Visiting Central Asia
Please understand that security wise I won’t mention the name of the actual country we went and the people who were included in this outreach.
Often we hear about the Middle Eastern countries through media. We see overwhelming pictures of sadness and war. So when we think or talk about these countries it is often in a negative way. So when I was asked to join an outreach to Central Asia my first response was a “no”. I responded this way because I hardly ever heard anything positive about this part of the world. However, through listening to God I felt that He was encouraging me to go there in His protection and companionship.
In going to Central Asia we wanted to bless some long term workers with prayer ministry, preparing meals for them, doing devotionals with them, etc. I was very thankful to visit this country with my Co Worker who, because of earlier experience, knew the culture and language well. Before we went on the last plane we had to put on our headscarf which made me feel completely uncomfortable. I thought I was someone else and I felt captured in something that didn’t belong to me. I was afraid of going to a place where there was no freedom to just be as I was. That was contrasted when we arrived to our final destination, as we were received in such a friendly way that I would have never expected. While we were in the process of getting our passports and visa checked a guard asked if he could pick up our suitcases in the meantime. Once we were done with the process and were ready to leave the airport, our two suitcases were set aside waiting for us.
A friend picked us up and her guard took us to a guest house where we were staying. I soon found out that if women want to go anywhere they need their guard to take them. The guard who took care of my Co Worker and I often helped us carry bags and would help us buy specific items needed. He was always friendly and interacting with us in a very hospitable way even though he was very reluctant.
One day while visiting the corner store I watched my Co Worker have a conversation with the man we were buying vegetables from. I noticed the sales man was asking her something about me. Afterwards she told me that He was asking if I was ‘fresh’. I thought that was a nice way to put it. Another time when we went to visit our friend’s project, we had a warm welcome from the native workers. When the workers talked to us they made sure that everything was translated for me. I was astonished by how they included me the whole time, even though I didn’t speak their language. One of the ladies also entrusted me with her three-month old baby that I was then carrying almost the whole morning the first day we met. I felt so blessed and accepted by them and I would have never expected that.
Something else that I didn’t know before visiting Central Asia was their heart of hospitality. Once we went to visit a local friend who served us some wonderful food in a very generous way. I noticed this food was the best of what they had to offer. Their giving without restriction really touched me and I was blessed to be on the receiving end. I recognized that the people in this country were very open to receive us. Not only us as people, but when we shared Psalms, other verses, and words from God they seemed very encouraged even though it is a culture that is stamped by Islam. Sometimes I even had the sense that they were virtually longing for it.
We may think that in such closed places it is hopeless to spread the word of God, because there is no way to do it if you want to be safe. Though it was almost as if His Word and the reality of His Kingdom seeping into this nation little by little. I was filled with so much hope and confidence that God is totally working in these places and drawing His children closer to Him, revealing himself to them.
This outreach absolutely changed my perspective about Central Asia through seeing it with my own eyes. I don’t want to beautify everything that I saw and the whole time I was there I often struggled with not being able to move freely where and how I wanted to go. The need to always be covered from top to bottom was quite challenging. In fact it occurred to me that there are many things hidden in this culture, not just in the way they dress but in human relations as well. One of my prayers for this nation is for more freedom to be released into the culture.
I know now with more confidence that God sees the people who live in Central Asia and He knows their needs and He is in this country establishing His kingdom in His timing and planning.