Friday, April 24, 2015

Central Eurasian Mission to be Created in July

Today the Church announced that a new mission will be organized this July from a division of the Bulgaria Sofia and Russia Novosibirsk Missions. The Central Eurasian Mission will be headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey and include the following nations within its boundaries: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. Although the Church did not explicitly state that Turkmenistan will be included in the Central Eurasian Mission, a graphic supplied in an LDS Church News article suggests that this nation will also be included within the new mission. The realigned Bulgaria Sofia Mission will subsequently only administer Bulgaria whereas the realigned Russia Novosibirsk Mission will solely administer central Siberia. The Church currently reports four branches in Turkey, two branches in Kazakhstan, and one branch for expatriate members in Azerbaijan. Full-time missionaries have served in Kazakhstan since 2004 and Turkey since 2012.

The announcement of the new mission came as a complete shock to me. All but two of the countries (Kazakhstan and Turkey) have never been assigned to an LDS mission before. All of these nations experience governmental and/or societal restrictions on religious freedom. Governmental restrictions on religious freedom have intensified within Central Asia during the past two decades as a result of the resurgence of Islamic identify following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, political efforts to curb the emergence of radical Islamist groups in the region, and concern that nontraditional Christian groups pose threats to local cultures and national identities. The Church missed its window of opportunity to establish a presence in most Central Asian republics and Azerbaijan during the 1990s when conditions were more favorable to missionary-focused Christian denominations. Consequently efforts to establish the Church in Kyrgyzstan were unsuccessful in the mid-2000s. There have not appeared to be any recent efforts to establish the Church in additional nations in the region such as Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, or Uzbekistan.

The decision to organize the new mission stands as the most audacious and proactive initiative by the LDS Church to expand its outreach into vast unreached areas of the world since the 1990s. The Church has organized no new missions within an area with as few members and congregations since the organization of the Russia Vladivostok Mission in 1999. No LDS scriptures have been translated into languages indigenous to Central Asia or Azerbaijan and only the Book of Mormon has been translated into Turkish.  Many of the most commonly spoken languages have no translations of LDS materials available such as Azerbaijani, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Tajiki, Turkmen, and Uzbek. The organization of the new mission will provide the Church an exciting frontier to pioneer Muslim-specific outreach if determined by mission and area leadership as the percentage of Muslims in the population range from as low as 70% in Kazakhstan to as high as 99.8% in Turkey.

The new Central Eurasian Mission will have over 150 million people within its boundaries. The mission will tie with the Uganda Kampala Mission as the mission with the fourth largest population in the world after the India New Delhi, Indonesia Jakarta, and India Bangalore Missions.

Case studies on pertaining to the nations within the new Central Eurasian Mission can be found below.
I will write a case study on in the coming month or two providing further analysis of this exciting and unprecedented development.


Unknown said...

YAAAAAAAYYYY!!!! That's our KYRGYZSTAAAANNN!! We know a handful of faithful people who are going to weep at this news!! Hurray!!

Amira said...

We also have connections to Kyrgyzstan and we're completely stunned by this news. I can't imagine what this mission will look like. And yes, I hope this somehow makes it possible for the extremely isolated local members in Central Asia to get more support from the church.

Eduardo Clinch said...

Good news. Any other new missions this year 2015? I can't remember.

There are a good deal of Buddhists in some of these places. I have also found that some Turks are more nominally Muslim, so 99.8 percent is not as overwhelming as it appears. It will be exciting to see all the languages being engaged by the LDS church and others.

Unknown said...

Our experience living in KG was that the Muslim population was too pro-feminine to be fundamentalist. The Kyrgyz people honor their historic women leaders on their money and monuments across the country. The northern region is proud of their temperate Islam, while the south is more diverse and feels the strong influence of Turkish and Saudi Islam making inroads.

Ryan Searcy said...

I am slightly confused. The Star Valley Wyoming Temple's groundbreaking was today. LDS Church Temples shows it to be in southern Afton, while this site,
shows it to be north of Thayne.

For my map, the one in southern Afton is the one shown.

L. Chris Jones said...

There is a town North of Thayne called Star Valley Ranch. But the whole valley is Called Star Valley. The temple is in the the town of Afton in the southern part of the Valley.

L. Chris Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Johnson said...

Those in the North America Northeast Area were treated to a combined 126-stake, 4-district conference from Salt Lake. We listened to Elders Robert D Hales and Neil L Anderson of the Twelve as well as Sister Linda S. Reeves of the Relief Society General Presidency, and Elder Larry S. Kacher, who for several years was an Area Seventy in the North Africa/Middle East Area.

Elder Kacher told of an individual he gave a false name and a false country (Abdullah and Syria). He told a bit about this man. And then read a letter from him (changing the name of the country). Abdullah after reading the Book of Mormon travelled to another country where he found the district president. He wanted to learn more about the Church and said he would not leave until he was baptized. Because the country he is from is not open to proselytizing and because his life could be in jeopardy, local leaders did not want to baptize him, but he persisted and eventually the First Presidency granted position. He returned to his country and taught his family the gospel. The letter showed the danger he was in, but also carried expressions of his testimony of the gospel and how the Lord would bless them. In the letter, fighting was going on all around them and aircraft were bombing the city he was in. It was a very moving letter. Elder Anderson, when he began his address seemed quite moved by the content of the letter.

We have others here in the North America Northeast Area. Anybody else catch the broadcast?

Ryan Searcy said...

A friend of mine currently serving in Kazakhstan will be a part of the new mission.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I watched it. Elder Hales counseled not to raise voice at spouse or children.

John Pack Lambert said...

I knew a man at BYU who was a Church member from Turkey who had been Muslim before he was baptized.

On the issue of going into Central Asia in the 1990s, with the negative publicity against the Church in Russia, often more heavily voiced by Muslims than other groups, I wonder if it is a blessing in disguise the Church did not go in at the same time as other Christian groups did. Not being associated with those groups may help the Church in the long run. It seems to have hurt the Church in Russia. Although some of the anti-Mormon rhetoric from Nationalists in Russia might well exist if there were no Mormons in Russia. The LDS/American connection is still deep, and so it is often anti-Americanism that is at the heart of attacks on Mormons in Russia.

This mission split should allow for outreach to non-ethnic Russians in Kazakstan. The assisgnment of Kazakstan to the Novosibirsk Mission made it likely most missionaries there had a background in Russian, which probably made it more likely the outreach would be to Russians.

John Pack Lambert said...

I got to see the broadcast. I couldn't help trying to figure out what country Abdulla really was in. Afterward my mom said "I wonder if it really was Syria, and they just said Syria was a false country to throw us off the trail".

The letter did mention ISIS, but these days ISIS is present in several countries.

Actually, come to think of it, my first guess would be Yemen. At the time though I though Libya or Iraq.

In our stake conference last fall our visiting Area Authority was Elder Gordon Smith, formerly senator from Oregon, now residing in Maryland. He mentioned going to Iraq, meeting a man who had been a priest in his ward when he was bishop, and learning from this man that he had shared the gospel with multiple Kurdish people who wanted to get baptized. Elder Smith also told us there are currently missionaries working with the Kurds in Iraq. These may actually be senior couples with largely humanitarian assignments though.

I wonder if there are groups located within the boundaries of the new mission as well.

Foster Clan said...

My son just got called to the Central Eurasian Mission you're describing. So exciting and yet nerve wrecking for a mom.