Alima is a young Christian professional in Kyrgyzstan who teaches math to primarily Muslim students. After attending one of Mission Eurasia’s Next Generation Professional Leader’s Initiatives (NGPLI) forums in Bishkek, Alima was encouraged and filled with new conviction and ideas for sharing the gospel through her profession. She shared her story with us:
“I am a math teacher at a Christian school in Kyrgyzstan. I’ve always had a penchant for numbers, and when I had to choose between working as an accountant or a math teacher, I chose to be a teacher because I wanted to be able to connect with students. Moreover, I believe that, as a Christian, my calling is to work professionally while also building relationships with people so I can share my faith.
“I am a second generation teacher, as my mother was also a teacher. My father worked in technology and was considered a master of his craft. From my parents I learned the value of working hard, and from the Bible I learned that my work should glorify Christ. The intellectual environment that I work in has a huge need for the gospel, and the best way to respond to this need is by talking with people. God has entrusted me with my profession, and I believe that this profession is also my ministry. It is a great responsibility to share the truth of the gospel with others.
“The NGPLI forum in Bishkek touched me deeply, and I was freed from the guilt I used to feel because I didn’t think I could serve God through my job. It also helped me understand that work is an opportunity for ministry, and along with working hard, I also need to stand by my values, even if it’s detrimental to me professionally. My colleagues recognize me as a disciple of Christ, not because they see me at church (they don’t attend), but because of my work ethic and compassionate interactions with them. The NGPLI forum also helped to further establish my belief that my main focus should be people, because God has given them great value.
“The children at my school are from Muslim families; therefore I try to be a blessing whenever I talk with my students and their parents. The parents trust me, because they know I want to provide quality education, and because they trust me as an educator, they are also more likely to trust what I say about God. For me, it’s important that I have a mentor to inspire my work, so I always think about how Jesus would teach. We young Christian professionals have a great responsibility to work well in the midst of a system where people want to work less and receive more. I don’t work like this, because I believe that I am working for the Lord, and I hope this serves as an example for others.
“During the Soviet era, it was almost impossible for believers to pursue higher education and work in influential professions. Moreover, many people were afraid of evangelical churches, because they considered them to be sects. But today, much has changed, and sometimes people come to my church and sit through the service just so they can talk with lawyers who attend the church. I have even heard stories of people repenting after hearing the gospel while they were waiting during the service! This is a perfect example of how professionals add prestige to a community, and the Church is no longer afraid, because they know there are influential Christians in our society. And this is also an example of how we are called to bring the gospel to our nation through our professions.”
“My decision to serve Marina, her husband Sergey, and their five children rose out of my desire to be a doer and not just a listener,” shared Maria, one of our School Without Walls (SWW) students in Russia. “After realizing that there is a great need for evangelism in my community, I started praying that God would provide opportunities for me to share the gospel. And one evening, He moved me to start serving a family in my area.
“The next day, I shared this revelation with my fiancé, Rustam, and together we visited the village of Sosnovo, where I had met Marina and her family while distributing Gifts of Hope during the Christmas season. Marina told us that her family was facing very difficult conditions, as they had been living without electricity for two weeks. They had fallen behind on their payments, so their electricity was shut off, and even after they paid their bill, they couldn’t afford to have someone from the electrical company come out to reestablish their connection. Sergey works as a security guard at a café, but he doesn’t make much. Marina isn’t working so she can take care of the children, and even though she receives government assistance, it still isn’t enough to pay for everything her family needs. Right now, they live in a small wooden house with no running water.
“The first time we visited their home, Marina and the children were so excited to see us! We brought them food and spent time praying that God would provide for their needs. At first, it was hard for them to accept our prayers, but over time, we could see God working in their hearts. Rustam and I try to visit Marina’s family every weekend, and now we are reading the New Testament with them. During the past few months, we have seen God’s hand at work, and Marina even invited her friend, Tatyana, to participate in our meetings! Tatyana hasn’t been to church in two years, but she has really enjoyed talking with us about God. Right now, there aren’t any churches or home groups in Sosnovo, so we are praying that God would provide even more opportunities for us to spread the gospel.
“The most important thing I have learned during this process is that we must rely on God and obey His teachings. By ourselves, we can’t give people what they need, but the Lord is able to transform them from within. For me, not only has this experience inspired me to continue pursuing evangelism, but it has also helped me grow much closer to Rustam. It is such a blessing that we can work together to serve the Lord!”
