A Heart Language of the Silk Road

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: WHY LANGUAGE MATTERS

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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Faith on the Silk Road

Elijah’s Book is a rare Persian document related to Christianity

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST:  CHRISTIANITY PEEKING THROUGH THE FOG

Finding Christianity in the Archaeological Haystack

The first impediment to archaeological research in all Central Asia is due to the extreme climatic conditions,” bewails a scholar of Nestorian archaeology.  Nestorians were a sect of fourth century Christians who left an archaeological footprint in Central Asia, but as the scholar goes on to explain, their trail and the trail of Christianity in general is a hard one to follow.

While climate is recognized as a primary challenge in solving this puzzle, it is far from being the only one.  Christianity was not native to the area; it was carried there among the parcels and packages of the travelers passing through.  Once planted it was rarely allowed to grow unhampered by other influences.  While the Western travelers thought bilaterally – I am a Christian/I am not a Christian – the Eastern thought process tended to be more complicated, amalgamating multiple belief systems  into a personal theology, so even when Christian symbols are found they are often tainted by evidence of other belief systems.

When Christianity arrives in most cultures, it faces down an panoply of gods.  The choice is clear, one God or many.  The followers of Christ traveling the Silk Road, many of whom were Nestorians, encountered another monotheistic religious tradition, Zoroastrianism, which dominated the area for many centuries before the birth of Christ.  Many scholars believe the Magi of the Bible were actually Zoroastrians and they find many cross-over  influences between Judaism and Zorastrianism.  This makes following the trail of Christianity even more confusing – especially when you consider the Nestorian form of Christianity was eventually declared heretical by the Byzantine church.

Climate had another ally in its effort to wipe out the trail of Christianity, and it is another monotheistic religion – Islam.   The Silk Road trade routes, utilized for over fifteen hundred years, were shut down by the Ottoman Empire and all ties with the West were severed.  While the initial indoctrination to the Muslim faith had not been particularly strong, it was followed by many centuries of unrivaled influence.  During this period ideologies of the West were systematically barred from entering and those already existing erased.  Churches became mosques and over the years the Muslims were almost successful in eradicating any evidence of Christianity along the once heavily traveled Silk Road.

"Finally," our frustrated archaeologist says, "one must note the extreme fragmentation of the documentation;it is dispersed in many countries, and it appears in many languages, not always well known, or in publications with very limited circulation and unknown to most outside a circle of orientalists. The dispersion of documentary materials has been caused not only by the division of the region into various states, but it is also due to the differing nationalities of the scientific expeditions which have taken significant material back to their respective countries, where it is preserved in their museums and libraries. This has also led to the publication of this material in a haphazard variety of languages. Such dispersion, generally characterized by inferior holding facilities and poor study centers, constitutes an almost insurmountable obstacle for those who wish to have a synoptic vision of the condition of the studies."

The Needle of Christianity is Being Uncovered

The Nestorian archaeologist admits, “Archaeological remains are few, but diverse, and they include sacred buildings, tombs, mural paintings, different objects, and inscriptions.”  So, in spite of the difficulties, evidence of Christianity in the lands of the Silk Roads is coming to light.

While faith does not come through evidence, but by belief, it is important to Central Asians to know they have not been the first Persians to embrace Jesus Christ.  One of the methods used by unbelievers to discourage  Christians is to disinherit them from the Persian culture, a key element in the personal identity of all Central Asians.  As more evidence comes to light, proving Christianity has been a part of the Central Asian culture since before the rise of Islam, Christians are emboldened to hold on to their faith and share it with others.  This is a great encouragement to our Central Asian audience, for both the believers and seekers.  Archaeology has become an unwitting ally in GHM’s efforts to reach the lost in Central Asia and the Middle East.

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.

