Reaching through teaching: faith at work in Central Asia

If there was one person at school you'd think was not destined to be a Christian leader, it was Farhod. Yet God used a teacher to dramatically transform his life.
I thought it was impossible for God to change someone like you! (Christian classmate describing Farhod*, before he became a Christian)

In Central Asia, it’s illegal to share the gospel message. In such a challenging context, most people have little or no contact with the underground church. The way Christians live out their faith on a Monday to Saturday is critical.

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The Church in Central Asia is small, but Christians often work in education, where they can have an impact on so many lives.1 When teachers live out their faith, God can use them in incredible ways. Farhod* was one schoolboy whose life was dramatically transformed, after a teacher followed God’s call. Many years later, Farhod is committed to raising up the next generation of young Christian leaders.

An unlikely leader

If there was one person at school you’d think was not destined to be a Christian leader, it was Farhod. His difficulties began at the age of 8, when his father walked out on the family. This caused a ‘gap in his soul’ that caused his behaviour to spiral out of control. He started smoking at the age of 9 and drinking vodka at the age of 12. By the time he was 16, he had a reputation for sleeping around and getting into fights. He was well known to the police and was even held overnight by them at one point for brawling with boys from a different school. His exasperated mum, who was often out working four jobs to make ends meet, didn’t know what to do.

Divine appointment

The change in his life came from an unexpected source. In a nearby university, a Christian Russian-language teacher felt God was telling her to leave her job to go to work in Farhod’s school. She had absolutely no idea why, but obeyed the call. She prayed that God might somehow use her in this new chapter of life. It was during a lesson on poetry that she first met Farhod. He proudly announced that he wrote hip-hop lyrics about his girlfriends. The teacher reviewed his work and commended his efforts, but said his Russian needed improvement. She suggested he attend after-school lessons.

Life lessons

In these extra classes, the teacher challenged Farhod about his lifestyle and where he was heading in life. She could see he was unwell, as he was smoking and drinking heavily. Farhod was well aware he was in a bad place, but he was at peace with the idea he might die soon. The teacher refused to give up on him, and persistently invited him to a church-run youth group over a six-month period. Farhod always refused on the grounds of being a Muslim, but finally agreed to attend, just to get her off his back.

Death to life

When Farhod attended, a drama performance about someone similar to him spoke right into his soul. For the first time, he realised that church was not just for ‘holy people’. Farhod started attending regularly, before committing his life to the Lord. He was baptised two months later. God completely transformed his behaviour. He no longer wanted to smoke, drink, fight or sleep around. He gained a hunger to learn more about God, and even started working hard at school and helping around the house. Thinking he’d joined a sect, Farhod’s worried family considered calling the police. They decided against it, because of the positive difference they saw in him. His mum said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but I see how his life has changed’. She, and the rest of the family, later became Christians.

Growing more leaders

Farhod’s story shows the impact of one Christian teacher following God’s call to live out her faith in the workplace. Years after his conversion, Farhod bumped into the teacher who changed his life. She had left the school sensing God’s purpose there had been achieved, but didn’t know that her actions had led to many more lives being transformed. Today, Farhod helps raise up, train and support the next generation of young Christian leaders. He and his wife support and house young people who are persecuted for their faith. Farhod also runs a church youth group of his own. He longs to see teenagers have the same life-changing experience that he did.

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1 A survey conducted by Innovista found that 35% of those doing workplace leadership training were in the field of education.

* Their names have been changed 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.