In this month’s Outreach Blog post, we will hear from an American Fellowship missionary family that is serving Christ in the 10/40 Window (visit Joshua Project's website to learn about the 10/40 Window). Serving in this part of the world brings great hardships and risks, yet this family serves faithfully, purposefully, and even joyfully. To protect them and the work they are doing, we won’t use their names in this post or the name of the country where they serve. Rather, we will refer to the missionaries as “Joe and Sally.”
Called to Serve the Unreached
Joe and Sally have been serving for three-and-a-half years in Central Asia. While they didn’t initially sense a specific calling to that area of the world, they both were drawn to missions at a young age through their churches. Joe went on missionary trips to South America while in high school, and Sally loved to hear from visiting missionaries when she was a child. She remembers thinking to herself, “Who wouldn’t want to do what these people are doing?”
Eventually, their desire for missions coalesced into a specific direction: to serve Christ among unreached people groups, where there is currently no gospel proclamation or reproducible church. God brought all the pieces together, and eventually they found themselves in a country where Joe could use his medical background, Sally had opportunities to work with women, and there were decent schools for their four children.
To become a missionary in the 10/40 Window, Joe knew he would need a suitable occupation. 10/40 nations are “platform” countries, meaning they don’t give missionary visas. Instead, Christian workers gain entrance only if they have a desirable occupation, in areas such as medicine or education. With this in mind, Joe spent eight years in Nashville as a P.A., honing his skill and making contacts before going overseas. For the last three years, Joe has worked in a small rural medical clinic in a conservative Muslim town, where he is slowly building relationships with patients, staff, and community leaders. He also teaches at the local medical university, serves at-risk youth, and provides ongoing training to other rural providers.
Covid, food and the Holy Spirit
The people in Central Asia are under a great deal of stress. Because many of the men work in Russia and Turkey to provide better income, life is difficult for families, and grandparents play a huge role in helping raise the children. Most of the women work in bazaars or in the fields. This is a poor country, and Covid has only increased the hardships people face. Because of this, Joe and his medical clinic often lead efforts to provide food, clothing, and medicine to those in need.
Sally, also, has had a great opportunity to serve by way of her small-group Bible study, comprised of herself and three local believers who teach at her children’s school. Together they’ve seen God answer many prayers. For instance, when Covid first began, the country’s lockdown was quite strict; no one was allowed to travel more than 1.5 kilometers from their home without a pass. When the group became aware of several families that needed food, but lived some distance away, they began praying for a driving pass, which was soon granted. Before long, Sally and the group increased their efforts, and with prayer and support from friends back home, as many as sixty families were soon receiving necessary food.
But the story doesn’t end there! Joe became friends with a conservative Muslim man in their neighborhood who runs a fruit and vegetable stand. Joe would buy food from this stand and then distribute it to the families in need. Eventually, as Joe increased his purchases to many crates, the man was curious why Joe was buying so much food. This provided an opportunity to share the gospel, and to explain how local believers were serving those in need. The man was so impressed that he began driving outside the city to the airport, where he would purchase items in order to sell them to Joe at cost. He even began to donate some items free of charge. Now, other fruit stands in the area are also taking part.
While this Muslim man has not yet come to Christ, the relationship is growing. He even stayed in touch with Joe and Sally when they were recently in the States. Joe is grateful for the opportunity to share Christ with their friend but believes the man may be more impacted by the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the local believers. Their friend is amazed at how these Christians love and serve others, something highly unusual for the culture in which they live.
Joe and Sally have seen the Holy Spirit work in other ways as well. For example, one of Joe’s co-workers, a fervent Muslim, sought to join a Bible study in order to disrupt it. Through the testimony of the group, he became a believer. Praise God!
State of Christianity in Central Asia
Central Asian countries have a population that is 90% Muslim, 9% Russian Orthodox, and only 0.6-0.8% Protestant Christian. There are very few churches in rural areas; most are located in cities. Churches are small and church members are young, with few extended families in attendance. Foreigners may attend a church but are not allowed to serve in any capacity.
Even though local believers are watched and harassed, the church carries on as it has from day one. Because this country is poor, officials can’t support the surveillance and personnel which other countries often use against Christians. However, the local believers, including Joe and Sally, must be very careful how they conduct themselves and particularly how they communicate electronically.
- For opportunities to engage local believers and encourage them in both community development and discipleship.
- For God to grow Sally’s Bible study, not necessarily in numbers, but giving the current members confidence to start their own groups.
- For the country to rebuild after economic struggles, especially after Covid and political turmoil.
- For God to give clear direction to Sally regarding her passion to fight human trafficking, domestic violence, poverty, and alcoholism.
- Personally, for their children’s adjustment through so many transitions, i.e. travel to and from the U.S., the change from in-person schooling to homeschooling and back, etc.
If you’d like to know more about this family or Fellowship’s American missionaries, please contact Suzan Hicks at . If you would like to financially support the Outreach Ministry that serves our Global & Local Partners and Missionaries, click here to easily and safely give.