Welcome Back to the Silk Road

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: THE ROMANCE OF THE ROAD

The Silk Road

Back in 1877, a German traveler and geographer officially coined the term “The Silk Road” for the series of trade routes connecting China with the West.  He used “Silk Routes” interchangeably in his work,  but “The Silk Road” prevailed in literature and maps over the ensuing centuries.  Today, with our fanaticism for accuracy and fact-checking, “Silk Routes” is gaining popularity, but it will never capture the romance and fascination of the other name for the trade thoroughfares.

Many goods other than silk traveled these roads in both directions and most of the merchandise had a more significant impact on our world, but it was the demand for silk that drove it all.  At the crossroads of these important transactions sat Central Asia, for many years a part of the Persian Empire, and now the target of our ministry, along with The Middle East, which also played a role in the history of The Silk Road.

Esther by Narmin Backus, host of Sweet Conversations, our Azerbaijani Women’s Program

The Rise of the Road

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness of night prevents these couriers from completing their designated stages with utmost speed.”  These words may seem familiar to Americans, as they are the motto of our postal service, but as the Ancient History Encyclopedia points out, the line was penned by Herodotus in reference to couriers who traveled the Persian Royal Road.  The Persian emperors built the Royal Road, installing postal stations with fresh horses all along it to speed the irrevocable laws of the Medes and the Persians to the corners of its far-flung empire.  In those days, all roads led to Susa, Persia’s capital, which is mentioned in the Bible in the books of Esther, Nehemiah, and Daniel.

The Persian Royal Road suffered the same fate as the empire.  When Alexander conquered Persia, he gained control of this important network of roads.  While Alexander is famous for many feats, one of the most important things he ever did might just be his establishment of Alexandria Eschate, in what is now Tajikistan, in 339 BC.  It is through that city permanent trade with China began.  After establishing the city, Alexander deposited his wounded warriors there and moved on to other conquests.  These warriors lived on to marry into the local population and develop the Greco-Bactrian Empire, which was the first Western empire to have significant trading ties with China.

Han Dynasty Sculpture from Britannica.com

Horses Open the Trade Route

The Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) had a problem.  The Chinese needed an ally against the nomadic tribes of the Xiongnu on their northern and western borders.  They reached out to the Yuezhi people in the West and got their allies, but along the way they had contact with many other nations, among them the Alexander’s Greco-Bactrian’s.  The Chinese loved the European horses of the Greco-Bactrians  and began a breeding program of their own.  China was already known as “Seres“, “the place where silk comes from”, but now the Westerners had something the Chinese wanted, horses – and so the Silk Trade began.

The Silk Road encompassed the old Persian Roads and grew to include destinations in India, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Middle East, Egypt, the African continent, Greece, Rome, and even Britain.  As mentioned earlier in this post, a lot more than silk traveled the Silk Road.  Also coming from China were paper, gun powder and spices – each of which eventually altered the Western world, but were never as popular as silk.  The West sent carpets, jewelry, amber, metals, dyes, drugs and glass in return.  While the West gladly consumed everything that came their way, silk was the engine of the entire enterprise.

Roman emperors so resented the influences of silk they started a smear campaign, trying to convince their people that silk was decadent.  The transparent gowns, worn by Cleopatra and others became all the rage, so the emperor was most likely right, but no one could seem to stop people’s love for silk.  The passion for silk continued and China had a monopoly, because no one else knew how to produce it.

The Turn of the Worm

For many centuries the Chinese had the West convinced silk was produced by a tree and silk lovers had no reason to doubt them.  Eventually word got out a worm produced the miraculous thread.  In one of the first recorded incidents of corporate espionage, the Emperor Justinian sent spies disguised as monks to crack the silkworm code.  The result was a Byzantium silk trade rivaling, but never ending, the silk trade with China.  Finally, in 1453, the Ottomans closed the Silk Roads and cut off all ties with the West, but even this merely launched the Age of Discovery in which the Western world scrambled to find a new route to China.

