Gospel in Azerbaijan

Gospel in Azerbaijan

Daniel Trusiewicz - March 26, 2009

Azerbaijan’s population is predominantly Muslim (8 million). The Old Testament part of the Bible was translated in the Azeri language (similar to Turkish) and published for the first time in history only in the end of the 20th century.

The first Baptist Church was planted in 1890 in the capital city of Baku but only in 1905 it was officially registered. About the same time the first Baptist church building was erected. It served Baptists for about 40 years but was confiscated in 1946 and turned into a cinema. It has never been returned to Baptists despite many attempts for reclaim.

Presently there are 22 local churches with total membership around 3 thousand. Two congregations are in the capital city of Baku, one of them being Russian speaking and the other Azeri. The Russian congregation is small but has an official recognition while Azeri church has over 200 members though without state registration.

Elnur Jabiyev, the general secretary of Baptist Union is glad that new Baptist churches are being started in Azerbaijan. He explains that the most popular method is to begin with home meetings. Baptists of Azerbaijan organize summer camps and do social work including ministry with homeless, orphans and immigrants.

Life of Christians in Azerbaijan is not easy. Baptisms are often performed secretly and pastors are threatened by enemies of the Gospel. Several pastors have even been imprisoned because of their faith. The charges against them were false and fabricated by the police. Some Azeri Christians loose jobs because of their faith.

The European Baptist Federation together with its mission partners has supported several church planters in Azerbaijan since 2005 until now.

Church planting
One Azeri church planter became a Christian about 12 years ago. He completed a course of inductive Bible study and has been actively involved in sharing the Gospel with support from the mother church of Baku. The goal of this missionary has been to reach out towards the local Azeri people. The missionary has had many natural contacts with indigenous people who have not been affiliated to any church and he took the opportunity to witness to them.

Below are some excerpts from the missionary reports:

2005 - 2006
The first Baptist church in my village was founded in 1927 but ten years later the Soviets harshly persecuted believers and the church was in hiding for many decades. Presently we meet for services with 15 members who are organized in home groups. Recently 1 person was baptized and 2 others prepare for baptism. During these months I shared God’s word with nearly 180 people. Only 5 of them repented and accepted Jesus as their Savior. During vacation months we organized a camp for children who learned verses from the Bible, sang and played games.

We constantly search the Holy Scriptures to find comfort and strength from God. I have contacts with the people of the town. I also encouraged other Christians to demonstrate our faith to them in order to win for Christ as many people as possible. Therefore we organized instructive seminar for young people.

During 3 months we shared God’s word with nearly 500 people. We told them about Jesus Christ, who is the Savior because He died for the sinful people and today He continues to give freely eternal life to all who believe in Him. A few have accepted the Good News. 3 families converted in Baku and we are in touch with them. The group consists of 14 people and 4 of them prepare for baptism.

In summer we organized a camp for children which lasted 15 days. Children played games and we taught them God’s plan of salvation. There were 42 children and 17 of them accepted Jesus Christ. We pray that no obstacle can stop them in their faith.

Besides this we organized a camp for 43 young people. During 10 days they enjoyed dramas, concerts and youth games. 21 young people reconciled with God. It is important to notice that 3 families from the local village took part in our services at the camp. As a result of this 5 people accepted Jesus Christ.

2007 - 2008
During 6 months I shared God’s word with nearly 500 non-Christians in my town. Only 4 people reacted positively and invited me to visit them in their homes and 2 of them started attending the church. I started a new group for 9 people and 2 new converts prepare for baptism.

We continue meetings with children - 5 regularly attending. They study the biblical lessons at our church and learn God’s will for them. The children are very joyous. We organized 2 camps – out of 105 attending 17 children accepted the Lord Jesus. The youth summer camp attracted youngsters from different churches and more than 100 participated. During the 10 days of camp they were trained how to share the Gospel with their peers.
We face numerous difficulties from the people who do not accept the Lord because Azerbaijan is a part of the Muslim World. Often Christians are threatened but in spite of this I was able to share the Gospel with almost 70 people who live in a nearby village. 15 of them were open but hesitated to accept the Lord because they were afraid of threats from other people. They also fear of loosing jobs.

The believers in Azerbaijan need our regular prayers.

Prayer requests:
1. For the indigenous missionaries (church planters), pastors and leaders who continue sharing the Gospel in this very difficult for the Christians time.
2. For better education of pastors, missionaries and leaders.
3. For Elnur Jabiyev, general secretary of Baptist Union of Azerbaijan, who is going to study at Spurgeon’s College in the UK for the next 3 years.