Religion News Today Central Asia "Pentecost"
An ancient trade route is becoming a highway for the gospel. Thousands of Christians live and minister along Asia's Silk Road, routes once used to carry goods from China to the Mediterranean Sea and the Roman Empire.
....More than 18,000 Christians from many points along the Silk Road gathered in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate their faith in July at the Silk Road 2000 Festival, a five-day event, Norm Nelson of Orange, Calf.-based Life At Its Best radio ministry told Religion Today. Nelson and his wife, Cher, were among the few Westerners to participate in the festival, intended to encourage Christians as they shared stories about what God is doing in the region, he said.
....Christians from many countries attended, according to Assist Communications. They came from Chechnya, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kurdistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Ukraine. Others traveled from India, Pakistan, Nepal, and other parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe to take part.
....The festival "became a kind of Central Asian Pentecost," Nelson said. It was "a supernatural bonding together of diverse national and linguistic peoples, Spirit-filled, energized, and commissioned to witness to the love and Lordship of Jesus Christ."
....They gathered in Almaty's outdoor stadium to worship. People sang praise songs, waved Kazak flags, and shouted "Shine Kazakhstan," Assist said. Police and government officials were deeply affected by the display of love for the country. "Their attitude changed astonishingly when they saw we came to give life and honor to the country," Nelson said.
.... The event included educational seminars, mobile medical clinics, cultural events, and seminars on economic development, Assist said. A high-level government official made a public profession of faith, Nelson said. Organizers told him that the man stated that he had professed faith in Christ and was very excited, Nelson said. "He told them that the whole country needed to hear this message - that they should get it on TV and radio."
....Silk Road 2000 was "a watershed event," according to AD 2000 and Beyond's Luis Bush. "It has the potential to launch a powerful evangelistic movement all across Central Asia and into Turkey." Bush was the only Western leader to address the gathering.
....Hundreds of Koreans made short-term mission trips to several countries after the festival. "It was a kind of missionary boot camp," Nelson said. They didn't go with a lot of money or resources to give away but tried to form relationships, he said, and many will go back to work as full-time missionaries.
....Thousands of Christian "tentmaker missionaries" are at work in central Asia, Nelson said. They hold secular jobs and minister to people through personal relationships. Christian physicians, businessmen, travel agents, and other professionals work and minister quietly, he said.
....Korean Christians organized the festival and are sending many workers to the area. Koreans have adopted the region because they have a special ability to learn its various languages, Nelson said. The Korean language belongs to the Turkic family of language, as do many central Asian languages, he said. "In typical Korean fashion, they look at [their linguistic ability] as a mandate from God to evangelize the region," Nelson said.
....It is a miracle that the event took place in such a heavily Muslim region, Nelson said. Islam dominates central Asia, and Kazakhstan is nearly 50 percent Muslim. The Kazak government granted official permission for the event only two days before it began, he said. "Humanly speaking, it probably never should have happened, but this was God's event in God's time and it was supposed to happen."
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