Taking a group of UK students on a trip to Central Asia might seem like a crazy thing to do. All but one had never been anywhere near Central Asia. But they had a desire to bless believers who have a harder time of it than they do. So long story short, we went off to a remote town in Central Asia, where the pastor had asked for visitors to come and bless the young people in his church.
Of course, the Central Asian young people were thrilled to meet British students for the first time in their lives. Several enjoyed practicing their English, which they had learned at school (minimally) and (much more so) from films. We taught them English, we taught them games, we gave seminars on leading worship, gave seminars on the Bible and on how to run a business. They loved it all. But the reality was that we were the ones who really learned during these 2 weeks.
One young couple lost a baby 2 years ago. He became ill at just one month old, and they watch helplessly while he was in intensive care, knowing that if he ever recovered he would suffer from severe disabilities. When they lost him, they were devastated. But they thought about what if they had had to raise a boy with such disabilities? They knew that there was nothing to help them in their city. So they shared the vision with the young people from all the churches there (which all meet illegally) and out of this has come the most extraordinary ministry. Young Christian people give up 3 afternoons a week to meet with those with disabilities. They gather them for sport and games, they visit them in their homes, they love them and they tell them about the One who loves them most of all. The people of the city are so impressed with these Christian young people. They even have some non-Christians come and join in with them. One of these able bodied young men recently came to faith as the result of a boy with Downs telling him that Jesus loved him! And the beautiful thing is that this is the one ministry that unites all the churches in the city!
Tragically, another young married couple who had only recently come to faith, lost their baby soon after birth. The young wife who had already lost her baby, knew that she was now in a special position to minister to this young mother. When we met this second couple, they were the keenest students in our Bible seminars. They even squabbled over which of them could take notes, as they only had one notebook between them!
The believers in this town have suffered so much under the state persecution. Several of the men have had time in prison for their faith and suffered badly there. They were told that any evangelism of children was forbidden. But they continued to teach the children over the years, despite the dangers and now the pastor is proud to point out the fruit of disobeying the government: a group of delightful young people who love to share the Gospel and who are willing to give up their spare time in active service of those whose lives are so difficult.
Who could not come away from two weeks with such Christ-centred young people and not be deeply moved and challenged? We look forward to taking more people there to continue to bless the church (and to be challenged out of our apathy?). Let us know if you’d like to join us.