*representative image used
In Central Asia, on a dark night in 2014, a car jolted along a narrow, bumpy road towards a little township. The driver avoided the most direct road, changing his route often to be sure that no one was following them. The passengers were members of a small group of Open Doors travelers visiting the country as tourists. During the day they visited beautiful areas and museums, but at night they traveled for the real purpose of their trip—meeting with secret Christians.
Finally the tired visitors reached the village. I was one of those visitors. In the dark we saw welcome lights in a tiny and cozy house. It was cold outside, but inside it was warm—because of both the fire and the warm welcome. One of the Christians welcomed spoke words of welcome, but the others remained silent. The rest of group consisted of deaf believers, so communication was going to be difficult.
Their Central Asian hospitality was gracious, the low table full of tea, bread, and food. We drank tea and ate a lot of the freshly prepared food. It was all about relationship. The host was busy translating; it was a blessing to be able to communicate with one another.
I enjoyed the atmosphere and was very enthusiastic to meet with these secret believers. We as group listened to their stories. We heard how they felt isolated, not only because of their deafness but also because they don’t know many Christians in their village. Once a month they meet with fellow believers, but these meetings are dangerous. The police have warned them not to meet with other believers, but their desire for fellowship is stronger than their fear.
They are all Muslim Background Believers (MBBs). Islam offers no hope or future for deaf people. It is believed that they do not go to heaven! And also in their society, they feel like second class villagers. People shout at them and they have to wait the longest in the shops.
The deaf believers were very encouraged by our visit. They had never met with foreign believers before and saw it as a privilege. Open Doors wants to be where people are suffering for their faith. I was there for one reason and that is to encourage other believers, yet I too was encouraged.
“What can we pray for?” I ask. The answer came quickly—contact with other deaf Christians and Christian literature in braille. Together we brought these needs before God. Then with warm embraces, we returned in the dark night to our hotel.
Back at home, I found significant challenges to meeting their needs. It is very difficult to arrange a trip with deaf believers. And their deaf language is not the same as in the West. Braille language also differs, sometimes even between countries in a region. These seemingly insurmountable obstacles were very disappointing.
But then this past December, during our daily prayer meeting for the Persecuted Church, I heard an amazing story! In one Central Asian country, a few deaf people accepted Christ as their Savior! Enthusiastic about their new faith they made plans to start a ministry for deaf believers, and they also want to translate parts of the Bible and Christian literature into braille for blind believers! The new believers have a calling and desire to meet other deaf Christians, using their contacts to find out where these Christians are living. Amazingly, these new believers found the “forgotten” group of deaf Christians we met last year! They brought a braille lecture with them for blind believers in that region. Our prayers have been heard! God didn’t forget them! They can indeed share and meet with other deaf believers. And the blind Christians now have access to Christian braille literature. God listened when we prayed!
We know, Father, that You always hear the cries of Your people. What an encouragement it is to see the work You have done in the lives of these deaf Christians. Thank You for providing fellowship with other deaf believers and for the promise of braille resources. You have done this in ways we could not have imagined or even hoped for. Clearly it has been accomplished by Your hand and not our own. We pray for this fellowship among deaf believers to grow and increase around the world. And we pray for the safe entry of braille literature into Central Asia. In the name of Jesus, the Lord our Deliverer. Amen.