It was the end of a romantic era of history – an era which has left a great legacy in the exchange of cultures resulting in advancements in the areas of art, religion, philosophy, technology, language, science, architecture, and every other element of civilization for both the East and the West.

The Western World Returns to the Silk Road

The Silk Road is opening once again, but not for silk and spices.  World War I saw the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.  Russia rushed into the void left from the downfall of the Ottomans, but when the USSR collapsed in the 1990s, they left behind nations decimated by the soviet economic model and dispirited by the iron hand of the political machine.  The reawakening of the lands once known as Persia has taken time, but the romance of the Royal Road is returning.

In our era of global awareness, we can see the Persian influence in pursuits like art, architecture, fashion, music, and food.  As we reacquaint ourselves with the inhabitants living at the crossroads of the Silk Road, they are also looking at us.  Gradually they are beginning to allow influences from both the East and the West into their daily lives, on the world stage at events like the 2017 Riyadh Summit -and through technology like satellite broadcasting, and that’s where GHM connects with the story of the Silk Road.

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 countries and turn fathers into daddies. 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.

The Faith of Our Founding Fathers

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: FAITH’S DISAVOWAL OF DEPENDENCE

America’s Independence Day

July 4, 1776:  The day America officially declared independence from Britain.  Today we celebrate that milestone with picnics and fireworks, but back in 1776, the signing of the Declaration of Independence was a solemn step  which would lead to a bloody war with Britain.  In many ways it was America’s first Civil War, because while those who believed in independence won the war, there were many living in America in 1776 who were actually loyal to the Crown and King.

Taxation was the sticking point that eventually drove Americans to part ways with Britain, but our spirit of independence was born out of a desire for religious freedom.  After Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage in 1492 for Spain, soon adventurers from all over Europe were making their way to the New World with a wide variety of motivations, from pure greed to pious claims of spreading Christianity.  But all these adventurers were merely visiting the New World to plunder it for European fame, fortune or furtherance in religious organizations.

When the Pilgrims came to Virginia in 1607, they came to make a home, because they could not safely practice their faith in their own homeland.  They were followed shortly by the Puritans, Quakers and other groups seeking religious freedom of one kind or another – even the freedom to have no religion at all.

Unfortunately, many of those who came to America to escape religious persecution were quick to impose their own form of religious intolerance on others.  Almost without exception, those who desired to persecute all others who did not practice their own religion, claimed their intolerance was to protect God, but other voices prevailed.

Though Americans have not always gotten it right, the value of religious freedom, for everyone’s brand of religion, was an early concern of the Founding Fathers.  Smithsonian.com points out, James Madison, a future president at the time, “noted that Christianity had spread in the face of persecution from worldly powers, not with their help. Christianity, he contended, ‘disavows a dependence on the powers of this world…for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them. ‘”

Today we imagine the birth of our nation to resemble our national bird, the Bald Eagle, climbing fully-formed out of  an egg, but in truth, like a newly hatched eaglet, it took time to develop the ideas that eventually became our Constitution and Bill of Rights.  The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776 and the Constitution in 1788, but the Bill of Rights was not written until 1791.  It is there that our freedom of religions was advanced and today is protected:

 “Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The Disavowal of Dependence

Today, GHM can testify to the Christian faith’s disavowal of dependence on the powers of the world.  In America, where religious freedom is protected, many clamor for a freedom from religion, traditional Christian churches report attendance is down and religions John Madison never heard of spring up almost daily – some with no relationship to Christianity beyond a disdain for it.

However, in The Middle East and Central Asia, where Christianity is actively persecuted in many areas and barely tolerated in others, people are clamoring to have access to the Bible and to meet with Christians.  It is impossible to count the number of people to whom Jesus Christ has appeared in dreams and visions.  The Spirit moves without the support or encouragement of the governments of these countries.

It is for these seekers and new Believers we produce Christian programming to be broadcast via satellite in countries like Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.  By training and mentoring home pastors we encourage Believers in this country to continue to fight the good fight and offer the hope they have to others.  Wouldn’t you like to partner with us in these efforts?

