We have been working in Central Asia for eight years, in a Muslimmajority country overwhelmed by major economic and political crises. In our time here, one of our biggest encouragements has been witnessing a national believer’s dream – that of broadcasting Christian television in the local language – grow from a vision into reality.
After Aibek* watched his mother struggling to understand a Russian language Christian TV programme, he realised that the great majority of his people had no access to the Gospel in their own heart language. And God gave him a vision for using television to reach people for Christ. However, when Aibek shared it with Christian leaders in the city, many of them told him that while it was a good vision, it would never happen: no one could or would help, and most actively discouraged him. But when Aibek shared the vision with us, God put it on our hearts to not only affirm and encourage him, but to work alongside him in bringing it to pass.
That was almost seven years ago. And although it has not been an easy road for Aibek, he stuck to the dream God gave him and now heads up a television studio which produces local Christian programming. These programmes are broadcast twice a week in several strongly Muslim regions in our country; it costs about $200 USD to air each slot, which is covered mainly by donations from local, indigenous churches. Each programme is based around a theme (e.g. forgiveness, family, testimonies of changed lives, alcoholism and other social issues), and contains a mix of teaching, testimony and music.
The vision of the studio is to eventually broadcast all over our country. This seems a long way off at the moment, but we have seen our Father open doors that we never thought would open. The fact that the programmes are being transmitted to some of the more remote, strongly Muslim areas shows that our Father’s hand is on the project. He is using this ministry to touch people who otherwise would never have the opportunity to hear the Gospel, and to bring hope and life to places where there is so little hope and so little to live for.
That Aibek is able to continue broadcasting with current restrictive religious laws is a testimony in itself. The director of the TV channel in one of the regions was strongly pressured to stop, but he told the Muslim community and officials that the programmes were good, and he would continue to show them as long as the studio continued to pay!
Television is particularly effective in reaching remote villages. Recently we received a letter from a mountain village in the south. These people have little contact outside of their village but do have television! Six of them had become believers through watching our shows: they have never met any other believers, and have no Bibles, but they meet with each other to share, and pray to the Father who has given them hope.
There are many stories like this, told through letters and phone calls, from people whose lives have been changed and transformed through the programmes. They include high ranking officials who contact usin secret, wanting to learn more but fearful for their positions, and even for their lives and families if they were to openly ask.
So even though we have encountered a lot of very vocal and vigorous opposition, we continue to be encouraged by the testimonies we receive, telling us of God’s salvation, changed lives, restored families, and how God’s word, through television, is bringing hope in the hard places.
* Not his real name