Discipling "New" Christians Under Watching Eyes
by Pat Humes
Orthodox Christianity and Islam are the dominant religions in Central Asia. It is an area where religion, customs, and politics are closely intertwined. Adherents who continue with their traditional rituals and abide by government regulations are left alone. But gospel preaching Christian missionaries are suspect.
Authorities in the former Soviet Union states look down on new converts, accusing them of being traitors to tradition. They believe a new convert would just as easily denounce his country, as he would his family and traditions. Most governmental officials fear there could be a rebellion among these “new” Christians.
Students help each other and work together in the classroom.
This then is the setting in which indigenous ministries carry out their work. Most work is done underground – even the training. There are some training centers in larger cities, such as Tashkent, where there are enough Christians to fulfill the state requirement of 100 people to qualify as a registered church. Even so, training is done discreetly. Sessions last three months and convene once a year.
Another strategy used in Central Asia is an old one, dating back to New Testament times. Disciples do not travel from their areas to “go to school.” Instead, devoted workers travel from place to place, teaching 25 to 30 in each location. Training sessions are held from 40 days to three months. Slavik Radchuk, Area Director for Christian Aid, said that the cost for this type of training is sometimes higher. Much travel, and travel through difficult areas, is involved. “We are grateful for the faithful support received through Christian Aid for this kind of training. More students are being reached this way,” he explained.