The Church of the Nazarene has established its presence in a new, southeastern Eurasia Region country through a local church planter and evangelist.
It is not easy for missionaries to enter this country since the government prohibits Christian evangelistic activities. So, when a citizen expressed a desire to plant Nazarene churches in his own nation, Eurasia Region leaders met with him to discern how God was leading.
As a result, the young man and his wife have become Nazarenes and are the denomination’s first step to establishing its presence there.
The first Nazarene
Known as “Sam,” the young man grew up in a family that practiced no religious faith. As a teenager, he was an atheist.
When his younger sister was 7 years old, she became a Christian through involvement with a local Protestant church.
“It did not make us so happy,” Sam recalled of his family’s reaction. “We were so dead set against Christianity.”
Several years later, his sister became deathly sick. Diseases consumed her internal organs: gall stones, ulcers, a tumor, and infections. Sam, who had moved away to find work, rushed home to her deathbed. He found her reduced to skin and bones.
Members of her church visited to pray with her. They talked with Sam, too.
“A woman told me about the greatness of God and what He can do, what is possible in Him. She started sharing the love of Christ. She told me about John 11:25: ‘Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”’ This is the message that absorbed me so tangibly.”
At these words, Sam experienced a glimmer of hope that if he believed Jesus was the real, living God incarnate, and if he put his trust in Jesus, his sister might be miraculously healed.
“It was June 2001, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior,” he said. “I could see that right away she was almost better. Although she had been sick for six months, a week later she was so completely transformed that she could get up and walk. She went through a successful operation, and some parts of her stomach were removed. She is without that organ, but she is so healthy. She is a living testimony. God has healed her.”
Her recovery cemented Sam’s belief in the living God.
Today, Sam’s sister is married, has a child, and remains actively involved in her church.
Call to ministry
This one healing miracle led Sam to commit his life to Christ and changed his direction in life.
He went to India and enrolled at South India Bible School, a school with students from dozens of denominations. This is where Sam first encountered the Church of the Nazarene.
He completed his education and returned to his home country equipped to share the gospel with his people and to plant worship groups as the Spirit led him.
For over 18 months, he patiently talked about Jesus with family members and anyone interested, resulting his entire family accepting Christ.
“We have a church there in my village,” he said. “My uncle is looking after the church. I am so excited and so happy because we all are in one place right now, following one God.”
Partnering with the Nazarene denomination
In 2017, he reconnected with a Nazarene leader from India responsible for Nazarene churches in several countries.
“We had a conversation about ministry, whether we can work together. I had been praying over all these things. I was independent; I was not connected with anyone. I was helping in different churches, teaching.”
Sam prayed and fasted; the next year, he met a number of other regional Nazarene leaders. They invited Sam to join the denomination and establish the Nazarene church in Sam’s country.
“I admire the work he and his wife are doing with their people,” said the denomination’s leader for the field of which Sam’s country is a part. “I love the passion and commitment they have to share the Gospel of Jesus with people in the city where they are living, as well as in other communities they are visiting.”
As a Nazarene minister who respects his nation’s laws, Sam establishes friendships with people and looks for opportunities to talk about what God has done for him and his family.
“I go [to the grocery store to] buy something and talk to them: ‘How is your business going?’ I start making a relationship,” he said. “After a close and intimate friendship, I call them and maybe go somewhere for coffee, and then I start sharing about Christ.”
On another occasion, he was invited to preach in a village church outside the city. Afterward, he stopped in at a meat shop.
“The guy was working in the meat shop, we had a conversation. I made a friendship with him. Through him, I reached his family of five people. I got the privilege to reach these people and started making a good relationship. I did follow-up a few times, shared about Christ’s love. Now they all are in Christ. This month I have to go and baptize them.”
Despite the legal right to practice the Christian faith, Sam and his wife face discrimination for their faith.
Recently, they relocated to a larger city with more opportunities to share their faith. However, a series of landlords refused to rent apartments to them when they discovered the couple are Christians. Finally, the couple found a Christian who would rent them an apartment
Such discrimination presents a barrier to some who are otherwise open to accepting Jesus. Sam has been meeting with one family that wants to accept Christ but are afraid of persecution from family members.
In spite of these hostile circumstances, Sam opened his own business so he can share Christ through ordinary conversations.
His wife is part of a team translating the Bible into the national language.
“We started the ministry in this country last September, and now we already have a small fellowship group worshipping the Lord Jesus,” said the field strategy coordinator. “We look forward to see more beautiful things happening through the ministry of Sam and his wife in the near future.”