Despite the challenges, a church is showing God’s love to Kazakh boys and girls through Operation Christmas Child and The Greatest Journey discipleship program.
Nalaikh, Mongolia, is home to 40,000 people in the winter, but only around 30,000 each summer as herders head out to the countryside to care for their animals. A district of Ulaanbaatar located about an hour from the capital city center, Nalaikh has two mosques and 15 churches. However, only one of them is focused on reaching the Kazakh minority group, which comprises 20 percent of the population.
“In Mongolia, Kazakh church is a very new concept,” said Serik*, a Kazakh who was once a herder and today pastors Good News Church. “The main religion for Kazakh people is Islam, and it’s quite challenging to be a Christian.”
Family is everything in the Kazakh culture, and for those who make the decision to follow Christ, family ties can be strained. But God is using Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts sent by Samaritan’s Purse to open doors in Kazakh communities that were previously closed by tradition and other religious beliefs.
“Gifts are very nice and Kazakhs have a very good culture of exchanging gifts,” said Pastor Serik, who has partnered with Operation Christmas Child for the past five years. “We’ve learned that everybody is happy receiving gifts and nobody has opposed us.”
As his church delivers shoeboxes, he sees that each gift is much more than a collection of toys, school supplies, and personal care items.
“Shoebox gifts are indeed a Gospel opportunity.”
“Shoebox gifts are indeed a Gospel opportunity,” said Pastor Serik.
He finds that gift-filled shoeboxes also warm parents’ hearts and open up discussion with the church members who distribute them. And news spreads fast in the community! When one boy or girl receives a shoebox gift, others immediately take interest in the fun items inside and want to know why they were given.
Opening Doors for the Gospel
Thirty children recently gathered at Good News Church to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and receive gift boxes packed with care by loving individuals around the world.
Twins Medina* and Emina*, 11, dressed in their best for the special occasion. It was their first time back in a church since they were 5 years old.
Their dad is a truck driver and their mother works in a cafeteria to support the twin girls and their two siblings.
Among all the exciting items in her shoebox gift, Medina especially enjoyed the notebook, because she loves to keep a journal. For Emina, her favorite thing was a pencil case, because it had the image of a teddy bear on it. The message that came with the gifts was even more intriguing.
“It was interesting to hear how man was created,” Emina said, excited about what she had learned about God, as well as the gift she had received.
Confessing There Is a God
Batima*, 8, lives in Nalaikh with his mother and two brothers so the boys can attend school while their father herds the family’s livestock in the countryside.
Batima rejoiced to receive a pair of shoes in his box together with school supplies. The combination of the precious gifts and the Gospel message he heard caused him to reach a new conclusion.
“I know that there is a God,” Batima said for the first time.
Medina, Emina, and Batima are among many shoebox recipients at Good News Church who’ve been invited to attend The Greatest Journey discipleship course. Through 12 Bible lessons taught by trained local volunteers, boys and girls learn what it means to follow Christ and share Him with others. This dynamic course, complete with Scripture memory verses and other activities, provides a foundation for the children’s and youth ministries at Good News Church.
Building Gospel-Centered Relationships
Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes equip Good News Church members to reach out to their community in ways that are having a lasting effect for Christ’s Kingdom.
“In this church and when I used to serve in the countryside, what I’ve learned is that Operation Christmas Child gives an opportunity for believers to grow in faith, to serve, and to reach out to people,” said Pastor Serik. “It’s such a great tool for Christians to be able to offer a gift to their community and their neighborhood. Shoebox gifts open doors for us to reach out to our community and offer something to start building a relationship.”
Accompanied by the Word of God, these relationships provide an encouragement for Kazakhs to become believers and embrace the family of God.
National Collection Week is Nov. 13-19 this year. Your prayerfully packed shoebox gifts can provide resources to churches like Pastor Serik’s and be a part of transforming communities globally.
*Name changed for security