Church Planting in Uzbekistan
Once part of the former Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, located in Central Asia, continues to limit the civil rights of its citizens and is considered an authoritarian state. Many non-governmental organizations and the U.S. State Department have concerns about the numerous human rights violations in Uzbekistan. Violations range from torture and arbitrary arrests to restrictions of basic freedoms — of religion, of speech and press, of free association and assembly. Before the breakup of the Soviet Union, the people of Uzbekistan primarily practiced traditional Islam, a very mild version of the religion. Today, Islam is still the dominant religion and Christianity faces increasing opposition.
Challenges for Native Missionaries
New laws have been enacted that increase the persecution of Christians. For example, if a person has two Bibles in his house, he is considered to be a missionary and can face from three to five years in jail. One Bible is permitted, if written in Russian. It is also illegal to preach in the Uzbek language; only Russian is allowed. The problem with this is that Russian is only spoken by the older generations. Uzbek is more popular among young people, who are learning English as well, but won’t understand preaching done in Russian or Bibles written in Russian. Authorities also control the registration of Uzbek national churches and use this tool to restrict the development of the church fellowships.
When a person changes his religion to Christianity, he is ostracized by the community, receives no job, no invitations, no handshake, no son or daughter given in marriage. Uzbekistan Christian Fellowship has about 500 evangelical churches in Uzbekistan, but most are very small. The ministers are not allowed to preach publicly, only in official church buildings and they are forbidden to preach in the Uzbek language about Jesus Christ. Even helping the afflicted through charity and humanitarian ministry are not allowed if it gives witness of the Lord.
The UCF has a vision to open a church in every small city and region. These home churches will reach out to relatives and neighbors of the local people.
Far from civilization, there are semi-nomadic Turkic peoples in rural settlements called kishlaks who secretly believe in Christ. UCF missionaries visit them and they read the Bible and pray together. The Lord helps them solve their problems and encourages their young faith.
In the mountain region, UCF missionaries are working with the Tajik people who live there. They do not eat beef and in fact worship the cow. Their biggest problem is the breakdown of the family, who do not stay together. Two sisters in Christ are serving the Lord there and ministering to about 50 people who were saved. These people copy the Holy Bible, saying that if someone would take away their Bible, they would have their writings. They do not want to let go of the book that has brought them freedom and truth.
The UCF has opened Bible schools where Christians, already involved as pastors or evangelists, receive training in a short six-week program, which accommodates 50 people per session. They hold classes in a church building and students bring their own mattresses for sleeping.
UCF also face some big challenges. The leaders have problems gaining employment and often have to work in far away places. Traveling to work is wasting time that they could spend on ministry. Pray that God would provide them with work closer to their homes. Another challenge is the great need for church buildings, since government authorities only count groups of Christian believers as a church if they have at least 200 members in a congregation.
Church buildings: $10,000-20,000 each
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