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:
Sona is a vibrant young Next Generation leader from Armenia who is being trained through our School Without Walls program. She shared her incredible testimony with us of how God filled the emptiness of her life with love, meaning, and lasting hope in Him:
“I am 20 years old, and I became a believer when I was 15. My parents got divorced when I was 10, and after my father left, I was very angry and I felt so empty without him. I closed myself off emotionally and tried to pretend like I was tough. When I was 14, I asked myself, Why am I here. Why I was born? I believed that God existed, but I imagined that He was far away and that I was alone on earth.
“I tried to fill the void in my heart with science, school, and music, and eventually, I started listening to heavy metal. The more I listened, the more aggressive I became, and it started affecting my relationships with my mom, sister, and friends. I would just sit alone in my room and listen to heavy metal music online, where I met a lot of bad friends. They sent me even more music and tried to get me to start smoking. Thankfully, I eventually decided to end these relationships.
“One day, I went to an Orthodox Church because I was looking for God, but I didn’t feel any connection with Him there. I prayed that He would take away my life, because I didn’t see the point in living anymore. I even attempted suicide, but thank God that I lived! My mother is a believer, and two of her friends from church would often come over to talk about God. I always avoided them and scoffed at their beliefs. However, one day I was desperately trying to figure out the meaning of life, so I decided to join their discussion. While we were talking, I felt the call to repent, but my pride still held me back. Thankfully, I finally overcame my pride and accepted Christ, who filled my life with love and meaning.
“For me, School Without Walls (SWW) has been the best tool for learning about evangelism. I had wanted to share my faith with others, but I’d always had a hard time explaining the gospel effectively. I knew that everyone needed Christ, but I didn’t know the best way to actually talk with people about Him. At SWW, I learned helpful strategies for sharing the gospel in ways that people can understand. The Business As Mission class was also very helpful, because before this class, I didn’t know what my professional talents were, but now I feel prepared to succeed in whatever vocation I pursue.
“My SWW training has also helped me mend my relationships with my mother and sister, because I realized how important it is for me to make time for my family. I also felt called to serve the poor and needy in a nursing home, and reach out to teen girls. Because of my own experiences with emptiness, I am able to understand the struggles that young people face, and I want to help them realize that only God can fill their lives with true love and meaning. I also hope to find a good job, which I can enjoy and use to serve God. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find jobs in my city, because of the social situation in my country. Many people are even going to Russia to look for work. I pray that God would provide a job for me so I can take care of myself and serve Him.”
Praise God for His amazing work in Sona’s life! And please join us in praying that God would provide a job for Sona in Armenia.
To support the training and equipping of young Next Generation Christian leaders, like Sona, who are proclaiming the gospel throughout their communities, please make a gift to our School Without Walls program:
A recent School Without Walls (SWW) seminar in Kyrgyzstan focused on helping students respond to the unique challenges they face in their country following a recent incident. After a 76-year-old Christian woman passed away, Muslim leaders wouldn’t allow her to be buried in the local cemetery due to her faith, so her family had to dig up her body and bury her in a different village. However, the people in this village also didn’t want her to be buried in their cemetery, so her body was unearthed again and moved to a cemetery at a Russian Orthodox Church. Yet again, this burial was also not approved, so without informing her relatives, her body was dug up for a third time and taken to an unknown location.
There have been many instances like this, but this particular case has gotten a lot of publicity among Christians, and throughout Kyrgyz society as a whole. Many churches are now uniting in prayer, fasting, and taking action by appealing to local authorities and the media. This case even went beyond Kyrgyzstan’s border, as many international organizations have expressed their disapproval of these acts. However, despite the very negative reaction to this incident, public attitudes towards Christians have not improved.
This case helped local leaders to develop the main question for this special SWW seminar: “How can I, as a Christian, help transform my country and the people who live here?” The students focused on Jesus as the ultimate example. He excelled in all aspects of life: intellectually, physically, socially, and, of course, spiritually. He could speak on any subject, not just spiritual topics. He was well versed in agriculture, business, fishing, and family matters. “Like Him, Christians should also be well-versed in the various aspects of modern life,” shares the SWW coordinator who organized the seminar. “If we only focus on spiritual development and ignore all other areas of life, then we won’t be able to connect with people outside the church. Along with pastors, our country also needs Christian businessmen, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.” This is the primary motivation behind the Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative, which helps motivate and equip young Christian professionals to share their faith in the workplace.
“I realized that I need to grow,” Alyona, one of our SWW students, shared regarding the seminar, “not just spiritually, but also in other areas of life, so that people will be comfortable talking with me.” As a result of the seminar, some of the SWW students expressed a desire to study the Koran in order to more effectively share the gospel with Muslims. Christina, one of these students, can speak several languages, and recently she started teaching language classes for non-Christian children at her church!
Please pray for these students as they seek to put what they learned into practice and find creative ways to reach their communities with the gospel!