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.

 

Subjugation is the First Step

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: SEX TRAFFICKING IS AN EPIDEMIC IN TARGET COUNTRIES

Subjugation Leads to Abuse

This month we’ve been looking at the state of women in our target countries.  Even on her wedding day a bride must demonstrate her submissive nature.  Were she to have something to smile about, it is not acceptable for her to wear one with her wedding finery.  In these countries of The Middle East and Central Asia, daily subjugation is a mere breath away from abuse.  If a beating on your wedding night is to be expected, how much worse can it get?

It can get a lot worse.  It is only in recent years that a term for spousal abuse came into use in our target countries, but that is only a part of the problem.  Sex trafficking is an epidemic, but it is not recognized as such.  It is merely the extension of a man’s right over his wives and daughters.

Daughters are not a blessing to a household.  They are an expense and a burden. Should the wind uncover the daughter’s face, her father would be dishonored.  Why feed and clothe someone who is of no value, and is, in fact a risk to your honor? Selling her would bring money to support your sons.

If your wife no longer pleases you, why should you keep her when there is a profit to be made and you could replace her with a younger more pliable version?  Her family has given her over to you and now you make the decisions about her life.  If you divorce her and sell her, who will care?  Certainly not your next father-in-law, who will willingly unload one of his burdens on you.

If a woman cannot even protect herself, how is she supposed to protect her daughter?  What if one day your daughter disappeared from your home?  In many countries the mother would not even dare to ask after the welfare of her child.  Her answer would be a brutal beating at the suggestion that she deserved an answer.

Just One is Too Many

These horrid situations are not representative of the entire region, but they are prevalent throughout, especially in the more remote areas where Westerners are never seen.  Even in the West, physical abuse, sexual abuse and sex trafficking are a problem.  If our Western culture, which spoils far too many children and holds up liberty and equality as the norm, can have citizens who suffer in this way, it is distressing to imagine what goes on in countries where women are mere chattel and female babies are an unwanted burden.

Were abuse not such an overwhelming problem in these areas, we’d still have a concern for these women, because God does.  In a practical sense, it seems there is little that we can do, but we do what we can and we know we are making a difference – because women tell us.

Through our pastor training and mentoring we are able to make a strong impact on the ground.  It may only be a handful at a time, but we are promoting change.  When a Middle Eastern or Central Asian man comes to Christ he doesn’t know how to live that out, no matter how sincere his belief may be.  All he knows is what he has grown up with.  He has to be trained and encouraged to leave that behind.  That’s why this part of what we do is so important.

Our programs are important, too.  They may not immediately change a woman’s situation, but they can change her outlook.  These women suffer mightily.  The predominate religion, the government and the cultural traditions offer no hope – even in the afterlife.  So many women tell us merely having the hope of heaven is a blessed relief from their despair.  Testimony after testimony relates the story of women who endure their torment with joy, because of their relationship with Jesus Christ.  Their relationship with Christ also gives them access to the Throne Room of the Most High God.  God does answer these women’s prayers and the Holy Spirit works in the lives of their husbands.

This is not a pleasant story to tell, but it is foundational to our mission.  Wouldn’t you like to join us for the hope of women of The Middle East and Central Asia?

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. 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.

 

No Safe Place

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST:  WOMEN AT RISK

Somewhere Safe

Throughout the US, in service stations, restaurants and other public places you’ll see signs identifying a location as a Safe Place.  Employees of these locations have been trained to help any youth who asks for it.  No shame is attached to the need for assistance.  Runaways, kidnap, victims and abused kids can step forward to be rescued from their dangerous situations.

While Safe Place is a national program for youth, regional programs throughout the US offer similar help for abused women of all ages.  In many women’s restrooms a discreet sign invites abused women to make their situation known by a phone call or a word to an employee.  If you google “wife abuse”, pages and pages of sites offer their assistance.

