Mariette Oosterhoff, marketing and communications director for TWR’s Latin America and Caribbean Region, blogs this month from the TWR Europe and CAMENA National Partners Conference 2019, held in Central Europe.
I wish you could have experienced this moving moment with us at the recent National Partners Conference.
Our Christian colleagues from Central Asia wrapped up their presentation to the gathering of TWR staff members, partners and guests by telling the following story. For two minutes afterward, the conference hall was silent as we sat in hushed contemplation of what we had just heard.
A ministry worker in one of the Central Asian countries – comprising Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan – had received a request for a Bible from a radio listener in a neighboring country, where Christian practice is severely discouraged and restricted. The ministry team began considering how they could send the Bible to the listener despite the restrictions.
Then a team member whom I will refer to Thomas said that he would carry the Bible when he traveled to the other country. Everybody asked, “How are you going to get past the border inspections with a Bible?”
“God will keep me safe,” Thomas answered.
Sure enough, at the border, he was stopped. The officer took him to the interrogation room, opened Thomas’ bag and saw the books.
“These are Christian books,” the officer said. “Why are you bringing these books here?”
Feeling that Jesus wanted him to tell the truth, Thomas said, “We have a radio listener who asked for these books, and I am taking these books to him.”
The border officer took off his hat. “I am that man who asked for these books,” he told Thomas. “Thank you for bringing them to me.”
After the presentation, the Central Asia team asked all of us to stand. They wanted to give something back to the many national partners in Europe that have been supporting them and praying for them for many years. Then, the team prayed for us in their language.
I felt a peace come over the whole room. And I believe that this prayer unified all of us into one people serving God together as brothers and sisters, each in his or her own place.
Russians Want to Know More About Christianity
This month I also met with Andrei, TWR’s representative in Russia. That’s not his real name, but I want to be careful to protect his anonymity. Russians are turning back to their Christian roots, Andrei told me. He himself became a Christian in the 1990s soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union and then studied at first Bible school to open after the Soviet period. He started working for TWR in Russia in 2018.
“Russians want to know more about Christianity,” Andrei said. “It was forbidden for 70 years, but now Russians see themselves as a Christian nation. Yes, we have restrictions for churches, but I believe that these restrictions will lead to a revival. The revival in the ’90s [after the Soviet Union] wasn’t complete. Through persecution, God will bring more unity among churches.”
I asked him how we can pray for Russia, and he answered:
“Pray for committed Christians whot would like to join TWR’s Russian team. Pray that we will have opportunities to speak to people who are influencers in Russia on various levels. We want to tell the story of Jesus. We have something powerful to tell them; it can change their lives, and it will change the whole country for the better. Pray that we will be bold enough to continue what we do and that we stay firm against all the evil efforts against ministry opportunities and the work of God.”
This conference is just a wonderful opportunity to meet, talk and laugh with the people behind the names that pop up in TWR reports and emails. I am already looking forward to lunch tomorrow, where I will get to know some of these “names” better. I feel privileged to be part of this inspiring group of missionary-minded people!
Photos: [Main] TWR staff members and partners listen during a conference session, [In-Article] TWR staff members Shawn Boyd and Elly Sanders talk during a break