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Two thousand years ago, Central Asia was the world's hub of activity and modernity. People passed through Central Asia with their goods, stories, philosophies, religions and diseases on the network of trade routes called the Silk Road. And it has known its share of power struggles and conflict with Genghis Khan of the Mongols, Peter the Great and the Russians, and even more recently the Soviet Union. Now in this modern age, Central Asia is a still a crossroads between ancient and modern, East and West, Europe and Asia, Christendom and the world of Islam.
Rob Ends Up in an Orchard
Rob Ends Up in an Orchard
In this video—the fourth and final in our Middle Ground series—Rob accompanies Pioneers workers in Central Asia as they go through the routines of daily life. They walk through the city streets, interacting with a downtrodden man and a woman who is happy in her cultural traditions. They end up at an orchard in the "Celestial" Mountains, which reminds Rob that there is gospel work to be done until the day Jesus returns. 

Part I   — Rob Goes to Central Asia
Part II  — Rob Experiences Death and Life
Part III — Rob Climbs the Holy Mountian

Photo Essay – Middle Ground #3
Photo Essay – Middle Ground #3
Vast expanses, sparse populations, multiple languages and great hospitality characterize much of Central Asia. This Middle Ground is a place where the ideals of the Soviet past and traditional culture meet the modern age and an increasingly global marketplace.

Take a moment to check out a photo essay from a Pioneers field worker and photographer as he learns about Turkic peoples and their unique cultures.
Rob Climbs the Holy Mountain
Rob Climbs the Holy Mountain
In this video, Rob Climbs the Holy Mountain, our tour guide experiences more of Central Asia—worker ants, a cave of wisdom, the promise of a fertility slide, the blessing of a local woman, the heart music of the people and prayer with believers. Watch Rob on this leg of his journey.

See the first two videos (Part I, Part II), photo essays and other articles about the Middle Ground here


She Came for Dance
She Came for Dance

The music, drums and dancing captivated her. It was Aygul’s first time to visit a church in her hometown, and it wasn’t anything like what she expected. Her only knowledge of Christian culture came from the Russian Orthodox Church.

 

Aygul is a 23-year-old Uighur* (pronounced we-gur) woman. Though her mother is Russian, she identifies with her father’s Uighur heritage, meaning she was raised Muslim.  

 

Because church was free to attend, Aygul began to visit weekly. She didn’t care about the gospel—she went for the dancing. She soon realized that the people of the church cared for her, and she found herself interested in everything—even the Bible.

 

 “I had disappointments in each sphere of my life,” she recalls sadly.

 

Her parents had divorced. Parties, alcohol and cigarettes no longer numbed the emotional pain. She had conflicts with friends and family.

 

“It was cruel for me,” she sighs. “I was just crushed.”

 

One night she fell to her knees in the privacy of her bedroom and cried out to God, “If you are alive, just help me…because nobody can understand me.” And the Holy Spirit moved.

 

“I gave all my life to Jesus, with all my mind, all my soul, with everything I am,” Aygul recalls with a smile. “I started to share the gospel with everyone. I told them that Jesus is God. If you give your heart to Him, He can help you.”

 

But they didn’t have the ears to hear. Her sister disowned her, and her friends were lost to their party lifestyle, but she knew that life in Christ was so much better than her “lost life.”

 

Since then, her sister and extended family have come around, accepting but disliking her faith.

 

“Though my family is Muslim, they see real faith in action. They respect it. We still have arguments sometimes,” she concedes. “They think that my family should be the most important thing in my life. I assure them that I love them.”

 

Aygul says that her people believe that to be Uyghur is to be Muslim. However, she is thankful for the part of her culture that is generous and hospitable. But in the end, there is one thing she wants most for her people.

 

“My greatest hope for the Uighurs,” she utters almost as a prayer, “is that they will come to Jesus. Jesus is for everyone. He is the meaning of life for all people.”

 

 

*The Uighurs are a Turkic people group found primarily in Central and East Asia. Pray for the harvest among them through expressions of Christian faith and worship (like dance) and the love of His people.

Download a free eBook with testimonies of many other Central Asian believers by clicking here

How Did The Church Survive?
How Did The Church Survive?

In the best-selling book The Insanity of God (and now a documentary film of the same name), Nik Ripkin describes a personal journey to understand and support Christians in places where being a Christian may seem to be a death sentence. He, his wife Ruth, and those who partnered with them aimed to discover what Christians who have survived great struggles and persecution in other parts of the world have to teach those experiencing persecution today—as well as people like us who hear their stories and cry out to God for those in desperate need.

