Kazakhstan – the world’s largest landlocked country, sandwiched between Russia, China and the Middle East – is at a crossroads, literally and figuratively. The contemporary, modern lines of Astana, the capital city, stand in stark contrast to the snowcapped mountains where eagle hunters practice their centuries-old craft.
But one aspect of Kazakh life that remains the same, whether in brightly lit urban centers or on the wide open steppe where herds of horses graze, is that nearly 100% of the Kazakh people worship Allah.
The tiny population of ethnic Kazakh Christians worships primarily in private house churches, seeking to avoid the attention that can result in estrangement from family, physical attacks and death threats. Proselytization of Muslims by Christians is strictly prohibited by Kazakh law.
An LCMS missionary who needs to remain anonymous for the safety of his parishioners has ministered to Kazakhs for well over a decade.
To strengthen the faith of new believers, and to have ready resources to introduce non-believers to Jesus Christ, LHF recently published A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories in the Kazakh language.
“Over 90% of our church members are new Christians, baptized in our churches over the last six years,” explained the missionary. “They come into the church completely Biblically illiterate. So, the Child’s Garden of Bible Stories is the first Bible overview for most families.”
Church leaders are making a concerted effort to encourage their members to have family devotions, and the Bible storybook has made a big impact.
“I think we find a good illustration in the eleven-year-old son of one of the local Christians,” recalled the missionary. “The little boy’s mother had been trying to share the Gospel with his elderly grandmother for over six years. However, the grandmother was understandably reluctant to be instructed by her own daughter.
“The boy loves the new Child’s Garden of Bible Stories because it brings life to the Bible stories, presenting them on a level that he can read for himself. He decided to share his joy with his elderly grandmother by reading her the Bible stories each day.
“Though unwilling to listen to her daughter, the boy’s grandmother was happy to have her grandson spend precious time reading to her. He even asks his grandmother the reflection questions at the end of each story. Through the bright faith and humble love of her grandson, this elderly Muslim woman is now open to hear God’s word proclaimed to her! Certainly such childlike faith stands as a beautiful example for us all!”