Christian Roots as a Missionary Strategy in Kazakhstan
In Central Asia today missionaries have discovered many biblical motifs in indigenous cultures. Let me share a few examples.
1) The traditional Kazakh "yurta" (wigwam) has a remarkable triple crossing of bars in the upper part of the construction against the background of the open sky. Our Kazakh missionaries preach to their countrymen that this is a reminder of the Trinity and the past Christian history of the Kazakhs.
2) Nestorian Christians lived in many Central Asian nations in the Middle Ages before the Muslim invasion of the region. Kazakhs also have an old (genuine Christian) saying, "If somebody casts a stone at you, do not cast it back, but feed your enemy."
3) The Kyrghyz groom compliments his bride with the ancient endearment, "You have sheep's eyes." Again, our missionaries interpret this saying as follows: "The humility of God's sheep means the readiness of the Bride of Jesus Christ to meet with her Groom."
4) Some Central Asian nations strictly forbid any breaking of bones of cattle or sheep in slaughtering and cooking their meat, just as we find in the biblical tradition (Exodus 12:46, John 19:36).
Christian roots discovered in national cultures are used with some success by missionaries in Central Asia today. They preach in many rural areas using special "missionary tents" and even "missionary 'yurtas'." The latter are a much more attractive construction for the indigenous people. During the last few years, many books of Scripture have been translated into Central Asian languages and the Word of God itself has become the best missionary in the region. Our Kazakh brothers even say their new Kazakh translation of the Bible is much nearer to the original Hebrew and Greek texts than is the Russian Bible. Our missionary projects, including visits to the majority of houses in our countries, are successful mainly because of the free distribution of some hundred thousand copies of the New Testament.
The providential idea of our missionaries stressing the historical Christian roots of many contemporary Muslim nations of Central Asia has meant a wonderful breakthrough since the fall of Communism. Our missionaries sometimes ask their countrymen: "Why do you confess Islam, the religion of the conquerors of your forefathers, rather than Christianity as did your forefathers?"
Constantine Prokhorov is a 1997 graduate of Odessa Theological Seminary and teaches church history in several Evangelical Christian-Baptist seminaries in Kazakhstan and Siberia. He lives in Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan.
Constantine Prokhorov, "Christian Roots as a Missionary Strategy in Kazakhstan," East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (Spring 2003), 11.
Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.
© 2003 East-West Church and Ministry Report