After suffering from divorce and a tragic car accident, Fatima felt hopeless and bitter. But God intervened in her life in a miraculous way, just when all seemed lost. Fatima shared her testimony of faith with us and communicated the transformative impact that the witness and love of our School Without Walls teachers and graduates had on her life:
“I used to be very arrogant and proud. I didn’t believe in God, and I refused to acknowledge His existence. Since religion in Ossetia is a mixture of paganism and Christianity, many people are very devout, but they also worship false gods and build temples and altars to perform senseless rituals. My family would often reproach me for refusing to take part in their pagan rituals, but I argued that, if there was no God, then it didn’t make sense to do these rituals, and if He did exist, then He would accept me even if I didn’t do them.
“After my husband divorced me and left me to raise our son on my own, I became even more bitter. Not long after, I was in a bad car accident that left me bedridden for two months with a broken spine. I couldn’t understand why this had happened to me, but when the doctors told me that it was a miracle that I had even survived, I realized that God was giving me a second chance to accept His gift of salvation.
“After this, I asked my Christian friend for a Bible. I started reading the New Testament and learned that Jesus raised the dead and healed the sick, and I realized that only He would be able to heal me. Before I was taken into surgery, I prayed that God would help me to trust Him, even if the doctors weren’t able to fix my spine so I could walk again. My surgery was very complicated because the doctors had to replace several of my vertebrae with titanium pieces. Afterward, the doctors said, ‘We don’t know what God you prayed to, but it’s a miracle that you are able to walk, and that you even survived the surgery.’
“When I returned home after my surgery, I started going to church, and after a while I finally repented. I realized that, before accepting Christ, I was simply existing but not really living. My real life began at church. I finally had real friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, who offered me committed spiritual support. Two of my closest friends are Sophia, who is a School Without Walls (SWW) teacher, and Zarina, a SWW graduate. Since I turned to God, I have never felt lonely. And now my son is also feeling drawn to church, and he no longer enjoys spending time with his non-Christian friends. Instead, he prefers talking with young people from my church.
“Now I am very active in my church, and I have started serving in children’s ministry. I praise God for saving me and for giving me the opportunity to walk again so I can serve Him. The support and love I have received from my church and the SWW leaders is more than I ever received from my own family. I am so thankful that God has given me this wonderful, abundant life!”
“I love serving those in need, especially children and orphans with mental disabilities,” shares Alesya, a School Without Walls (SWW) student from Pinsk, Belarus. Alesya coordinates the team of 5-8 dedicated volunteers from Church Without Walls that visits a local boarding school for children with special needs twice a month and organizes a summer Bible camp, Gift of Hope program, and other special projects at the school. “We spend as much as time as possible with the children so we can form strong relationships with them and support them beyond our regular visits.”
Alesya says that SWW played an important role in helping her discover her calling and in equipping her to fulfill it. “After assuming this leadership role, I felt the need to grow as a leader. It’s one thing to be a volunteer, but it’s another thing to think about ministry in a more holistic sense when you’re caring for children and leading a team. I understood that my enthusiasm and limited knowledge of ministry wasn’t enough to help me lead. I needed strong support, which I found at SWW. The training events and experienced ministry leaders that I met encouraged me and enriched my ministry. I could clearly see my own strengths and weaknesses, and this gave me new hope in God, because I realized that I couldn’t do anything through my own strength.”
Alesya rejoices in the results she has seen from her ministry, while also remembering that sometimes results are slow in coming, difficult to see, or only visible in the long term. “Sometimes I want quick results, but through children’s ministry, God has humbled me in a very special way. Children with mental disabilities sometimes have a hard time understanding the gospel, and sometimes I worry that they will never really understand the Good News. But this is so wrong, because I can see the children changing, even if it happens slowly. For example, Sasha, a young boy who lives at the boarding school, heard the gospel for the first time and immediately started asking serious questions about spiritual things. We gave him his very own copy of God’s Word, and since then, I have seen him reaching out to others with the gospel!”
Alesya also has plans for how to grow and increase the impact of her ministry in the future. “After attending seminars on goal setting and ministry planning, I started thinking more strategically about ministry and how I could make our outreach to children more effective. First, I want to start a mentoring program in which families would take care of individual children, surrounding them with their love and care. Second, I want to find new ways to share the gospel with the 180 teachers and staff at the boarding school. By influencing them, we can also continue influencing the children. We have already talked with one teacher, Galina, who became interested in the gospel through our ministry and opened her heart to Jesus. Today, she serves as a witness for Christ in the boarding school.”
