ICOMB: Disciples of Christ, Kyrgyzstan

AROUND THE WORLD: Getting to know the global Mennonite Brethren family

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The national Mennonite Brethren conference in Kyrgyzstan, Maschayaktyn Jamatty (Disciples of Christ), is an emerging national conference within the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB).

Timurlan Abdyldaev and Ed Boshman

At the 2022 ICOMB summit, executive director Rudi Plett introduced the idea of each conference having another national conference to focus on in thinking of and praying for the global church. After a time of prayer that God would guide their choosing, the names of the countries were passed around in a hat and each conference representative drew a name. USMB representative Ed Boschman drew Kyrgyzstan.

The peoples of Central Asia are among the least reached in the world. The story of the Mennonite Brethren church in Kyrgyzstan dates to 1880, when about 25 Mennonite Brethren families from Ukraine and Wolga region moved to Turkestan, the region where Kyrgyzstan is located these days.

Hermann Jantzen was the first missionary to Kyrgyz people, later joined by Martin Tielmann, a missionary from Ukraine. Many local people became believers, but because they lived scattered in rural places and did not have strong church communities, World War I and the Communist Revolution extinguished this small fire. After World War II when the country became a refuge for many forcibly displaced Germans, including Mennonites, many churches were planted in this country. By the end of the 1980s, almost all ethnic Germans had emigrated back to Germany.

Heinrich and Annie Rempel

Heinrich and Annie Rempel, originally from nearby Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, respectively, were among the missionaries that in time returned to the region to plant churches. Heinrich, currently Multiply’s director of operations in Europe, has been engaged in the area for nearly 30 years, including 14 years in-country. Rempel’s vision is to initiate new church planting efforts, as well as to help scattered churches join in mission together as a family.

One day Rempel was reintroduced to Timurlan Abdyldaev, whom he had known as a child. Timurlan and his wife, Irina, are a respected pastoral couple and Timurlan was recently ordained as Mennonite Brethren pastor. Timurlan and Irina have planted a church in Tokmok, the first Mennonite Brethren church in the country.

The young Mennonite Brethren conference, Maschayaktyn Jamatty (Disciples of Christ), has five churches, two church plants and other home groups that wish to become churches. The churches are in different towns throughout the country, including the capital of Bishkek. Some of the church-related ministries include pandemic relief, a rehabilitation center, youth work and a ministry to the blind.

ICOMB U.S. advocate Bob Davis and Ed Boschman, USMB representative to ICOMB, display the Kyrgyzstan flag at USMB Gathering 2022. Photo: Janae Rempel

In November 2021, an ICOMB team visited this emerging conference to build relationships, celebrate the ordination of Pastor Timurlan and offer instruction. Team members came from Germany, Ukraine and Canada.

“If the other churches are like Tokmok, the future looks promising—some very gifted and devoted young adults are leading,” says Victor Wiens, who was part of the ICOMB team.

The seeds planted decades ago have been watered, and it seems we have now reached harvest time.

Prayer requests: 

  • Thanks for the growth of churches. In five years we have grown to five churches.
  • Several churches do not have a place for their meetings. Renting is difficult, because the landlords do not approve religious activities on their property. Two churches will be literally homeless in the winter.
  • Pray for boldness and wisdom for planting new churches in unreached areas of the country.
  • Pray for protection of our believers, who experience persecution in their families and communities.
  • In this poor country, the only stable income is to work as a guest worker in Russia, Kazakhstan or Europe. This means that the best people leave the churches. Pray for income opportunities in the country.
  • Pray for opportunities to witness of Jesus in neighboring countries, which are also among the least reached countries in the world.

Did you know?

Song Kul is a high alpine lake in the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Getty Images
  • Kyrgyzstan is one of the world’s least crowded countries, with just 29.5 residents for each square kilometer of land. The bone-chilling winters and scorching hot summers could be one reason the population remains low.
  • Kyrgyzstan is mostly mountains, with 85 mountain ranges. The mountainous Tian Shan region covers 80 per cent of Kyrgyzstan, which explains why some call Kyrgyzstan the “Switzerland of Central Asia.” Less than 8 percent of the land is cultivated.
  • Favorite traditional foods include tea (lots of it!) and horse meat and milk, which is consumed in this country far more than cow’s milk.
  • Kyrgyzstan is one of the few countries in the world to have a three-dollar denomination – the three-som.
  • The most famous aspect of Kyrgyz culture may be the poem, Epic of Manas. At a whopping 500,000 lines (20 times longer than The Odyssey), this poem tells the story of the warrior Manas and is believed to have originated as an oral tale that was eventually recorded in writing in the 18th century. The first complete version was published in 1920. Statues, roads, universities, an airport and an opera have all been named after the hero, Manas.
  • The United States is 46 times larger than Kyrgyzstan.
  • Traditional national sports reflect the importance of horse riding in Kyrgyz culture, including the very popular Ulak Tartysh, a team game resembling a cross between polo and rugby that uses a goat carcass.

 

ICOMB
The International Community of Mennonite Brethren is a global fellowship of 22 member national churches in 19 countries. Our global family has approximately 450,000 official ICOMB members. ICOMB has associate members in over 20 more countries. Associate members are all on different points along the pathway to full membership. ICOMB exists to facilitate relationships and ministries to enhance the witness and discipleship of its member national churches – connecting, strengthening and expanding.

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