Whenever a vulnerable person steps forward, they are applauded for their bravery and within in a very short time they are in a shelter specially designed to assist in the beginning of their healing process.  A warm bed, a square meal, decent clothing, comforting words, de-tox, prenatal care, child care – whatever is needed to break the cycle of abuse which held a victim captive will be provided.  More importantly, even if their abuser discovers where they are, the abuser will gain no access until the victim is equipped to deal with them.

The Abuse of the Vulnerable

Even in places like America, where the call for help is seen as a sign of bravery, stepping out of the shadows and into the arms of caring people can be hard.  Trust is a difficult thing to learn, once it has been stolen.

In The Middle East and Central Asia, with its tradition of subjugation, should a woman or a child cry out for help, their reward is shame.  The beating a man gives his wife is a private thing, unless the husband is bragging about it at the local teahouse.  A woman keeps these things to herself. Enduring the inevitable beating is a sign of strength.

Among the frivolity of a wedding celebration the evidence of male dominance is clear.  In the picture above, the groom greets his bride in the traditional way, by stepping on her shoe.  This is emblematic of a woman’s entire life.  Her role is to submit and to do so with grace and endurance.  Yes, it’s just a small ritual, but would you allow it on your wedding day?

During the celebration it’s not unusual for the men to give advice to the groom concerning the “test beating.”  This is a wedding night ritual endured by many new wives until today.  Umida, the host of our Uzbek Women’s Program, can tell you how frequently this “test beating” occurs.  By administering the ritual of a wedding night beating, a husband can discover the demeanor of his wife.  If she doesn’t submit gracefully, she can be returned to her family.  If she does submit, you’ve gotten a good one and your family will honor her the next morning in the traditional “welcoming of the bride” ceremony.

Should a wife run to her family or friends for help, she’d be shamed.  “What kind of weakling are you?  “What did you do to deserve the whipping?”  “At least you have a husband and a home.  Be grateful.”  “You must learn to submit so you can protect your children.”  For the honor of the family, the errant wife would be humbly returned to the abuser, but there is no guarantee she would be recieved .  In some cases the wife would be severely beaten to demonstrate her family’s shame at her behavior.

God’s Word, the Bible, has a different message for women – a message of equality, hope, and joy.  This is the message GHM delivers to The Middle East and Central Asia in programs for women like Shukar Aytaman ( I Am Thankful) and Sweet Conversations.  Our children’s programs are designed to deliver the message of worth at a young age.  Even our men’s programs underline the respect men should pay women as co-heirs of God’s promises.  Reaching women and saving them from abuse is one of our prime objectives.  Wouldn’t you like to join us in these efforts?

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 countries and turn fathers into daddies. 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.

Even to Smile is a Radical Thing

Smiling for the Joy of the Lord!

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: WOMEN DON’T SMILE IN MY COUNTRY

Ready! Set!  Action!

Umida and Feruza were dressed for the set. Lori had finished their hair and make-up.  The cameramen, techs, and producer were set-up to film around a water feature in a garden. Everything was ready to shoot the opening scene for the Shukar Aytayman (I Am Thankful) Uzbek Women’s Program.  The producer said, “Ladies, there’s no dialog in these scenes.  They’re just part of the titles we’ll have at the beginning of each show.  I want the viewers to be drawn into the program by your joy.  So big smiles, OK?”

It wasn’t OK.  Umida said, “Women don’t smile in my country.”  Can you imagine the implications of that?  How early in a girl’s life would you have to begin training her that smiling is unacceptable? Or perhaps she learns it by observing the women around her who never smile?

A Simple Smile

Look back over yesterday.  How many times did you smile?  Perhaps there was a smile on your face as you took your morning shower?  Certainly you smiled into the mirror as you gave yourself the final once over, to imagine how people would see you during the day?  Over breakfast did you share a smile with a child, a spouse, or a roommate?  Did you nod at your next door neighbor and grin as you backed out your car?  If you dropped your kids off at day care or a babysitter’s did you smile at the employees receiving your child?  Did you smile at the doorman or security guard or receptionist at your office?