We praise God for using School Without Walls to play a role in the growth and development of passionate, energetic, dedicated young leaders like Alesya, who are sacrificially investing their time and energy to make a difference in the lives of the members of their community most in need of the Good News! Your generous gifts enable us to continue investing in leaders like Alesya to increase their impact!
Even though Christians in Uzbekistan often suffer religious persecution at the hands of local authorities, the School Without Walls (SWW) coordinator in the capital city of Tashkent, and a group of SWW graduates, organized a round table discussion on the Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) for 35 young professionals from four different churches. The lack of religious freedom in Uzbekistan makes NGPLI even more relevant in that context, as traditional means of sharing the Gospel are very risky.
“I’m prepared to go out of my way to help my clients resolve problems with our product. I do my work well and respect my clients. They see this and value it,” shared Shahrat,* a Christian businessman who spoke about the impact his faith has had in his professional context. “I never hide my faith, and my good relationship with my clients allows me to share the Gospel with them. I’ve seen many people change, and three have already accepted Jesus and been baptized as a result of me sharing the Gospel with them!”
Sukhrob* is a SWW graduate from Uzbekistan who attended the round table and shared how his SWW training prepared him to share his faith through his work, even in difficult circumstances: “SWW helped me see how my faith can impact my community. When I finished my bachelor’s degree in education, I was the only one in my graduating class who decided to go teach in a small remote town. I knew that there was a desperate need for teachers in the region, and children often end up spending all day outside as there is no one to teach them. I decided to go to this poor, rural area to teach those children.
“Everyday life in this region is very difficult, and it isn’t easy to teach children who often work in the fields and aren’t used to learning. However, I see this as my mission, and I take every opportunity to not only pass on knowledge to my students, but to also teach them about the Creator. I also build relationships with the parents. In small towns everyone knows everyone else, and teachers have a position of respect in the community. I don’t think that I would have had such amazing opportunities for sharing the Gospel in any other situation anywhere else in the country! Two of my fellow SWW graduates helped raise money to dig a well, which was a huge need in my town, and together we have been able to earn the people’s trust and tell them about God. Over time a small group of believers has formed, the only such group for hundreds of kilometers! We work together, support each other, and serve Christ together!”
If you would like to support other School Without Walls students and graduates like Sukhrob, who are finding creative and effective ways to share their faith at great personal risk and despite difficult circumstances, you can give to our Next Generation Christian Leaders Initiative here:
“Evangelical churches in our country are not very numerous, but we aspire to impact our society and we are grateful to School without Walls for their help in this,” shared Arash*, a national School Without Walls (SWW) coordinator for Tajikistan, speaking to 80 young Next Generation Christian leaders at a Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) conference last week.
Tajikistan is over 90% Muslim, and Christians who openly share their faith risk persecution from their families, in the educational system, and from employers. Therefore, the goal of the conference was to pass on a vision of influential Christianity to these young Tajik Christians and to inspire and teach them how to be witnesses for Christ and transform their society through treating their workplace as a mission field.
Bahram*, a university student, shared how the conference’s message impacted him: “It’s not easy being a Christian in our country. Many people tell me that I’ve betrayed the faith of our ancestors. It’s difficult to find work in Tajikistan, and a majority of men find that they must travel to Russia to find jobs to support themselves and their families. But I don’t want to leave – I love my country, and I want to serve Christ here! This conference has helped me understand how I can do that. I was inspired by the vision of sharing Christ in the workplace. I believe that God will help me find a job in Tajikistan which will allow me to be a witness for Him among my future coworkers!”
The conference served as a follow-up to the first NGPLI Forum in Central Asia, which brought together 500 participants from around the region in Kyrgyzstan in November 2016. It is important for Christians in these countries, where openly evangelistic events are not allowed and believers face heavy restrictions on their activities, to gather together to encourage and learn from one another in their efforts to influence their communities for Christ.
Kamran* is a high school teacher and youth ministry leader, as well as a local SWW coordinator. “I brought 14 high school and university students from my town to this conference,” he shares. “It’s important for them to see other believers and to hear that they are called by Christ to have strong faith as leaders. They are all first generation Christians, and many are experiencing persecution in their families, but SWW and this NGPLI conference are helping lay the foundation in them for powerful, committed Christian life and ministry. I will continue to mentor and disciple them and help them grow in this after the conference.”
