The vast expanse known as Eurasia is characterized by geographic and social extremes. From the frozen plains of Siberia to the sweltering sands of North Africa, this region has posed a major challenge to missionary ministry. A variety of religions and age-old traditions dominate people’s lives, resulting in formidable resistance to the full gospel message. Yet woven in every city, village and nomadic dwelling is one common thread: their people are hungry for truth.
When the Assemblies of God was established in 1914, several missionaries were already serving as missionaries in Eurasia. They were soon joined by others who sensed God’s leading to the region—particularly Egypt and India. The wave of missionary activity continued as people who immigrated to the United States were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Burdened for their homelands, they returned to share the message of Pentecost.
As the dark shadows of communism spread across Russia and the Soviet republics, believers faced social and physical persecution. Many were sent to Siberian work camps where they died of starvation and disease. Their faithfulness to the gospel was evidenced when, after the fall of communism in 1991, strong local fellowships emerged from hiding, ready to reach out to others.
In other areas where resistance was strong, missionaries diligently plowed the spiritual soil for future ministry. By building relationships, addressing physical needs and training national believers, the church took root and weathered the storms of opposition. As a result, the church is now in a strategic position to enter new areas as doors of opportunity open.
Traditional methods of evangelism are not possible in much of Eurasia because of cultural or government restrictions. But God has not abandoned this region. Instead, He has filled the hearts of both missionaries and national believers with a passion to use creative, nontraditional ways to share the gospel.
“When you hear about events in the nations of Eurasia, remember that we are there,” says Omar Beiler, Eurasia regional director. “We are on the ground preaching the Word, building relationships, winning people to Jesus one by one, planting churches and training leaders. With the Lord’s help we are laying foundations that will be strong enough to stand the test of time and endure the inevitable opposition and persecution that affronts believers regularly.”
Because open proclamation of the gospel is largely prohibited, missionaries are exploring other opportunities to establish a presence and model Christian principles. A teahouse in a Central Eurasian city serves as a vocational and spiritual training ground for women with no previous job skills. In North Africa, a newly established coffee house employs 30 people, and half of them have already accepted Christ. These self-sustaining businesses become outposts for the gospel as employees watch believers’ lives and sense God’s presence is a way they’ve never experienced.
A growing number of missionaries are pioneering new territory in a literal sense. Equipped with a burden for the lost and a backpack of supplies, they are trekking into remote areas of India and Southern Asia where the name of Jesus is not known. As people welcome them into their villages, they patiently plant the seeds of the gospel by sharing the story of Jesus in ways that are understood by the culture.
In Russia and the CIS/Baltics, the church struggled for 70 years under the oppressiveness of communism. Recently, however, believers have sensed a growing urgency to see the lost won to Christ. After months of fasting and prayer for God’s direction, Pentecostals in Russia believe God has given them a vision for evangelism. Church leaders are calling every church, no matter the size, to set aside 10 percent of its resources of time, money and people to pioneer a church in an unreached area. They believe the time is now to extend their borders and reach people for Christ.
As the work in Eurasia grows, the need for discipleship and training increases. Bible schools and extensions are preparing pastors and leaders to take the church into the future. Missionaries are diligently equipping believers to take the gospel into the many areas of the region where they are unable to go.
UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUPS
With a population of 2.1 billion people, Eurasia is considered the least reached region in the world. Within its 44 nations and territories, more than 4,000 unreached people groups — 62 percent the world’s total — have yet to be adequately evangelized.
- People groups in northwest Nepal, including the Dolpo, Mugal, Thakali and Raute people, have no known churches among them.
- Across Russia and Belarus, 90 people groups are still considered unreached.
- In the CIS/Baltics area, 73 people groups are unreached.
- Of the 36 people groups in Bhutan, only two have received a full gospel witness.
- No type of faith community exists for the majority population in any of the seven countries of the Arabian Peninsula.
- Numerous nomadic groups living from the Arctic region of Russia to the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa have never seen or talked to a believer.
- Of India’s 2,596 people groups, 88 percent of them are still unreached.
While these numbers seem overwhelming, missionaries and national believers are determined to establish a gospel witness throughout the entire region. The surroundings are rugged; the conveniences few. But in each locale, believers are finding people who long to know the way to God.
The challenges in Eurasia are enormous. Struggling economies, restrictive governments and religious domination create a myriad of problems that affect people spiritually, socially and physically.
- A new law in Russia prohibits missionaries from living in the country more than 90 days in any 180-day period.
- In much of Eurasia, churches must be registered with the government and own property before they can legally exist.
- Violence prompted by religious extremists is often targeted toward Christians in an attempt to crush any form of outreach.
- Drug and alcohol addiction is rampant as people try to escape the effects of weak economies and disintegrating social structures.
- Thousands of children and youth are caught in the web of child trafficking each year.
- Parts of Southern Asia are frequent targets of strong cyclones that take hundreds of lives and sweep entire villages out to sea.
ADDRESSING THE NEED
Missionaries are resolute in their determination to rise to the challenges before them. With God’s help, they are finding innovative ways to enter restrictive countries and maintain a presence.
Teen Challenge centers are springing up across Eurasia, bringing light to areas that are shrouded in the darkness of substance abuse. Even areas that are resistant to a gospel presence welcome this ministry and its effectiveness in breaking the chains of addictions.
Project Rescue is making a difference by providing a safe haven for trafficked women. Through compassion, prayer, education and job training, this ministry is helping women find restoration and hope as they begin a new life, both spiritually and physically.
Other ministries of compassion, including Convoy of Hope, address the physical needs of the poor and helpless. Whenever possible, the work done by these outreaches are connected with local bodies of believers, giving people a glimpse of Christ’s love and opening doors of further ministry.
Bible schools are becoming increasingly important as people are eager to grow spiritually and prepare for ministry. Although traditional Bible school campuses are not possible in much of the region, believers are finding ways to provide in-depth teaching in the Word.
HOW TO PRAY
Missionaries and national believers in Eurasia regularly face intense pressure from the enemy, both spiritually and socially. The entire region desperately needs a prayer covering for divine intervention and spiritual breakthroughs.
- Pioneer missionaries will be willing to go to the hard places and live on “the edge.”
- A spiritual stirring will take place within the Muslim world and that national believers living among Muslims will respond to them in love.
- Doors of ministry will continue to open for missionaries desiring to go as “tentmakers.”
- People in the most remote areas will have the opportunity to hear the gospel.
- Local leaders will have courage to faithfully present the Word.
- Eurasia will experience a new day of Pentecost with Book of Acts results.
Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Amid uncertainty and opposition on all sides, missionaries and national believers work with patience and persistence, believing that from the greatest challenges God will bring the greatest harvest.