Friday, August 19, 2016

Hushed but not Silenced in Central Asia

From 2-14 August, 2016 our team of 11 from Korea, Canada, Australia, USA and England joined a team of 4 Kyrgyz nationals as we presented 12 events for over 3,300 people. 

Music, dance and unicycling were the creative elements of this UniShow tour. We unexpectedly lost Chris, one of the main vocalists of the band, 4 days into the tour as he was diagnosed with hepatitis and had to fly back to Istanbul for weeks of bed rest. Thankfully, JuYoung, Arielle, Erin, Hannah, Misun, Rose and Andy were still able produce quality music together. Dances were done by David and Katie while Dustin cleaned up on unicycles and JaeHyeok put his expertise to work running sound. 

Because of new laws in the country, we had to be very closed during our show.  Local organizers tried a new method of having us present our public show, including sharing only a positive, neutral message while inviting the audience to a follow-up event later that day hosted by a local church, where we could be totally open. In theory this was a great idea and was not in vain, although most follow-up events were sparsely attended by those already connected to the church. There seems to be a stigma attached to Christians and churches, especially in small villages, where people won't risk the gossip that would inevitably come from being seen attending a church event.

After flying into Bishkek then orientation and rehearsal in Tokmok, we had our first show in Balykchy on Lake Issyk Kul. During the follow-up meeting that night, a guy asked David to pray for strength because he wanted to give his life to Christ!

Though we could not be open at the show in Cholpon-Ata, a girl told Dustin afterward through tears, that she had been crying as she listened to him share about how his heart used to feel empty, and she felt like he was describing her life. When she asked him what he found that did fill his emptiness, he was able to tell her that it was Jesus alone! Also, a lady told Arielle she felt kindness and truth from her while she was singing. Arielle told her Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life so it was Him she was experiencing. These conversations were so encouraging and show us how God can work through these events even when we can't be open from the stage.

After the show in Karakol, David was able to connect a guy who wanted a Bible but had never read it before, to the local pastor where he will be able to receive his first one in Russian. This man came to the follow-up event as well, where Andy shared his testimony, as did Rose before she played her harp and sang. David and Katie did a dance and the band played Turkish and worship songs. Dustin presented a cross Gospel illustration and gave an invitation, leading people in a prayer to surrender to Jesus. At least 4 people indicated they had just prayed the prayer for the first time!

One of the pastors in Kyzyl Suu told us that our concert helped improve the believer’s image in the community. He said that as people saw our talent and enjoyed the show, they were impressed and intrigued that the church had brought us. He expressed gratitude that God has not forgotten their small village and sent us to encourage them and hopefully inspire Kyrgyz youth to go out and reach the world for Christ.  

Next in Tokmok we presented in the city center then in a church for the follow-up meeting. Both were lightly attended but seeds were planted. In Kara-Balta the church had rented a stage for our performance. We were able to share more openly about what God has done in our lives and though the police came, they had positive memories of Dustin's unicycle performance there last year so all was well. The youth pastor said he's been trying to get a neighbor lady with a Turkish husband to come to events at the church for a long time. He thought it was a miracle she came to the follow-up meeting. Also, some of the kids who came said they will be returning for Sunday school for the first time.

Because our show at a children's rehab center in Bishkek was canceled, we seized a last minute opportunity to present our final show at Bishkek Park, the largest, fanciest mall in Kyrgyzstan.  It was a beautiful venue with around 2,000 people watching throughout the program from 4 floors.  The mall organizer interviewed our team afterward and was very positive about the show and seemed excited to host us again for bigger events in the future.

It was a privilege to scatter seeds in Kyrgyzstan as we partnered with local believers. We pray God will multiply our efforts and continue to draw those impacted through our events closer to Him.