It’s not surprising that they began their journey in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Nik interviewed believers who had held onto their faith during the 70 years of the Communist rule and systematic religious oppression. Across Russia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe, Christians were ridiculed and pressured and churches were closed. Leaders and other believers were arrested, tortured, and sometimes put to death. Through legislation and social pressure, every effort made to keep parents from passing on their faith to their children in hopes that the church might die out within a single generation.

Yet, as Ripkin reports, “under communism, the church had found a way to survive and often thrive.” Scripture and song kept them going when scattered or imprisoned. “Looking back now, I understand that one of the most accurate ways to detect and measure the activity of God is to note the amount of opposition that is present,” says Ripkin. “The stronger the persecution, the more significant the spiritual vitality of the believers.”

For these believers, persecution became as expected as “the sun coming up in the East.”

The years since that time have brought continued challenges but also some new ones. Some churches have made compromising their faith a part of their strategy for survival, urging members to lay low, avoid rocking the boat, and hold back on evangelism. In some places, believers still struggle to trust anyone, hiding their stories rather than sharing them with the next generation. In some areas, persecution is much less these days, but believers may be less zealous for their faith. Younger Christians may not cling to and memorize the Scriptures like believers during Soviet days. Ripkin puts in this way: “The Russian Church had lost in its first decade of ‘freedom’ what Soviet believers had managed to hold onto under communism for most the century.’

Pray for Russian believers and others who live in Central Asia and across the former Soviet Union. May they grow, thrive, multiply, and reach out cross-culturally despite bouts or fears of persecution and the temptation to compromise or drift away from their faith.

Free eBook
Free eBook

God is transforming lives in Central Asia. One Pioneer felt called to collect the testimonies of believers from a Muslim background. Take this opportunity to read these stories of how real men and women from an area of the world we call the Middle Ground had personal encounters with Jesus in our exclusive free ebook, They Loved Not Their Lives. To download the ebook, click one of the links below.


MOBI (Kindle & Kindle apps)
EPUB (Nook, iBooks, & tablets)

*Mobile users may need to download these files to their desktop first before sending them to their ebook readers. 

 

Crossroads
Crossroads
Through the ages, Central Asia has been a crossroads. People have moved through it from one place to another and it’s often been overlooked, a place of dry hard ground. In this informational video about Central Asia, a Pioneer explains why Central Asia needs people who are willing to go live in the Middle Ground—learning the language and culture. There is good soil in the hearts of people who are ready to hear the Good News. 

Watch the video on the right and then check out photo essays, stories, opportunities and other videos from this crossroads on our #MiddleGround landing page.
Rob Experiences Death and Life
Rob Experiences Death and Life
Central Asia is breathtaking in its scenic vistas and the hospitality of its people. Its history and spiritual need after centuries of being a crossroads also takes your breath away. 

In this second video of our Middle Ground series, Rob Experiences Death and Life, our tour guide (Rob) heads out of the city with Pioneers workers to visit a mountain village and a traditional jail, or summer pasture where a shepherd tends his flock. Rob experiences both the rich hospitality of a meal with his hosts and the unsettling reality of what it took to make that meal possible. 

See the first video in this series, Rob Goes to Central Asia and a photo essay of the people and places in this Middle Ground.
Photo Essay – Middle Ground #2
Photo Essay – Middle Ground #2

After 70 years in the Soviet educational system—in which people were taught there is no God—there is a spiritual void in Central Asia. As a result, people are asking, “Who is God? And if He exists, how is He worshipped?”

 

After the Soviet era, many Central Asian countries saw a quick rise in the growth of the Church. But since then the growth has slowed and sometimes reversed due to emigration. Besides that, there are obstacles to overcome. People often associate Christianity with the West, fearing imposed foreign religions. They also have the prevalent example of Russian Orthodoxy—a religion for Russians—in their midst, rather than a robust gospel that crosses borders into their own language and culture. And in the meantime, the resurgence of Islam and widespread ancestor worship and occultism continue to pervade the culture.

 

“The ground is very hard in Central Asia—it’s often overlooked,” explains a Pioneer. “We want to see people continue to pray and give and come to Central Asia."

 

Take a look at this photo essay (or our first photo essay in this project) shot in the Middle Ground of Central Asia. Consider whether you are willing to go to one of the many teams that are recruiting new members or give to a project that is directly affecting the lives of Central Asians.

Heaters for Central Asia
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Heaters for Central Asia
Pioneers is bringing the warm love of Jesus to impoverished villages in the high, cold mountains of Central Asia.