Smiles greet, thank, and reassure those around us.  Smiles help us cope with the stresses of life. Smiles allow us to express pleasure and joy.  In our western culture, even in the dreariest of lives, a smile is a necessity for males and females alike.  In Uzbekistan, women don’t smile.  

Imagine a life without smiles.  In fact, give it a try.  See how long you can go without smiling, even to yourself – perhaps especially to yourself.

Back on the Set

For a moment, everything came to a halt.  Steve, our producer, had to think for a moment.  One of the primary things we require of ourselves, as we film our programs, is that they be culturally correct.  We want everything that is said and done, every prop and wardrobe choice, to be true to the lives of our audience.  Certainly through satellite broadcasting and the internet, our audience sees the smiles of women from Westernized cultures, but they do not share smiles among themselves.

A quick prayer went up, “Father, what would you have us do?”  And then suddenly he knew.  Steve said, “Well, we’re going to smile today.  Let’s show the Uzbek women what it means to have the joy of the Lord.”  The resulting footage is a message without words.  Umida and Feruza invite the women of their country into their joy before  a single syllable is spoken.

This is the purpose of GHM programming.  We want the people of The Middle East and Central Asia to know there is something to smile about.  We want them to have hope, in a place where it is unknown.  We want the joy of the Lord to invade their lives with profound change.

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. 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.

A Tradition of Subjugation

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND CENTRAL ASIA

Equality From the Beginning

Women in western countries can’t begin to appreciate the debt they owe Judeo-Christian values.  While there are always improvements to be made to the human condition, for males and females, in the earliest pages of the Bible, God established the equality of sexes.  In the very first chapter of Genesis God said He created male and female in His own image and charged them both to have dominion over all things on the earth.

Throughout time, mankind has deviated from honoring this divine assignment in many ways.  Often it has been the religious establishment discriminating against the daughters of Eve, but regardless of the acts of man, God has continued to honor women.  His regard for women is recorded in the Bible – throughout His relationship with His chosen people and the beginning of the Church Age.  This tradition of the equality of the sexes is the platform on which women in western cultures stand, even as they turn away from other traditions of the Bible.  

Marching in the Streets

Women in western countries march in the street for their rights and for the rights of women everywhere, but sometimes they seem unaware of the privileges they already enjoy.  They stand under clever signs created out of the bounty of their education with their hair blowing in the wind, each wearing whatever their personal taste dictates.  They drive themselves to the protest in cars they bought with loans in their own name.  If they are married, they chose their own husband or significant other.  If they are women of faith, they may practice their own religion rather than following what their father or husband believes, with little fear of retribution.  Women in The Middle East and Central Asia often dare not even dream of these freedoms.

While some of the critics of western policies point to generous laws in third world countries, which promise paid leave when a child is born or quote constitutions which specifically name women as equal under the law, many of these brave benefits and laws are merely window dressing for countries which still hide their women behind a veil or allow honor murders and genital mutilations.  The words of the laws and the constitutions in no way reduce the burden of subjugation most women in The Middle East and Central Asia suffer.

Stuck in History 

The subjugation of women in many The Middle East and Central Asia countries is so entwined in the male-dominated culture that it really doesn’t matter what UN Treaty a country votes to accept or what their constitution says.  The women there are second class citizens with no hope, no rights, and no privacy.  If a daughter is slain for the family’s honor, according to religious traditions the government recognizes, what mother considers maternity leave a fair recompense for her loss?

The Muslim faith, the foundation on which these cultures are built, has a tradition of Sharia Law – a law focused on absolute obedience to a strict code of conduct.  The literature of Islam assigns a second class role to women and tradition shoves these women even further into the background.  They are completely under the control of the men in their lives, and for most living out this tradition, it is not a benevolent stewardship.