Thank you for your faithful prayers and support, which enable us to invest in young Next Generation Christian leaders who will in turn transform their society with the Gospel!
*name has been changed
Alex* is one of our School Without Walls students and Bible camp leaders from Russia. His testimony is one of miraculous transformation that began when God saved his life after repeated suicide attempts. Today, Alex is a thriving leader who is serving the church, ministering to hurting people, and reaching his community for Christ.
“You could say that I came to know God through many challenges. When I was younger, my heart was filled with emptiness, loneliness, pain, and resentment toward many people who had betrayed me. In order to stifle the pain, I started doing martial arts. But that wasn’t enough to heal me, so I tried committing suicide twice. The first time I tried to kill myself, my mother was able to stop me in time. I think this first attempt was a cry for attention, because I wanted people to know the inner pain I was feeling. I felt apathetic and empty, and life seemed meaningless.
“The second time I attempted suicide, I immediately realized that, if I died, I didn’t know where I would go. I was filled with fear, because I realized that I might be going to a place that was even worse than where I was. All of a sudden, I had a strong desire to live. Praise God that I survived! It was truly a miracle.
“Not long after this, one of my friends invited me to a Christian youth group. The program was very interesting, and I enjoyed learning about the Bible. I had so many questions, and I found a lot of answers in the Bible, so I kept going to the group’s meetings. I also went to a summer Bible camp, where I heard a sermon that deeply touched my heart. The preacher spoke as if he knew all the problems in my soul. I hadn’t told anyone about my fears, but the Lord still knew. That day, I repented and opened my heart to Christ. Although I was still facing many challenges and my circumstances hadn’t changed, my attitude toward them was transformed. I had finally found the peace and rest that my soul so deeply desired!
“Today, I serve as a deacon in my church. I enjoy helping those who are suffering from loneliness and are struggling to find meaning in life. God has changed my life, my soul, and my attitude toward others and the world. Now, I understand that I am called to pursue care, understanding and, above all, love for all people. I also desire to learn more about God and the ministry of the church so I can effectively serve Him and share my faith with others. And thanks to my first School Without Walls (SWW) session, which focused on spiritual gifts, I better understand the gifts that God has given me, and I feel even more motivated to continue serving and pursuing the calling that He has for my life.
“Now, I teach a variety of courses for teens and children, help lead Christian camps, and serve in a variety of social outreach projects. I live in the Kabardino-Balkaria region in Russia, and because I see the urgent need to expand God’s Kingdom in this region, I want to train young leaders and keep learning myself. Thank you for supporting School Without Walls, which has inspired me and given me a new drive to serve the Lord!”
To support the training and equipping of young Christian leaders, like Alex, who are reaching the Next Generation for Christ, please give to our School Without Walls program:
*Name has been changed
Olenka graduated from School Without Walls (SWW) in Rovno, Ukraine in 2009 and is now using what she learned as a SWW student to minister to orphans through an organization called Circle of Friends. She organizes a team of 100 volunteers from around Ukraine to reach 1,000 orphans on a monthly basis.
“SWW had a big impact on me as a young Christian,” shares Olenka. “It was SWW that made me want to get involved in ministry to orphans. Without SWW, my life path would look completely different.”
Olenka and her team visit orphanages in the Kiev area on a weekly basis and travel to orphanages all over Ukraine 3-4 times a month. “For me, it’s important to build long-term relationships with the children. Continuity and consistency are important to me in my ministry. You can’t expect to make a difference in the life of a child you only see once or twice a year. My goal is to become family to them. We fight to find a place in their lives and hearts.”
Circle of Friends also helps provide medical care for orphans, find adoptive families, and assist orphanage graduates in applying to college and in finding jobs. Orphanage directors and staff are also extremely grateful for the help they offer.
This ministry has started to show long-term results. Andrei grew up in an orphanage, and he came to Christ thanks to the influence of young Next Generation Christian leaders who regularly visited him and the other children. Now he is 26 years old, and he is active in ministry to the homeless.
“My personal mission is to help orphans discover their God-given potential,” shares Olenka. “With each visit, we tell the kids that God made them special and has a calling for each of them. The Great Commission is my greatest motivation to serve, and I see my work with orphans as a fulfillment of it.”
If you would like to help train and equip other enthusiastic young Next Generation Christian leaders like Olenka to transform their communities throughout Eurasia, you can give online to School Without Walls here: