Newsletter – April 2005

Newsletter – April 2005

Daniel Trusiewicz - April 21, 2005

The majority of Azeri population is nominal Muslims. The Old Testament in Azeri language (similar to Turkish) was translated and published for the first time in history only a few years ago.

The Baptist movement started in Azerbaijan in 1870. First Baptist Church in the capital city of Baku was planted in 1890 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.

From 1990 there has been civil war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over mountainous “Nagorni Karabah”, part of land comprising of 20% of Azerbaijani territory. There have been migrations since and about 1 million of Azeri people are refuges.

Church planting in Azerbaijan

In spite of obstacles Baptist churches in Azerbaijan are growing. All Baptist churches in Baku are overcrowded with many people attending services and there are not enough sitting places.

New Baptist churches are being started in Azerbaijan. The most popular method is to begin with home meetings. Besides that the BU has plans to develop youth work, children, women and prison ministries. Baptists of Azerbaijan are involved in social work as well as ministry with homeless, orphans and immigrants.

Ilya Zenchenko, the president of BU and Elnur Jabijev, general secretary of BU are happy that new churches are being planted in Azerbaijan. One Azeri church planter became Christian about 10 years ago. He completed course of inductive Bible study 4 years ago and has been actively involved in sharing the Gospel with many people being supported from the mother church of Baku. Missionary would like to reach out towards unchurched Azeri people. He has many contacts with indigenous people who don’t have affiliation to any church.

There are many leaders who start home groups among Azeri people. One of them, Sare Mirzoyev became Christian in 1989 and was baptized in 1991. He is now pastor of Azeri speaking church in Baku. Sare would like to plant new churches among Azeri people even though his own church has no official recognition. Sare has very successful ministry and there are many potential church planters in his congregation.

Sare was persecuted for the Gospel in 1999. Enemies had come with a secret camera to his church. Pictures were shown on national TV several times a day for at least two weeks. After that police broke the service of Baptist church in Baku and arrested its pastor Mirzoyev and deacon Mamedov. Both leaders spent 15 days under arrest. Sare was portrayed as an enemy of Azeri nation and his family was threatened.

Sare had very difficult experience during his imprisonment. He was closed in a cell with little air. The Lord used him for witness even there. One of prison guards came secretly to Sare’s church after his release.

Some Azeri believers loose jobs because of their faith. For ex. Elnur Jabiyev was a police officer and attended church secretly. One day he was called by a police security and a picture - evidence for attending church was shown to him. He eventually was fired from his post. Now he is a Baptist pastor.

Baptist leaders admit that churches in Azerbaijan have many successes but also numerous difficulties. Baptisms are often performed secretly and pastors of growing churches are being threatened by enemies of the gospel.

Azerbaijani Baptist leaders are happy for visit of EBF President – Rev. Billy Taranger and IMP Coordinator. International contacts are very important to them - they know that are not alone but belong to a large world wide family.

Prayer needs

  1. Support for missionaries who plant new Baptist churches.
  2. Official recognition of Azeri Baptist church in Baku.
  3. Permission to distribute Christian literature in Azeri language.
  4. Return of a Baptist building in the center of Baku so that it may be used again as church; it was confiscated in the 1946 by communists (presently there is a cinema).