Six thousand four hundred nineteen miles from Cleveland is a capital city flanked by a picturesque mountain range to the south, about four hours from the world’s second-largest saline lake. The capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, is inhabited by one seventh of its country’s total population. Thirty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this former Soviet country is experiencing a vacuum when it comes to faith. Under Soviet rule, its people lived as citizens of a secular nation, and while today it still claims to be a secular nation, since the early 1990s, Islam has rampantly spread. In Soviet-era fashion, schools are known by numbers rather than names, and instructors teach two sets of students per day, often concluding their day around 8:00 pm and staying later for students who need extra help or for whom home life presents challenges. Many parents of these students work outside of the country because they cannot find work at home. The people of Kyrgyzstan are humble, hardworking, and mostly naive to Western materialism. They are a people who need hope—the hope of Christ.
This past July, a team of four (Jim Whiteman, Kathy Foldesy, WCA parent Cara Daily, and I) traveled overseas to Bishkek, where we had the opportunity to come alongside several women who have spent their lives in full-time ministry equipping the saints, preaching the Gospel to the unsaved, and caring for the “least of these.” We had the privilege of encouraging these women, as well as those they’ve been discipling, in their walks of faith. We prayed for and with the missionaries, celebrated their many victories in Christ, and empathized with their struggles in ministry. Our team also conducted a conference for a group of Kyrgyz teachers; some of them were already saved, and they invited their unsaved coworkers. After sessions of training and building relationships with all of the teachers, each attendee heard the Gospel message. God has begun a good work! In addition to this conference, we presented a seminar for the parents of children with special needs, many of whom are Muslim. They voluntarily come to a Christian church for care, since it is the only place that offers love and acceptance of their children, whose needs are seen by most people in their culture as a curse.
Embarking on a journey to a land which many have never visited or heard of, especially those who learned their geography during the Soviet era, was an incredible gift from the Lord. This year’s WCA theme, “every nation, tribe, people, and language,” is based on Revelation 7:9, which reads, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Our journey changed us and has helped us consider this theme more deeply. Our team was blessed by seeing how the Lord is saving people in far-off places. We also caught a glimpse of the power of teachers and education in students’ lives, worshiped together with the saints in Bishkek as their service was conducted in Russian, and witnessed the Gospel delivered in Russian and Kyrgyz. What an encouragement to us—that the Lord would use us to link arms with sisters and brothers in Christ across the world, through education, to reach the lost. Praise be to Him alone!