Almaty, Kazakhstan, Central Asia July 2008
A people group ripe for the harvest when the gospel is: contextualized to the Kazakh culture and accompanied by miraculous healings
Kazakhstan is roughly half the size of the continental USA—even larger in area than western Europe—and shares borders with Russia & China. The city of Almaty (encircled) is in the southeast.
Above & below: the city of Almaty
Cable cars snaking up the mountains overlooking Almaty
Among the five former satellites of the Soviet Union in Central Asia—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan—Kazakhstan is the most prosperous with its oil and gas reserves. By far it is also the largest of the five in area being roughly half the size of the continental United States. The indigenous people known as Kazakhs by culture are overwhelmingly adherents of the religion founded by Mohammed. However, they are very nominal toward their religion and view it merely as part of their culture. The Kazakhs are said to be descendants of the Turks and the Mongolians and so as a people display a charming blend of features which from person to person can vary all the way from Asian to nearly Caucasian. There are also Uighers, Russians, and Tatars living in their midst.
Our host Spring of Life was founded by Singaporean missionaries Simon and Susan after they came to Kazakhstan in 1997. Their approach to proclaiming the Kingdom of God was decidedly different from the more traditional way favored by churches in Almaty. The did not present the gospel to the Kazakhs as a competing religion known as Christianity. They did not require conversion to Christianity as a means of entering the kingdom of God. Rather they simply preached Isa Almasih, which is Jesus Christ in the Arabic language. Isa was already familiar to the Kazakhs as a great prophet in their holy book. Simon and Susan did not call what they planted a “church,” something which was too easily identifiable with Russian Orthodox Christianity. Not only does the Russian Orthodox Church remind the conservative Kazakhs of their former foreign occupiers, many Russian “Christians” are notorious for their worldliness and excessive fondness for vodka. Moreover, the architecture of traditional churches with their spires and steeples is decidedly foreign to the Kazakhs and their culture. Instead Simon simply preached the word of God in a way appropriate to the culture of the Kazakhs—following Isa as the only way to the God who created the heavens and the earth. This is the approach to sharing the gospel known as “contextualization.”
Simon and Daniel
In 2007 Simon and Susan and their two daughters were called back to Singapore. They left Spring of Life in the hands of Daniel, a Tamil Indian expatriate whom God had called to Kazakhstan as a businessman. In July 2008 Simon returned to Almaty for a visit and along with Daniel hosted The Elijah Challenge. What we would add to their approach of contextualization would be the miraculous healings that would demonstrate to the Kazakhs beyond a shadow of doubt that Isa was in fact the only Savior. About 100 to 150 leaders and believers assembled locally from Almaty as well as from Qaraghandy, 1200 kilometers to the north. A pastor from the city of Bishkek in the neighboring country of Kyrgyzstan to the south led a team to attend the Training. Missionaries from the United States as well as one from Korea were also in attendance.
Pastor from neighboring Kyrgyzstan
There had been prophecies declaring that the Lord would use Spring of Life to send forth missionaries to all of Central Asia and and even to China. The meetings in Almaty perhaps witnessed the beginning of the fulfillment of those prophecies.
During the Training I felt the Lord’s anointing upon me to teach in a very clear and understandable fashion even through an interpreter, and the people were very responsive and greatly built up in their faith as they received the teaching. The servants of God came to understand clearly how Jesus taught His disciples to heal the sick using authority when He sent them forth to proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus not surprisingly taught them to heal the sick as He Himself did, and to do this he primarily used the authority given to him by the Father when he was anointed by the Holy Spirit. This should be obvious to the Church, but for some reason we have not understood it clearly until now. This is how we taught the servants of God in Kazakhstan.
Praise & worship led by team from Qaraghandy
Up until now the Church has focused almost completely on the gift of healing—something which was not even available to the disciples when Jesus was with them. Rather, the gift of healing came into existence only on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended bringing the gifts of the Spirit. And Scripture teaches that the gift of healing is primarily for ministering to the body of Christ—which did not yet exist at that time on the earth. When Jesus sent his disciples out, it was not for ministering to the body of Christ, but rather to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the lost and to heal the sick (Luke 10:9). To accomplish this he gave them authority over diseases and demons. The teaching quickened these Central Asian servants of God. When at the end of each session we announced that we would minister to those with infirmities, the people boldly marched forward to the front and without reservation used their authority from the Lord to minister healing. The Lord was gracious and several people were healed during the Training sessions.
Pastor from distant Qaraghandy ministers during the Training
Missionary Pastor Abai (left) from South Korea
Teaching the pastors to minister healing-at-a-distance as Jesus did in Luke 7
Ladies (front) testify that the Lord healed them during the healing-at-a-distance
Young mother (right) testifies that lump & pain in her right breast have disappeared
The Open-air Evangelistic Outreach
Praise & worship at the beginning
A crowd from the immediate neighborhood gathered on a playing field inside the church complex. I preached from John 14 where Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father—there is no other way to escape hell and enter the kingdom of God—and where he even claimed that he was God in human flesh. How could we possibly know that he was telling the truth and not just another raving lunatic? John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I told them that we would ask Jesus to do these very miracles according to: John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. I had the trained believers come forward to minister to the infirm who had come to be healed. We ministered first with healing-at-a-distance as Jesus did in Luke 7 and then through the individual laying on of hands. The Lord moved dramatically to heal and deliver. Several people came forward to testify that the Lord had healed them. Among them, two ladies testified that tumors in their bodies had disappeared. All the testimonies, I reminded the people, were not simply miraculous healings but God’s demonstration to them that Jesus was the only way to Him.
