herdsmen live in Xinjiang, a region in western China that aptly means "new frontier." Native missionaries in this ancient stopping place along the Silk Road travel the highways to share the gospel with the Kazakh people, most of whom practice a syncretistic blend of Islam and witchcraft. The Kazakh people typically invite the missionaries back to their yurts for tea, and friendships have formed. Because of the missionaries' hard work, an indigenous church of Kazakh believers meets together in Xinjiang.
North of Xinjiang is the country of Mongolia, where, 20 years ago, there were no churches. Around 40% of the country's 3 million people live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. This year, ministry workers shared thousands of leaflets explaining the importance of reading the Bible at the state-sponsored Ulaanbaatar Book Fair. The team talked with around 900 people, most of whom had no previous contact with Christians.
On a recent trip to Mongolia, our Area Director left the capital city to drive five hours through rough mountain villages. He described the hard life of those Mongolian shepherds—living in extreme temperatures in yurts without bathroom facilities, and only bathing once a month. He met with native leaders of house churches that had been started years prior when 120 young Mongolians determined to reach their people for the Lord.
South of Xinjiang is the Tibetan Plateau, one of the toughest mission fields in the world. Tibetan Buddhists recognize the Dalai Lama not only as the leader of their state, but also as their living god. They view him as the reincarnation of the highest lineage of lamas (literally, the "Buddha to be").
Missionaries have never made headway there. Not only does the high elevation and mountainous terrain make it a difficult place for foreigners to live, Tibetans have generally looked upon outsiders with suspicion and would kill anyone who brought change to their culture.
But change is in the air. Several Chinese believers discovered a destitute Tibetan Buddhist orphanage in a mountain village nearly 11,000 feet above sea level. Far from civilization and without modern technology, the 50 orphaned boys lived primitively, bathing only once every six months.
After the missionaries hauled supplies up the mountain to install a hot water heater at the orphanage, things changed—not just sanitation-wise, either. The closed hearts of the Tibetan people started to open. After two and half years of interacting with the orphanage, the workers have discovered a completely unimposing way to share the gospel. Tibetans, they found, will watch Christian films. The group recently purchased a computer and projector to show evangelistic films. . .so we'll see what the future brings.
A few years ago, our Area Director told us about native missionaries who are reaching the people near the Arctic Circle in Siberia. It's so cold there that boots will freeze if they're not made of animal skin. Most people raise reindeer for a living. One woman secretly asked God if He would send someone to let her know if He existed.
Three weeks later, a passel of native missionaries on snowmobiles arrived in her village. She could barely believe it. Apparently, God is real and does hear the prayers of His created ones. She was among the first to accept Christ as Savior during their visit.
Christ will have a witness for Himself among all people—it's not a matter of if, but when. Until that day, Christian Aid Mission will keep working to see that the final frontiers have people who lift praise to His name.