Reflecting over the last eight and half years that we were privileged to serve in Central Asia, in a Muslim-majority country overwhelmed by major economic and political crises, we can see that one of our biggest encouragements was witnessing a national believer’s dream grow from a vision into reality – the dream of broadcasting Christian television in his own local language.
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. Through this God gave him a vision for using television to reach people for Christ.
However, when Aibek shared this 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, sadly, most leaders actively discouraged him. But when Aibek shared the vision with us, God put it on our hearts not only to affirm and encourage him but to work alongside him in bringing it to pass.
That was almost eight years ago. Although it has not been an easy road for Aibek, he stuck to the dream God gave him and he now heads up a television studio that produces local Christian programming. These programmes were, up until October last year, being broadcast twice a week in several strongly Muslim regions in our country. Each programme was based around a theme (e.g. forgiveness, family, testimonies of changed lives, alcoholism and other social issues) and contained a mix of teaching, testimony and music.
Sadly, with the upsurge of ethnic tensions and with the director of the TV channel receiving death threats to stop him broadcasting them, the programmes are not now being shown. However when one door closes another opens; this year, after nine years of praying, they now have a five-minute slot on the national TV channel.
Whilst five minutes may not seem much, this is a real breakthrough. It gives the opportunity to broadcast short, simple and punchy programmes based mostly on themes from Proverbs, a book that is recognised as a book of wisdom by many in the country.
Television is particularly effective in reaching remote villages. With programmes now being broadcast over the whole nation they can be used by God 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. Recently the studio 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 us to openly ask more questions about the gospel. Even though the studio has encountered a lot of very vocal and vigorous opposition, the programmers continue to be encouraged by the testimonies they receive, telling 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