March 2014

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The North Caucasus: So Hard to Reach, But God is on the Move!

by Keith Carey

The North Caucasus: So Hard to Reach, But God is on the Move!

Why is this Northern Caucasus 45-language region so hard to reach for Christ? Let’s start with 10 intertwined barriers:
1. Geography—It is rugged country and difficult to access.
2. Languages—In the Caucasus there are some of the most difficult and complicated language groups in the world.
3. Military/political instability/violence—Everybody is tense. Leaders are always nervous.
4. Cultures are proud and resistant to change—There are strong internal instincts in the culture to defend and assert that “it must be done this way.”
5. High levels of xenophobia—fear of foreigners and outsiders.
They look at people from the outside with doubt, distrust and suspicion. Outsiders are guilty until proven innocent.
6. Enforced uniformity is very high—The shame/honor dynamic is found in Islam, but in this region it predates Islam. “I don’t agree with you, but I’ll fight to the death for you to have the right to say it,” is very Western. “I don’t agree with you, and I’ll fight to the death to keep you from saying it,” is the philosophy in this region.
7. Traditional Islam—They rigorously defend their Islamic identity and traditions. They are intolerant and fiercely protective of the status quo. Violators are “traitors.” In the last decade increasing pockets of radical, violent Wahhabi Islam have sprung up.
8. Complex political bureaucracy—The officials reflect the cultural resistance to change and the Islamic defense of the region. Heartland regions are complex with four levels of bureaucracy. Suspicion of outsiders does not just apply to the West, but to anyone not from their region, even Russians.
9. Pervasive corruption among officials at every level—Extortionary pressure is leveraged at every document approval point. There is a discernible pattern: officials must keep paying up the ladder to those who put them in power.
10. Unseen spiritual strongholds beyond Islam—They are deeply felt in the region. Some of this is shown in #’s 3-9 above, but other aspects are unnamable. Ephesians 6:12

Missionary author Patrick Johnstone writes, “It’s hard to conceive of a more difficult region to evangelize than the Caucasus. Local wars, ethnic rivalries, interreligious hatred, harsh Russian control. There are very high levels of corruption, suspicion, and frequent hostility toward foreigners…. Then there is the diversity and complexity of local languages… the dearth of active churches and Christians, and the lack of Scriptures in most of the languages. In this generation, who is willing to risk everything so that these peoples, loved by God, have the chance to become followers of the Lord Jesus?”

Is there hope?

There are some plus factors:
1. In these cultures there is a great hunger for unselfish, pure love—for agape love.
2. Read Shaadia’s gripping missionary autobiography which follows. In part four her agonizing search for truth led to dreams and visions. In part five she was deeply impacted by the kindness and fruit of the Spirit coming from believers. Then, in part seven she finally found the Source of Peace that filled her with genuine love.
3. There can be three levels to a relationship: getting acquainted, friendship, and kunakh. If you become a kunakh, you become part of one another’s family. It’s an amazing gift of deep friendship, and provides considerable safety. Initially it slows you down, but eventually it speeds you up.
4. Friendship is considered more valuable than your bank account. It is a golden value in these cultures. Here is a key insight: all of the resistance issues mentioned above can be overcome through deep friendships.

On one hand, there are even more difficulties:
1. Power struggles are increasing in the Caucasus provinces. In the past three years clashes between traditional Muslims and radical Muslims have intensified.
2. In 2013, many international Christian workers were expelled from the region.
3. The underlying factor of ungrace-ness is felt everywhere. For example, in approximately half of the 45 languages a clear word for forgiveness does not even exist.
4. Traditional mission approaches—originating from any sector—have not worked. Either missionaries can’t get into the area or, if they do, they run into stone walls of resistance.
On the other hand—there are more steps of hope right now than ever before:
1. In the past two years prayer movements for Caucasus peoples have increased from 17 to 33, and first-ever believers have appeared in six more people groups.
2. There are now known believers in 25 out of the 45 people groups, and internal Jesus movements in 14 out of the 45. Several years ago there were only eight.
3. When persistent prayer combines with genuine honoring friendship within the culture, spiritual fruitfulness can be observed. See Matthew 9:36-38 and Luke 10:2-6

What Can You Do?

1. Begin an intentional prayer movement for one of the unprayed-for peoples of the Caucasus. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus told us to be persistent like this woman. Let us be persistent in prayer.
2. Specifically ask your church, or an assembly within your church, to begin praying for one of the groups highlighted in Days 8-19. These are the 12 Caucasus peoples for which no body of Christians is yet persistently praying.
3. Here are the Four Crucial Areas Needing Persistent Prayer:
1st—Matthew 9:36-38—Pray for the Father to raise up laborers—the right persons, from potentially anywhere, at the right time into the right relationships.
2nd—Matthew 10:16—Pray for those laborers to find loving-serving ways and to be present long-term in or near the people.
3rd—Luke 10:6—Pray that the Lord will prepare and show His laborers the right persons within that cultural world who will be open to true friendship and the gospel.
4th—II Chronicles 16:9a—Pray for laborers who are open to the leading of the Lord and help them to find people whose hearts are open to salvation (John 5:19).
Write to the North Caucasus Partnership for guidance on choosing an unreached people group to pray for. They will coordinate your prayer selection.

From the Editor

by Keith Carey

Dear Praying Friends,
What do you do when there are over 7,000 unreached people groups, and only 365 days in a year to pray for them? Most people will just pray for the larger unreached groups and ignore the smaller ones. But what do you do when there are small groups that regularly get ignored, and the Lord clearly commands us to disciple all nations?
Most of the larger unreached people groups (UPGs) are engaged, meaning that there is some missionary presence among them, and there are tools to reach them like the JESUS Film, radio, or gospel recordings. This is not the case for most smaller groups, especially in the North Caucasus, a bastion of folk Islam in southwestern Russia.
A lack of Christian resources is only part of the picture. The local cultures do not allow for outside influences, especially with regard to spiritual issues. Very few outsiders are allowed to live among the peoples of the North Caucasus. In direct contrast to the teachings of Christ, there is a strong tendency for people to hold onto grudges for their entire lives.
Before this grim spiritual situation changes, the soil must be prepared through prayer. There is a fellowship of believers called the North Caucasus Partnership which is recruiting people to pray for the many groups of the North Caucasus. They have studied these peoples, met them, eaten with them, and love them. Let’s join with them this month in using their information to pray these peoples into the Kingdom of grace and mercy!