Stuck in Tradition

For too many women in The Middle East and Central Asia, it really doesn’t matter what the laws say, because  these women will never hear a whisper of any political laws offering freedom.  They will only know the religious impediments imposed upon them.   From an early age, they are closeted with the other women in the household.  If they receive any education at all, it is the bare rudiments.  As soon as possible they are taught their chores and begin a slave-like existence.  Marriages can be arranged and performed long before puberty.  Even if the marriage is not consummated, they may go into the house of their husband to serve their mother-in-law, the same way they served at home, but with harsher taskmasters.

It is into this atmosphere satellite broadcasting has been introduced.  Families that once knew nothing about the world beyond their village suddenly have the opportunity to see beyond the borders of their country.  Much of the programming is in foreign languages the viewers don’t even understand.  They merely like the noise and pageantry playing in their living room.  If there are programs in their own language, chances are they are programs of religious and political indoctrination.  GHM can show you footage of small children marching in a circle, singing of the beauty of martyrdom to Allah.

Imagine the wonder of these women who tune into our programs, aired in Azerbaijani, Uzbek, and Turkmen.  Beautiful, well-groomed women with smiles on their faces, talk about a God who loves women as much as He does men, and who not only offers the hope of heaven, but the assurance of it – without the need to suffer a martyr’s death and in dying take innocent lives.  How can an oppressed woman ignore this evidence of a life beyond her own?  The smiles alone are a testimony of the fact that there is a life beyond what these oppressed viewers can even imagine.

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.

No Sugar, No Spice

Life is harsh for women in The Middle East and Central Asia

HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: NOT ENOUGH DADDIES

God’s Plan for Little Girls

The Bible is clear.  All children are a gift of God, even daughters, because His prime directive to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).  Without females, there is no multiplication.  In God’s plan, a son is to leave his father and his mother to cleave to his wife and become one with her (Genesis 2:24).  A wife is to be a helpmeet, not mere chattel (Genesis 2:18).  Proverbs 31 heralds the value of a good wife which is beyond rubies.  This is God’s stance on women.  The New Testament takes it even further, admonishing husbands to love their wives, to be willing to lay down their lives for them (Ephesians 5:25).

That’s a far cry from today’s Western culture where women fight for equality and rights, but its even further from the  position of women in our target countries.  In The Middle East and Central Asia, a daughter is a disappointment, and men brag about beating their wives.  Little chance there will be a movement to celebrate fathers in these countries.  The fathers celebrate themselves.

Celebrating Father’s Day

Did you know there was no official recognition of Father’s Day in the US until 1972?  Mother’s Day was envisioned in 1908 and was made a national holiday in 1914.  In 1909 a woman raised by a widower thought fathers also needed recognition.  Imagine the love she must have experienced to feel that way!

It took her a year to convince the people of her state to celebrate Dads, but the idea ran into opposition elsewhere.  In part, the idea had a slow start because it was not embraced by retailers, and the fathers themselves had a bit of resistance.  They thought it might “domesticate manliness,” according to a quote cited by the History Channel.  Many people thought the idea of days to celebrate Mom and Dad separately were sexist and there should be a single Parent Day.   Even today, 17 countries around the world have a celebration of mothers, while only 10 recognize fathers.

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Father’s Day was initiated by the love of a daughter and persisted until it was made a national holiday because of daddies – not because of the ability of a man to sire a child.  Daddies love their children, the boys and the girls.  They have an affection for them, demonstrated by nurturing and sacrifices.  A daddy does not see a daughter as an expensive burden and a potential for shame.  A daddy does not want to hide his daughter away, but revels in her uniqueness, beauty, and strength.  He wants her to be educated and to enjoy success – and when his daughter has a daughter, the joy is multiplied.

