A Heart Language of the Silk Road


Today in Tajikstan

In a remote mountain valley in Tajikstan live a few hundred stubborn souls.  In their villages they speak Yaghnobi, a dialect of Sogdian.  Once there were several thousand Yaghnobs living there, but in 1957 they were forcibly removed by helicopter to work on Soviet cotton farms.   However, since 1983 the Yaghnobs have been returning to their villages.

The Joshua Project recognizes the Yaghnobs as one of the world’s remaining people groups without access to the Gospel in their own language.  Along with the few hundred living in the remote valley, there are others living in Tajik cities, but the numbers vary based on source.

The story of the forced relocation of the Yaghnob people is a sad one.  Their remote villages had existed in isolation for over a thousand years.  Their way of life, including their language and religion, a form of Islam heavily laced with Zoroasterism, continued much as it had since the Middle Ages.   Even the Russians found little reason to disturb them – until the Soviets ran out of workers for their cotton farms.

The villages were targeted for relocation and a swarm of helicopters came to depopulate the mountain valley.  The swift imposition of the modern world was too much for a large number of the villagers and it is reported some died from shock during transport.  Many more died due to the harsh circumstances of the Soviet run farms.  So, what do the Yaghnobs have to do with the Silk Road and what does that have to do with GHM?

In Ancient Persia and on the Silk Road

When Darius the Great, Emperor of Persia, listed his provinces on an inscription in what is today Iran, Sogdia was number eighteen.   The province spread over an area which included parts of modern Uzbekistan and Tajikstan.  It’s capital was Samarkand, which is today in Uzbekistan.

At the height of the Silk Road’s activity, Samarkand sat at the crossroads of the world and Sogdian was the road’s lingua franca.  Imagine a Samarkand where merchants from all over the world haggled in Sogdian  and Sogdian officials mandated the details of commerce.  Sogdian merchants and diplomats traveled from Imperial China to Byzantium.  The Sogdian language was so important it became a court language for one of the Khans.

Then the Ottoman Empire closed the Silk Roads and swallowed up Sogdia.  However, the Yaghnobi dialect of Sogdian language continued in use and thanks to those stubborn people up in the remote areas of Tajikstan, it is still spoken today.

GHM in Central Asia 

To support the hidden home churches in Central Asia, in countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikstan, GHM trains and mentors their pastors.  These men of God, who risk everything in order to share the Gospel and minister to their congregations, are raising up strong churches, in spite of the necessity to limit their size.  One of the evidences of this was observed at a recent training session for a group of these pastors.

The pastors realized it was time for them to begin to develop missionaries among their own congregants.  A plan was developed to identify and train couples who would move to the villages of unreached people groups, like the Yaghnobi, to learn their languages and share the Gospel.  GHM hopes for a day when the Yaghnobi people will hear the Gospel in their own language and we’d love for it to come from a couple from one of the congregations whose pastor is trained and mentored by us.  Wouldn’t you like to be a part of this kind of ministry work?

Help Reap the Harvest

Fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.
Fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.

You can partner with Global Heart Ministries to fulfill The Great Commission in this generation in The Middle East and Central Asia. Together we can bring the light and the truth of Jesus Christ right into the living rooms of every deceived child, every oppressed woman, and every hurting home. This is our message. This is our call.

We invite you to join this vision as a volunteer, a prayer warrior, or a financial donor. Contact us today by phone or email. Let us know how you’d like to partner with us as we reach out to the Most Unreached Regions of the World.



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