A couple in Central Asia is being drawn by their heavenly Father into a radical love for their community.
The gospel of Matthew details an odd story about a failed healing being brought to Jesus. A man pulls out of the crowd and says to Christ, “‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.’” (Matthew 17:15-16, ESV).
The implications are strange and disturbing. Why were Jesus’ closest (and presumably most spiritual) disciples not able to help this individual? Jesus himself swiftly provides an answer.
“Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:18-20).
When the mountains of life before us appear overwhelming, this verse sets both encouragement and a challenge at our feet.
Servants to the Community
One husband and wife team who worked with our partners in a closed Central Asian country found themselves at the foot of such a mountain. They were working with our partners to learn how to help their communities effectively and also spread the good news, already major challenges in a nation where those who follow Christ may be violently opposed.
Then the COVID pandemic began, and with it so many doors for ministry seemed to close thanks to government restrictions or simple anxiety. “During the lockdown,” the wife* shared, “we were afraid to leave our home. The fear of getting infected was very strong.
“Reluctantly, we found courage to open our doors and our hearts and started helping people around us. The little things we did, God used it all for His glory.”
Slowly but surely, they began to live in the truth of 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
The wife explained, “We started a small business for single mothers to give them an opportunity to earn during the quarantine. At the same time, my husband initiated sports games with the children in the neighborhood. Through these small acts, we began to build good relationships with the local people.”
With these small steps, another door opened for them to serve their community’s needs with Christ-like love.
A School and a Witness
As the pandemic shutdowns stretched on longer than anyone could have foreseen, another need became increasingly urgent in the neighborhood where the couple lived.
Many of the children were falling behind in school, either because they had no access to online schooling or because their parents had to go to jobs and couldn’t help them with their schoolwork. The situation was becoming a real weight on many parents’ minds as they considered the future for their children.
The husband and wife decided that this was an area where God had given them the resources to help. “In our backyard, we have a room that we used as a storage garage. We decided it was a good time to rearrange the room and use it as an education center in our community. Currently, we have 25 children whom we assist in distance education. Most of the people in the neighborhood do not have access to educational services for their children because we are remote and the services are expensive. So we help parents and children cope with the burden of homeschooling.
“Not only does the school initiative help children and parents, it also provides employment. We have only a few people involved, but we can pay some salary to our teachers through that. We also believe that if we start a network of such small educational centers we will be able to motivate locals to provide better care and education for their children. We will be able to create job opportunities, and also promote Christian values as well!
“All of our neighbors know that we are Christians. Slowly we share our attitudes and values with people around us and try to be the salt and light where God placed us. We are thankful for the training we have received because it taught us to look around, identify the needs and take courage to respond to what we see.”
*Name replaced or omitted. For our ministry partners’ security, we don’t release names or locations in highly sensitive areas.