copied from the March 2010 issue of the U.S. Center for World Mission's Global Prayer Digest
Why is this region so hard to reach for Christ? Let’s start with the physical and spiritual obstacles to getting out the gospel to the Northern Caucasus’ Mountain Region:
1. Geography — difficult to access
2. Language — complex, difficult to communicate.
3. Military/Political Instability/Violence. Everybody is tense. Leaders are always nervous.
4. Traditional Islam — protective by nature, intolerant, unwelcoming, protective of status quo.
5. The unseen spiritual strongholds beyond Islam. Sometimes you feel them, other times you don’t, but you’re always dealing with them. Ephesians 6:12.
6. The people are extremely closed to outsiders.
7. Cultures are proud and defensive. They are viewed as violent and combative. There is some truth to this since they have been exploited.
8. Enforced uniformity is very high. The shame/honor dynamic is found in Islam, but in this region it precedes Islam. “I don’t agree with you, but I’ll fight to the death for you to have the right to say it,” is very American. “I don’t agree with you, and I’ll fight to the death to prevent you from being able to say it,” is the philosophy in this region.
9. Political bureaucracy reflects all the above obstacles. It represents the culture of the region. Instinctively, the bureaucrats hate outsiders because they’re different. Heartland regions are complex with four level of bureaucracy to overcome (this dislike of foreigners does not just apply to North Americans, but to anybody not from their region, even Russians).
10. Officials are pervasively corrupt at every level. They maneuver to obtain a bribe at every opportunity. There is a discernable pattern in the power structure. They need to pay back the people who put them in their position.
The following sins are prevalent in the Northern Caucasus:
1. Many forms of lying are honored.
2. Carousing and drunkenness.
3. Unbelievable rates of abortion.
4. Ghastly abuse of women and children.
5. Power struggles.
On the other hand, there are also strengths in the culture that will help get the gospel out:
1. Their hospitality is unparalleled anywhere in the world.
2. Friendship is considered more valuable than your bank account. Banks are unstable but, to the people in this region, friends are your bank account, even prospective friends. Here is a key insight: all of the resistance issues mentioned above can be overcome through deep friendships.
3. There are three levels of relationship: acquaintance, friend and kunakh. If you become a kunakh, you have the highest order of friendship with deep commitment. As a kunakh you become part of one another’s family. They are responsible for you as long as you are in their home. It’s an amazing gift of friendship, and provides considerable safety. Initially it slows you down, but eventually it speeds you up.
4. They have a strong sense of dependence on God and a deep faith in His sovereignty. They accept God’s will for their lives and they don’t question Him.
5. Priority of reverence and respect for God. They stop and excuse themselves to go pray.
6. Sense of time. People have time for each other. In the Northern Caucasus, it’s an honor to have someone drop in on you. There is a strong sense of inclusiveness. They are encouraged when you enter into their world. They love to have you participate, be part of their experience, celebrate culture, and be good listeners.
7. Extended family is strength. They look out for their second cousins and more distant family members.
8. They have a deeply ingrained respect for the elderly. They give them honor, deference, respect, and they listen to them.
An issue facing the culture is that, once you get beyond the family obligations, there is no concept of unselfish agape love.
Here are strategies to reach these people groups for Christ:
1. Begin regular persistent prayer for the Northern Caucasus nationalities.
2. Encourage your church to adopt one of the people groups mentioned in this current prayer guide.
3. Pray that God will raise up godly Christians to spread the good news throughout this region.
4 Pray that radio and audio-recorded gospel messages in the various languages and dialects will be provided to the people.
It is, however, thanks to the zealous efforts of luminaries like the authors, publishers and subscribers of such tripe that we can have the almost unimaginable privilege to watch films in languages such as Tabasaran! (Even if it is only John Krish and Peter Sykes' 1979 film Jesus...)
Jesus also exists in other Caucasian languages, viz. Adygey, Avar, Chechen, Dargin, Georgian, Ingush, Kabardian, Lak, Lezgi, Mingrelian, Osetin and Talysh. (Click here for the full list of languages.)
While updating this page in April 2014, I stumbled upon a March 2014 article of the Global Prayer Digest entitled 'The North Caucasus: So Hard to Reach, But God is on the Move!':
by Keith Carey
Why is this Northern Caucasus 45-language region so hard to reach for Christ? Let’s start with 10 intertwined barriers:
1. Geography—It is rugged country and difficult to access.
2. Languages—In the Caucasus there are some of the most difficult and complicated language groups in the world.
3. Military/political instability/violence—Everybody is tense. Leaders are always nervous.
4. Cultures are proud and resistant to change—There are strong internal instincts in the culture to defend and assert that “it must be done this way.”
