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Small Church in a Hard Place

It was an unlikely place for a church. 

Not only was it in a part of Central Asia with very few churches, it was in a part of the city known as a hotbed of dissent. Just opposite the church building was a city square where radical Muslims would regularly rally to promote their ideals and where extreme opponents of the government gathered to protest. In this hostile environment, Multiply’s national partners had felt strongly that God was calling them to plant a church. 

In fact, even before the church was started, the national leaders had invited churches from around the world to pray for this specific neighborhood. Many people began to intercede. As God moved in hearts, two churches in North America responded by mobilizing prayer teams to Central Asia, to walk the streets of this neighborhood and to ask God for his blessing. 

The faith and encouragement of these visiting teams gave the local believers renewed energy and vision. By that time, there was a core group of young believers who were ready to form the new church. All from Muslim background, they were eager to proclaim the hope of the Gospel among their own people. One of them was a young man named Shahid.

Not long ago, Shahid had been a devout Muslim who regularly argued with others about Islam. Eventually, he was in a debate with an atheist who confronted him about his beliefs, saying that Shahid was only relying on his knowledge of the Qu’ran in his arguments. The atheist challenged him to read the Bible!

As Shahid read the Bible, he had questions. But he could not find anyone to answer them. Finally, a pastor from one of the churches in the city sat down with him. They talked through his questions for five hours and one by one they were answered. It was a major turning point in Shahid’s life. 

The conversation helped to dismantle the obstacles in Shahid’s mind and heart. The pastor not only answered his intellectual questions, but he showed Shahid a sincere love that spoke deeply to the young Muslim. Soon after the conversation, Shahid decided to surrender his heart to Jesus and become a part of the church.

“It’s so inspiring to see the passion of these new believers to go to the hardest of the hard places,”

Together with his new brothers and sisters in Christ, Shahid was intent on proclaiming the Gospel with integrity and courage. They expected their small church to grow, yet not without opposition. They understood that their presence in the core of the city was both strategic and bold. Recently, when they erected a church sign on the outside of their building, it was quickly torn down and discarded by unknown opponents. 

On a recent ministry trip to Central Asia, Nasser al’Qahtani, a member of Multiply’s Global Lead Team, visited the church. “It’s so inspiring to see the passion of these new believers to go to the hardest of the hard places,” said Nasser. “There are definitely easier places to start a church, friendlier areas to share the Gospel. But the leaders heard the voice of the Lord saying ‘Go!’, and they went. And now they are seeing the fruit of their radical obedience, in the lives of people like Shahid.” 

Nasser, who also comes from a militant Muslim background, was able to encourage these new believers and strengthen their commitment to the work of the Gospel in their city. Yet when he had finished his visit, he was the one who was encouraged. 

“These new believers have shown such amazing perseverance,” Nasser said. “They told us about how they searched for a building in this neighborhood where the church could gather. But landlords kept turning them down when they heard that it was for a church.”

However, the church kept pushing, believing that
God had called them to that neighborhood. Churches around the world stood with them and asked God for the timely provision of a perfect location for them to gather. Intercessors prayed in faith and the small church family persevered. 

Finally, God provided a beautiful space for them to rent right in the heart of the city. For Shahid and the others, it was an affirmation of their strong sense of calling to be a beacon of light in a part of the city where no one expected to see a church. 

“The eyes of that community are fixed on that space,” said Nasser. “They’ve never had a church in their neighborhood before. The people are curious; some are probably against it. But the church is sending a message, ‘Come and see. Come and join us. See what we’re doing.’ It’s a very honest and openhearted approach, and I think it’s a model of church planting that is needed all over Central Asia and around the world today.” 

The recent advances for this small church in Central Asia are a telling tribute to strong visionary leadership from national leaders, close partnership with praying churches around the world, and the vibrant faith of new believers like Shahid. Ultimately, it is a testimony to God’s grace and a reminder of the words of Jesus to a similar church: “I know your deeds. See I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8).

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