“When we first met Natasha’s family, their home was in a terrible state,” shares Denis, one of our School Without Walls (SWW) coordinators in Moldova. “Their two-room house was too small to comfortably accommodate Natasha and her six children, very dirty, and insufficiently heated. Natasha and her partner often drank and left the children alone without supervision.” Denis and his team of young Next Generation Christian leaders started providing the family with food, clothing, firewood, and other aid as soon as they heard about their situation, however when authorities learned about the family’s situation they came and took the children away, explaining that Natasha’s parental rights would only be returned if she could provide adequate living conditions. However Natasha was unable to find better accommodations with her limited resources, and started to lose hope of getting her children back.
Saddened to see the family torn apart, the SWW students decided to do something to help. They contacted some ministry partners in Europe, who agreed to help them purchase a house to serve as the family’s home until the children have grown up. They also decided to monitor the family’s situation to make sure the children were being treated well. “For us, this was a new experience that required more of our time, but we believe that our support will bear fruit in the children’s lives,” Denis shares. “Now, Natasha and her children have settled into their new home, which includes a nice bathroom and kitchen, and five bedrooms. The children are so happy that they have such a large, beautiful yard to play in, and Natasha is so grateful for our support, which she never expected to receive.
“We have been visiting the family regularly to talk with Natasha and check on the children. They have started going to a local church every Sunday, and I can already see that Natasha’s outlook is changing and she is much more concerned for her children’s well-being. I know that we still have a lot of work to do with her, but I believe that God is at work and blessing our efforts.”
If you would like to support School Without Walls students as they reach out to their communities throughout Eurasia with practical aid and the transforming power of God’s Word, you can give online here:
- Please pray for our School Without Walls (SWW) students as they continue distributing Gifts of Hope to children in several different countries in Eurasia this month.
- Pray for our SWW coordinator in Uzbekistan, as he was recently fined for doing ministry work and is experiencing some personal health issues.
- Praise God for SWW training events and social outreach projects that are taking place in Vladivostok, Russia on January 3-6!
- Pray for a new Christian school that will be launching in Haifa, Israel this month.
- Please pray for several families that attend Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus who are experiencing health problems and financial difficulty.
- Pray for our SWW students and teachers in Perm, Russia, particularly a group that recently launched in the city of Chaykovsky.
- Pray that God would strengthen Edgar, Robert, and Vaye, three Christian policemen in Armenia, who may lose their jobs for attending church.
- Praise God that SWW is growing in Russia’s North Caucasus, and that our ministry partners in the region remain committed to expanding this program so that even more young people may come to know Christ through home Bible study groups, training seminars, and more!
- Please continue praying for Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus, as they are still trying to register with local authorities.
- Pray that God would bring about an end to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine so that this hurting nation can start to heal and Ukraine and Russia can be reconciled.
- Pray for our SWW and church-planting efforts in Russia’s North Caucasus as we expand our ministry to share the gospel with even more unreached people in this volatile region.
- Please pray for Eduard, our SWW coordinator in Moldova, as he and his wife are looking for a new place to live.
- Pray for two new ministry projects in Omsk, Russia: the translation of the gospel into the Siberian Tatar language and the restoration of a Christian center in Tara.
- Praise God for an evangelistic youth outreach event that is taking place in Armenia today!
- Pray for ongoing discipleship at CWW in Pinsk, Belarus, especially as several people recently accepted Christ and are now looking for ways to grow in their faith.
- Please pray for our SWW leaders in Vladivostok, Russia as they continue expanding SWW and youth outreach projects, while also looking for a new ministry building.
- Pray for the children’s ministry center that Eduard, our SWW coordinator in Moldova, and his wife started, as many of the children’s parents are Orthodox and don’t want their children attending the center.
- Pray for Valeriy, our SWW coordinator in Krasnodar, Russia, and his family, as he is dealing with health issues and looking for another job, all while continuing to develop training events for SWW students and other young leaders.
- Praise God that many of our containers of humanitarian aid for Ukraine have cleared customs! Please also pray that the remaining containers would clear quickly so we can continue bringing humanitarian aid to those who are suffering.
- Pray for Yevgeniy, our SWW coordinator in Vladivostok, Russia, and his son, who is applying to seminary in Moscow.
- Please pray for an upcoming regional church conference in Brest, Belarus that CWW is helping to organize.
- Continue praying for Georgiy, one of our SWW teachers in Vladikavkaz, Russia, as he is still dealing with issues related to a car accident he was in last year.
- Pray for our SWW leaders and ministry partners as they seek to develop and lead new ministry initiatives, while also making enough time for their families.
- Praise God that School #31 and Agrarian University in Vladikavkaz, Russia are now allowing SWW students to host preventative lectures for students! Please pray that more schools would follow their example.
- Please pray for Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus, as they are still trying to register their building with local authorities.
- Continue praying for our brothers and sisters in Russia as they continue sharing the gospel, even in the midst of growing religious persecution.
- Pray for new SWW students in Armenia, particularly an evangelical music group that is holding concerts in Armenia and Georgia.
- Praise God for a group of SWW students in Krasnodar, Russia that wants to plant a new church in their city!
- Please pray that God would keep Vyacheslav, our SWW coordinator in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and his family healthy.
- Pray for a Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative conference that will take place in Belarus next month.
- Pray that SWW students in Omsk, Russia would continue to grow spiritually and fearlessly share their faith during a weeklong mission trip to the Tatar people group in February.