Mission: Vision 2009
Called to Central Asia
By Gary Fallesen
President, Climbing For Christ
You likely know about the 10/40 window — an area of the world that extends from 10 degrees to 40 degrees North of the equator and stretches from North Africa to China. This window contains the largest population of non-Christians in the world. Too little of the Christian population’s time and money is given to this lost part of the world.
Several of the countries we are already serving in and many more that we are looking to reach are found in the 10/40 window, including China, Nepal, and the Philippines.
At the heart of the 10/40 window is Central Asia. This is “one of the last areas of the world where most people have never heard the Gospel — even once,” according to Youth With a Mission Central Asia. This area poses some of the most extreme challenges to those who deliver the Good News: from security (there is a lack of religious freedom and often intense persecution) to inhospitable terrain. Millions of lost souls live in mountainous countries ranging from eastern Turkey to western China, and including the following:
There are more than 48,000 mosques and not a single Christian church or visible fellowship of believers in this country. YWAM Central Asia claims this is not because of “restrictions on missionary work, but rather the lack of workers in the country.” Decades of war have kept workers away. There is a great call for Christian doctors in a land where health care is scarce and life expectancy is only 45 years of age. The mountainous and largely barren Ghor Province is the primary home of the Taimani and Firozkohi tribes.
The Tian Shan (one of the longest mountain ranges in the Himalayas) begin with the Barkol Mountains in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. This region is so isolated, one observer claimed, that some cities have not changed since Marco Polo passed through in the 13th century. Among the least-reached people here are the Wakhi Tajik, who live in the mountains on the remote China-Pakistan border, and the Uygur. At one time (several centuries ago) there may have been millions of Christians here, but today a mere 50 of the more than 9 million Uygurs are Christian. “Many (church) leaders openly acknowledge, without guilt or shame, that they do not have such a burden for these people,” according to Operation China. “One church elder, when asked about evangelizing Uygurs, responded by shouting, ‘You’re crazy!’”
More than 90 percent of the 40-plus people groups in this country are Shi’ite Muslims, including the Herki Kurd in the mountains along the border of Turkey, and the Harzani and Karingani people in the Talysh Mountains in the northwestern part of the country.
Khan Tengri on Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border. (Wikipedia)
The rural and nomadic cattle breeder Kyrgyz live in one of the highest plateaus of the world, where 80 percent of the Tian Shan range is found. Few Kyrgyz have heard of Christ, according to Operation World. They are devout Muslims. The Joshua Project reports: “Soviets were never able to change the Kyrgyz beliefs, even though they tried a number of methods, including changing the alphabet, outlawing religious activity, and propaganda. In fact, since 1990, over 2,000 new mosques have been built in Kyrgyzstan. Today, most Kyrgyz still consider themselves to be Muslim; however, some Shamanistic practices still exist. (Shamanism is the belief that there is an unseen world of many gods, demons, and ancestral spirits.) The people depend on shamans (priests or priestesses) to cure the sick by magic, communicate with the gods, and control events. Almost all Kyrgyz believers have to go through a breaking of demonic powers over their lives once they become Christians.”
In a country (called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) where less than three percent of the population is Christian, the Chitrali people in the Hindu Kush of the North-West Frontier Province are among the world’s least reached people, according to the Joshua Project. Another potential target would be the Hunza people in the Gilgit District in the Northern Areas, home to five 8000-meter peaks (including K2).
The Balkar people live in the Caucasus Mountains of southwestern Russia, where Mount Elbrus (the highest peak in Europe) is found. The Balkar live in villages located on the mountain slopes or in other areas not suitable for farming. Each village has a courtyard and some have Islamic mosques. The Balkar are 100 percent Muslim.
Communism Peak in the Pamir Mountains. (Wikipedia)
This is one of the poorest countries in Central Asia, where the Pamir and Alay Mountains dominate the landscape. More than half of the country sits above 10,000 feet. Less than 1 percent of the 4.5 million Tajiks are Christian; most are Sunni Muslim.
Constitutionally, there is freedom of religion here. But, YWAM Central Asia reports, “For the tiny evangelical church, life is difficult.” The Northern Kurds live in the most rugged part of the country. Nearly all Kurds are Muslim, and have been since Arab conquests in the 7th century.
YWAM Central Asia accurately states: “It is only by developing partnership between those called to go, those called to give, and those called to pray, between mission, business and church, that the body of Christ will flourish where it has not existed before.” It is our prayer that workers will be sent, equipped by prayer and giving, to reach the lost in the farthest mountain lands.
If you share the heart of the apostle Paul, these words will speak to you. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: ‘Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand’” (Romans 15:20-21). This is our prayer.
Interested in praying, giving or going? E-mail info@ClimbingForChrist.org.
Posted Feb. 11, 2009