Across Central Asia, many Christians are in urgent need of food and aid – and fellowship. Pjetr, an Open Doors partner in Central Asia, shares examples of the work teams like his are doing and the difference it makes.
It’s become sadly familiar to hear stories of Christian women who are persecuted by their fathers or brothers. From all over the world, we hear of women ostracised by their families. But a less common story is of a Christian woman facing persecution from a different male relative: her son.
Like many of us, Zebede* has spent the lockdown in her Central Asian country with a relative. But spending time with her adult son hasn’t been a blessing. He puts terrible pressure on her because of her Christian faith. He reproaches her for all their family problems, threatens her, beats her if he sees her reading the Bible, and even rips it. He doesn’t like to see her praying, and threatens to burn down her church. The lockdown has been the hardest test for Zebede.
In the third week of lockdown in her country, Open Doors partners were able to drive to her house and bring her a bag of food. Zebede immediately burst into tears - not only because the supplies were so vital, but because she was delighted to see her Christian brothers and sisters!
Zebede is one example of thousands. Believers who aren’t just in desperate need of food and aid – and who are often deliberately neglected when official COVID-19 aid is distributed – but who dearly need the fellowship that Open Doors partners can bring, however briefly.
Almost every country in Central Asia has reported COVID-19 cases and the pandemic is having a severe impact on their economies and healthcare systems. Many people have lost their jobs and incomes, and a large number of Christians face the isolation of not being able to meet with other believers. Some, like Zebede, are locked down with their persecutors.
But God is working through your prayers and gifts. From the beginning of the crisis, Open Doors partners have been able to provide vital relief aid and encouragement. There is much more still to do, but your support has meant that local churches can be resilient voices of hope in their communities.
One local church has seen their vision expand by twenty times! “We set the goal to help 100 families,” says the church leader, Pjetr*. “Frankly, we didn’t expect to be able to cover many families. This is a huge amount of money for us. But today we are talking about more than 2,000! This is a miracle!”
"Today we are able to feed more than 2,000! This is a miracle!” Pjetr
Food packages have been given to many different kinds of people in need. Open Doors partners have shared about a single mother with two children whose husband had died of a heart attack, a large family where the father had lost his job, a family without any documents who could not count on benefits from the government, and a large family that has taken in two orphaned children.
Vital food aid is given without any conditions, but often Open Doors partners have been able to share the good news of Jesus at the same time. They visited one Kazakh family with two children where the parents had been left without work and the mother was deeply depressed. After talking to them, she agreed to go to church. Open Doors partners were able to give them a Bible in Kazakh and books for the children, alongside food aid, thanks to your prayers and support.
Pjetr asks us to pray for those who have heard the gospel as they received food and aid. “In every home, people heard about God and how He took care of them. Let what is sown grow in the hearts of men and women.” He sees the opportunities that the pandemic has provided: “We went where we would never have been able to go without this help and need. To Muslim families, and to working-class families who are usually busy and don't have time to go to church.”
The work is often risky – though in some cities, God has provided unexpected help. In one region, Open Doors partners didn’t have official permission to distribute the food aid they’d prepared for 10 vulnerable families – but local authorities helped get them through check points, and the police even escorted the team to one of the families!
There are many more vulnerable Christians to reach, and they are often at the back of the queue for aid. Pjetr knows how valuable the prayers and gifts of Open Doors supporters are, and wants to express his thanks to those who have supported his church from so far away: “It was made possible by those who gave us a part of their life, expressed in money. Thank God for these people who gave Open Doors their money to help us!”
*Names changed for security reasons
Raise the issue of Christians who are last in line for Covid-19 food and aid. Post a photo on social media of yourself with an empty plate and a cross - however you want to interpret that. Tag @opendoorsuk, your MP and #TheLastInLine.