The world needs more daddies, especially the part of the world GHM ministers to.  The role of women in these countries is defined by their subservience.  The fathers dictate everything, from the clothes they wear, to the religion they will practice, even to the man they will marry.  When a woman marries, she goes into the home of her husband where the mother-in-law is a virtual slave driver.  A woman’s only hope is to have a son that will one day bring a wife to serve her.

The world needs more daddies!

This is not God’s plan.  He sent Jesus Christ to offer hope to women.  The idea that a man should love his wife was a radical one in the First Century.  The fact that Jesus had women among His followers was a scandal.  The early church grew because of women like Lydia in Acts.

 Our most popular programs are our women’s programs, because they show women the love God has for them as women.  And remarkably, these shows are gaining popularity with men because all of us are created with the desire to love and honor one another.  It is the Enemy who deceives us into hate and subjugation.

In fact, one of the names of God is “Abba.”  Many translations use the formal form of “Father” in the verses where Abba used, but that does not capture the original meaning, which is more in line with “daddy.”  In Mark 14:36, Jesus asks Abba if the cup of death could be taken away, in the same tone a child might ask to be spared a difficult task. How wonderful to know, as adopted sons and daughters, we too can turn to our heavenly daddy for comfort and strength when our tasks seem too big.

The world does need more daddies.  On Sunday, as you celebrate your father, think of the men and the women in The Middle East and Central Asia.  Pray they would come to know our Father Creator through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Perhaps our Father is calling on you to partner with us in this crusade to teach the fathers of The Middle East and Central Asia to become daddies.

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 countries and turn fathers into daddies. 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.

Media Makes a Difference for Volunteer

Alma maintains the GHM database.

HEARTS AFLAME:  ALMA DIXON KNOWS DATA MATTERS

Alma Dixon is a volunteer we can’t live without.  Our database of donors, volunteers and partners is critical to our operation and she’s the one who keeps it percolating along.  Because of her, our supporters get their their newsletters, e-news and records of their donations.  When we pick up the phone and call someone, the number is available because Alma keeps the database humming.  It’s a huge job and its one she volunteers for.

When we asked how she became involved with GHM, her answer was a smile and one name: Steve Sharp.  Steve was worship minister at Alma’s church when he started his ministry in Central Asia.  When he asked her to help, she “really had no choice – he never takes no as an answer.”

Sermon Tapes Put Jesus in the Driver’s Seat

Alma knows the effectiveness of media when it comes to the Gospel.  She had been brought up in a Christian home, but admits “Jesus was a passenger in [my] life.”  After she was married her brother sent her some sermon tapes which caused her to change drivers.  “The Lord began to soften my heart, I started reading the Bible, attending church and eventually I relinquished the driving to Him.”

That’s the kind of life-changing message GHM brings to The Middle East and Central Asia.  Religious leaders there promote a monotheistic belief system, but that system does not satisfy the hearts of the men, women and children of the region.  Alma reminds us, ” The people in that part of the world are eager for spiritual answers and they are responding to the Gospel message.”

Zafar, Umida and Feruza, Musician, Host and Co-host of Shukur Aytaman, Our Uzbek Women’s program

Through satellite broadcasting, GHM delivers the Gospel into the living rooms of countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iran and Kazakhstan.  When a viewer is touched by the message of our programming, there are hundreds of home pastors, trained and spiritually mentored by GHM, who can bring the viewers into their hidden churches.  As Alma pointed out, these home churches are not filled only by our viewers, but many in those areas are encountering Jesus in visions and dreams.  Even as many here in the Western World are turning their backs on Christianity, the Lord is moving in The Middle East and Central Asia.

“Think eternally, life passes quickly,” is the message Alma wants to pass on to others.  She knows her work for GHM is for the Lord and she’s happy to be a part of reaching others so far away with the Gospel.  Wouldn’t you like to join Alma and many others in supporting GHM with your time, talents and money?

Fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.

Set Your Heart Aflame

Like Alma, you can partner with Global Heart Ministries to Fulfill The Great Commission in this generation. 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.