Above & below: trained believers line up in front of the stage preparing to minister healing-at-a-distance according to Luke 7
On the back of the believers’ t-shirts: Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing…”
Ministering healing-at-a-distance according to Luke 7
Several people were healed and line up on the stage to testify that Jesus has healed them
Above:The tumor in her back has vanished Below: Two more of the several testimonies given
Immediately I challenged the people to believe on Isa Almasih as their Savior. I mentioned nothing about religion, about renouncing theirs and then converting to Christianity. The Kazakhs in a negative way identify Christianity with the very worldly Russian Orthodox religion prevalent in the former Soviet Union from which they became independent in 1991. They profess “the religion of peace” only because it is in their culture; they are very nominal in their religion. I did not ask them to renounce their religion and thus their culture as well—something that Jesus never told people to do—but instead to believe on and follow the Isa of John 14. Since 90% of them have neither read nor possess a copy of the Koran, it will not be difficult to disciple them according to the Word of God.
Kazakh souls streamed forward with little hesitation to be reconciled with their Heavenly Father. Those who remained in their seats were either all or mostly believers. Never before have we seen such an eager response from those who call themselves sons of Ishmael. We conclude Kazakhstan is ripe for the harvest if one knows how to evangelize the Kazakhs: with the gospel contextualized to their culture and with miraculous healing power. We must do this before Kazakhstan becomes radicalized with the help of huge sums of money coming into Kazakhstan from the oil rich fundamentalists.
Some of the Kazakh believers were delighted and surprised to see family members who had previously been gospel-resistant accept Isa as Lord and Savior. One such man came running to the front at the altar call after hearing the gospel and witnessing the miraculous healings. And many of the miracles were done through the hands of the Kazakh believers.
Above & below: Kazakhs stream forward to accept Isa Almasih as Lord and Savior after witnessing the miracles
After that we ministered to the infirm a second time. Those whom the Lord had not touched during the healing-at-a-distance came forward to receive the individual laying on of hands by the trained believers. In this way several more were healed and came up the the stage to testify publicly. See photographs below.
Above & below: the individual laying on of hands by the believers
Above & below: several more testimonies of miraculous healings after the laying on of hands
Above: Woman testifies that three tumors in her breast have disappeared
For us the response to the gospel from these nominal followers of the M religion was unprecedented. Among the five independent republics of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is the most open to the gospel. It also possesses size, wealth, and influence. This is the time for the Kazakh Church to be equipped to complete the Great Commission here. It can moreover have great impact beyond its own borders into the rest of Central Asia and even into China. Three essential ingredients are already available:
1. The strategy of contextualizing the gospel according to local culture, and 2. The power of miraculous healing to demonstrate the truth of that gospel, and 3. The finances to proclaim the gospel.
There is no time to lose to equip the Kazkh Church. Fundamentalists also have their eyes on this nation. Money from their oil riches is already coming into the country to purchases businesses as well as for the construction of places for the worship of their Allah. What should be the response of the Church of Jesus Christ? “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Isa Almash….” The leaders and we are now discussing a return trip for me next year to train more churches and on a much larger scale. In addition, we hope that other Elijah Challenge-trained ministers will consider going to Kazakhstan to equip the Kazakh Church. In the meantime, Pastor Daniel and the leaders of Spring of Life plan to continue proclaiming the kingdom of God in the spirit and power of Elijah. Among other things, they are going to hold another open-air outreach—this time completely on their own.
Fellowship dinner of Spring of Life leaders on the last day where each leader shared their testimony
At the dinner a newly-trained Kazakh sister shares how she ministered to a bed-ridden cancer victim over the telephone. Afterwards the person got up from her bed.
Traditional Kazakh robe given to me as appreciation
Spring of Life leaders
“First of all, I would to thank you for spending the time with us and teaching us from the Scriptures. Thank you also for the demonstration of authority! I admire your unwavering faith! Since the Elijah Challenge event our people are highly motivated to heal the sick and preach the gospel… this is happening on a regular basis!”
“I had a blood clot (like a bump) in a vein on my leg. Such a thing is removed only through a surgical operation by the removal of the entire vein. Previously I had prayed but nothing happened. When I came to your Training for the first time, nobody prayed over me. But in the evening I noticed that the swelling was no longer present. I could not believe my eyes. The next day I was convinced that the swelling was no longer present. I came to you and testified.”
Note: The present age of the one-man-show superstar evangelist is coming to a close. The age of the body of Christ—the nameless, faceless believer—is at hand.
2014 Elijah Challenge Training in Uzbekistan