Kazakhstan is the most stable and prosperous of the Central Asian republics, largely due to its abundance of natural resources, particularly oil. However, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power since the fall of the Soviet Union, has faced accusations of election fraud and repressing political opponents. Human activity has also led to widespread environmental damage, and radiation from nuclear weapons testing during the Soviet era has caused several health problems in the nation’s northeastern region.
Under Soviet rule, Kazakhstan suffered a loss of identity as Russian immigrants and deportees of other ethnicities outnumbered ethnic Kazakhs. But, in the last two decades, the government has made an effort to promote traditional culture and the Kazakh language. A resurgence of traditional Islamic faith has also occurred, with more than half the population identifying as Muslim.
A 2011 religion law limits church registration to groups of at least 50 people, forcing more than 500 churches to close, and making church planting nearly impossible. Christian pastors have even been imprisoned, fined, and suffered property confiscation for their faith. For example, Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbaev spent eight months in prison in 2013 and received a four-year suspended sentence for allegedly serving a mind-altering substance to his congregation, which was really just an herbal tea used for communion. With violent persecution against Christians becoming more common, Kazakhstan is currently ranked number 42 on the World Watch List.
Despite persecution, Christians of different ethnicities and denominations are working together to reach the lost and grow God’s Kingdom. The government has also looked favorably on some Christian humanitarian work, such as School Without Walls students’ outreach to people living with HIV/AIDS.
- Praise God for relative peace and prosperity in Kazakhstan, and pray for continued stability.
- For SWW students and graduates seeking to lead their fellow Christians through this time of testing, and for God to provide both the Scriptures and the funds that are urgently needed to do more ministry outreach.
- For Christians in Kazakhstan to share Christ boldly with their Muslim neighbors, and for God’s hand of protection against Islamic extremism.
- For an end to government persecution of Christians and a reversal of the laws that are forcing the Kazakh church underground.
When Sandugash was a child, she became very sick, and her mother was looking for help anywhere and everywhere she could. She heard about Jesus, but she considered Him a Russian God, and rejected Him until the doctors told her there was no hope for her daughter. As a last resort, Sandugash’s mother prayed to Jesus, asking that, if He was truly God, He would heal her daughter, and promised that if He did, she would always attend church. That day, Sandugash’s fever broke after months of illness, and she recovered completely, with no medical help.
Since then, Sandugash, her mother, and brother have been followers of Jesus and are active in their church. Sandugash is now in high school, and she is president of the student body, providing many opportunities to influence those around her. She also helps teach Sunday school in her church. When she was invited to study in SWW, Sandugash eagerly accepted the opportunity.
The sessions helped her evaluate her life, and she realized that she could be doing more to serve God. She began helping to lead the new youth group meetings, taking charge of the games. She became more active in children’s ministry and took advantage of opportunities to attend conferences, courses, and mission trips. Jesus has become her Lord, Savior, and friend, and she is helping others come to know Him.