5. High levels of xenophobia—fear of foreigners and outsiders. They look at people from the outside with doubt, distrust and suspicion. Outsiders are guilty until proven innocent.
6. Enforced uniformity is very high—The shame/honor dynamic is found in Islam, but in this region it predates Islam. “I don’t agree with you, but I’ll fight to the death for you to have the right to say it,” is very Western. “I don’t agree with you, and I’ll fight to the death to keep you from saying it,” is the philosophy in this region.
7. Traditional Islam—They rigorously defend their Islamic identity and traditions. They are intolerant and fiercely protective of the status quo. Violators are “traitors.” In the last decade increasing pockets of radical, violent Wahhabi Islam have sprung up.
8. Complex political bureaucracy—The officials reflect the cultural resistance to change and the Islamic defense of the region. Heartland regions are complex with four levels of bureaucracy. Suspicion of outsiders does not just apply to the West, but to anyone not from their region, even Russians.
9. Pervasive corruption among officials at every level—Extortionary pressure is leveraged at every document approval point. There is a discernible pattern: officials must keep paying up the ladder to those who put them in power.
10. Unseen spiritual strongholds beyond Islam—They are deeply felt in the region. Some of this is shown in #’s 3-9 above, but other aspects are unnamable. Ephesians 6:12
Missionary author Patrick Johnstone writes, “It’s hard to conceive of a more difficult region to evangelize than the Caucasus. Local wars, ethnic rivalries, interreligious hatred, harsh Russian control. There are very high levels of corruption, suspicion, and frequent hostility toward foreigners…. Then there is the diversity and complexity of local languages… the dearth of active churches and Christians, and the lack of Scriptures in most of the languages. In this generation, who is willing to risk everything so that these peoples, loved by God, have the chance to become followers of the Lord Jesus?”
Is there hope?
There are some plus factors:
1. In these cultures there is a great hunger for unselfish, pure love—for agape love.
2. Read Shaadia’s gripping missionary autobiography which follows. In part four her agonizing search for truth led to dreams and visions. In part five she was deeply impacted by the kindness and fruit of the Spirit coming from believers. Then, in part seven she finally found the Source of Peace that filled her with genuine love.
3. There can be three levels to a relationship: getting acquainted, friendship, and kunakh. If you become a kunakh, you become part of one another’s family. It’s an amazing gift of deep friendship, and provides considerable safety. Initially it slows you down, but eventually it speeds you up.
4. Friendship is considered more valuable than your bank account. It is a golden value in these cultures. Here is a key insight: all of the resistance issues mentioned above can be overcome through deep friendships.
On one hand, there are even more difficulties:
1. Power struggles are increasing in the Caucasus provinces. In the past three years clashes between traditional Muslims and radical Muslims have intensified.
2. In 2013, many international Christian workers were expelled from the region.
3. The underlying factor of ungrace-ness is felt everywhere. For example, in approximately half of the 45 languages a clear word for forgiveness does not even exist.
4. Traditional mission approaches—originating from any sector—have not worked. Either missionaries can’t get into the area or, if they do, they run into stone walls of resistance.
On the other hand—there are more steps of hope right now than ever before:
1. In the past two years prayer movements for Caucasus peoples have increased from 17 to 33, and first-ever believers have appeared in six more people groups.
2. There are now known believers in 25 out of the 45 people groups, and internal Jesus movements in 14 out of the 45. Several years ago there were only eight.
3. When persistent prayer combines with genuine honoring friendship within the culture, spiritual fruitfulness can be observed. See Matthew 9:36-38 and Luke 10:2-6
What Can You Do?
1. Begin an intentional prayer movement for one of the unprayed-for peoples of the Caucasus. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus told us to be persistent like this woman. Let us be persistent in prayer.
2. Specifically ask your church, or an assembly within your church, to begin praying for one of the groups highlighted in Days 8-19. These are the 12 Caucasus peoples for which no body of Christians is yet persistently praying.
3. Here are the Four Crucial Areas Needing Persistent Prayer:
1st—Matthew 9:36-38—Pray for the Father to raise up laborers—the right persons, from potentially anywhere, at the right time into the right relationships.
2nd—Matthew 10:16—Pray for those laborers to find loving-serving ways and to be present long-term in or near the people.
3rd—Luke 10:6—Pray that the Lord will prepare and show His laborers the right persons within that cultural world who will be open to true friendship and the gospel.
4th—II Chronicles 16:9a—Pray for laborers who are open to the leading of the Lord and help them to find people whose hearts are open to salvation (John 5:19).
Write to the North Caucasus Partnership for guidance on choosing an unreached people group to pray for. They will coordinate your prayer selection.
Unless stated otherwise or obviously not the case, all the text and images on this website are © A.J.T. Bainbridge 2006-2011
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