Across Pacific & Asia

The Minority Report
In Kazakhstan

by Mark Blair

Aloha from Almaty! Last week I had dinner with the "Minority Report" a Rock and Roll band here in Kazakhstan. Despite their craft, tattoos and body piercing were conspicuously absent. Actually "Minority Report" is five quite normal looking young people, two women and three men. Three are married with small children. A couple graduated from a prestigious Music Conservatory here. All of them have day jobs. Two are Kazakh, one is Karakalpak, one is Uighur, and one Russian - united by their musical talents, love for God, and concern for others. I was not invited for musical advice, or wardrobe consultation, (double obviously!) but as a Bible teacher - a 'neutral pastor (none of them attend ICF) whom they all respect.'

As these 'rock stars' struggle to make ends meet, the outside observer would be quite surprised to find them concerned about God's tithe. But they are acutely conscious of the Heavenly Observer. So we spent four hours talking about 'tithes and offerings.' (Most America Christians find it hard to sit still for ten minutes on that topic!) Since they're members of four different churches, which one should receive? Or should they 'by pass' the church and give to poor people whom they know? Or, since the funds were given to do ministry, should 100% be spent on instruments and other ministry needs? Some shared heartfelt convictions with tears. Their families are blessed through tithing, and they wanted that blessing for their group.

Twenty years ago we were privileged to witness the 'East African Revival' while serving in Uganda. Believers in Jesus strove to 'walk in the light of God' through all their life. Their dynamic preaching and singing was matched by daily surrender to God. I remember attending fellowship meetings where their transparency was sometimes painful. Men daringly asked their brethren why they succumbed to 'worldly standards' - like wearing socks and neckties. At which point I curled my covered ankles under my chair. They sometimes bordered on the extreme, but such sincere questions measured their fervency. 'Going to church' was the highlight of a week lived for God. They desired, as they often said, to 'live in a house with no walls and no roof'. This dwelling, which sounds more appropriate for tropical Africa than Kazakhstan, revealed a longing that nothing hinders their fellowship with man and God. All their life was from Him and they wanted to live it for Him.

Last week in a cozy Soviet-style apartment of a Minority Report member, I witnessed that same intensity. It was voiced by Central Asians speaking Russian instead of African English. But with one voice they expressed a sincere desire to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Sometimes we wonder, 'What is the impact of our ministry?' There are many obstacles to Christian work in Central Asia. The government claims to be open, but the numerous officials we have to deal with (our visa expires again November 11!!) are not particularly welcoming (lots of understatement there). And the oft' spoken mantra here is 'to be Kazakh is to be Muslim.' But despite adversity, God has His Minority Report.

At the end of our discussion they agreed to consider the 'Solomon's baby' approach to their tithe - cut it up! Ten percent of their ministry proceeds will be designated for tithing, and each of the five members will be entrusted with using two percent the way they believe God directs. Although they had strong convictions, they agreed to live in mutual respect and trust under His leadership.  I urged them not to let diversity in a debatable matter hinder their unity in the unquestionable task of making Christ known. Praise the Lord for this group of sincere servants! Pray that He will keep them in His peace and unity.  Pray that with one heart and voice - and guitar rip - they will glorify the Lord Jesus and see many drawn to Him.

Spiritual Gifts Seminar

Yesterday after preaching on Jesus' letter to the Church at Laodicea (Revelation 3) at International Christian Fellowship, Dayna and I taxied up into the nearby mountains for an overnight retreat. There we joined more than 300 members from a local Presbytery. (One Presbyterian church planted about 8 years ago now has 5 daughter congregations, in three languages!) Mark was asked to present two sessions on the topic of "Spiritual Gifts." We had a great time with them. What a joy to meet vibrant believers who want to leap from the pews into the harvest field. They wanted to know 'how can I find MY spiritual gift and put it to use?' Pray that He will show them and continue to multiply these faithful congregations. ...

Love and prayers,
Mark, Dayna, and Aaron Blair

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