Bottles and Bibles: a mission to the margins

God has been working a miracle through a mission to one of the poorest ethnic groups in Central Asia. It seeks to lift the community out of generational poverty.
Woman sorting green plastic bottles
‘In the beginning they couldn’t imagine their future. They couldn’t see themselves anywhere other than picking up plastic bottles, because all of them were illiterate’

We all have hopes for the future, but not everyone has the luxury of being able to dream big. Those born into one ethnic group in Central Asia* are normally destined to a life of extreme poverty. As they focus on their day-to-day survival, many in the mainly Muslim community end up scraping a living by searching in rubbish dumps and bins for plastic bottles for recycling. Theirs is an existence on the margins of society, largely ignored or persecuted by a wider world that treats them with suspicion and scorn. That is, until a recent local church, supported by you, began to invest in them.

Brothers and Sisters

Although the community was associated with begging and stealing, the church leaders knew they were fellow brothers and sisters made in the image of Christ who deserved dignity and respect. Your support enabled Innovista trainers to help them identify their main challenges, as well as the dreams, if any, they had for the future. This showed a great need for (1) literacy skills, (2) finding a calling or profession, and (3) being able to use their gifts in serving the church and community.

Small steps

Innovista leaders supported by you addressed the first challenge by assisting two teachers from the community who have been teaching reading and writing skills for the past six months (in partnership with another church). The second step is also underway through vocational training and ‘Find Your Calling’ workshops that enable young people to see a future beyond bottle collecting. Even inviting them home for regular fellowship and a meal was hugely significant for a community that not only faces deep-rooted prejudices, but lives a separate existence in slum dwellings. One woman explained how far removed this was from their everyday experiences, as her pregnant daughter-in-law had recently been put in a hospital bed and all of the other pregnant women left the room because of her being there. That is why initiatives to empower members of the community are so important with some boys being helped to find work in construction and others learning how to repair electrical items.

Sewing skills

Your support has also enabled a number of women to be taught sewing skills, so they are able to make dresses. One woman explained that there are many barriers for her community, as she had been rejected from five sewing classes, because she was too poor and people feared she might steal things. Being able to sew meant that she not only gained an income to feed her family, but she was also able to clothe other people in her community. A further highlight was that rather than constantly relying on hand-outs from other people, her skill enabled her to bless others with her work. She praised the Lord for opening up a gift in her that had previously been hidden. The students are now being given further training from someone in the profession to enable them to do other types of sewing and make a wider range of items.

Love of learning

One of the most striking groups within the community is four girls wanting to become translators, who have embarked on an education programme led by a teacher. They have shown a great hunger to learn, as they have been not only requesting more foreign language books to assist them, but proactively practicing their communication, including eagerly memorising words that were even previously outside of their vocabulary in their own language. Your support has also helped, for the first time, eleven children from the community attend school.

Transformative training

Madina speaks of how her heart turns to praise, when she sees how much the young people’s lives have already turned around. She explains that they ‘love God, are sincere people, and they want to care for each other’. The same quiet illiterate and shy girls she remembers attending their first summer camp are now reading the Bible very well, and are confidently communicating, as they aspire to be translators and dress-makers. A pastor’s wife summed it up when she declared how happy she was to see people from her community who were once awake but ‘asleep’, becoming alive in every sense of the word.

Culture changing

Thank you for supporting leaders like Madina, who is praying that God will do even more amazing things through this culture-shaping generation. She is hoping that the whole nation’s view of this oppressed group will be altered, as they see skilful and literate people making a positive change in society. Her dream is that many will ask what caused this great transformation and they will discover it is Jesus who has changed them, given them hope, and unleashed their forgotten potential. They once were lost, but God lifted them up, so that their focus is now upwards on him and all he can do through them.

*: Her real name and location have not be shared for security reasons.

About Innovista

Supporting leaders where they're needed most.

Innovista identifies, equips and develops Christian leaders working in challenging locations. Every year, we train and mentor around 1,500 leaders in Britain, Ireland, Moldova, Ukraine, Central Asia and beyond. We help leaders transform people and communities through churches, ministries and enterprises. Inspired by Jesus, we equip leaders to build a better world.