Tajikistan (MNN) — The Spirit of God is moving in Tajikistan, and it’s through an unexpected group: kids.
According to Russian Ministries’ Wally Kulakoff, Tajikistan is the “least-known” of the 15 former Soviet Union republics. The country has 7.5 million inhabitants, and 2.6 million Tajiks are between the ages of five and 16.
“We’re talking about a lot of young people to be reached with an alternative to…the Sunni Muslim people groups in that part of the world,” says Kulakoff.
Sitting on the northern border of Afghanistan, Tajikistan is the poorest nation in Central Asia. Islam is country’s majority religion, and most belong to the Sunni branch, sharing language, culture and history with Muslims in Afghanistan and Iran.
This summer, Russian Ministries’ School Without Walls (SWW) program shared the Gospel in a “gentle” way, introducing Christ through sports, festivals and children’s games. During the months of July and August, they reached over 8,000 young people.
“It’s not making an alter call, it’s not making a public confession of this and that, but it’s planting the seed, planting the Gospel seed,” Kulakoff explains.
By choosing culturally-relevant channels, SWW students connected with Tajik youth in three different regions. In the capital city, students worked with government and city administrators to organize a “cycling marathon” through Tajikistan’s rugged terrain.
“Some of our School Without Walls [students] are professional, semi-professional bicyclists,” says Kulakoff. “They did a five-day tour where they traveled on their bikes during the day, [and then] they camped.
“As they camped, they had Bible studies and showed a Christian film, or a Christian movie.”
The approaches SWW students use may seem casual, but since they’re relevant to Tajik youth, the effects are eternal.
“Many of the young people who were involved in this extreme bicycle marathon…came to understand that to be a Christian is not just going to church and praying,” Kulakoff states.
One young man realized that Christianity is about more than church and praying.
“And he said, ‘Because my family is a Muslim family, I will now begin to pray to Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world,” Kulakoff recounts. “I will read the Bible and I will pray, and as opportunity allows me, I will go to church’.”
Pray for this young man to stand firm in his new faith. Many Tajik believers who hail from Muslim backgrounds face hardship.
“They’re ostracized, and there are Christian families who adopt them,” explains Kulakoff.
But there is hope.
“This is what some of the young people are saying,” says Kulakoff. “‘No matter how difficult it will be, if my parents deny me a living space in my home, I will still follow Christ’.”
Pray Muslim-background believers realize the full Truth about Jesus Christ.
“They’re followers of not just a prophet, but the Messiah,” Kulakoff says.
Pray many come to Christ because of changes observed in Tajik young people.
“As their lives are transformed, their peers, their parents and children and those who surround them, will understand their life has changed,” says Kulakoff. He explains that this will give young people an opportunity to introduce others to Christ.
How can you help create Gospel opportunities in Tajikistan?
“Here in America, we can pray,” says Kulakoff. “And, we can help train students by providing finances, and then providing finances for literature, which equips them.”