Azim and Anara are both Central Asian (Azim is an ethnic Uighur and Anara is an ethnic Kazakh). They were both born in Kazakhstan when it was still part of the Soviet Union. This area became its own country called Kazakhstan in 1991, and the name Kazakhstan means “Land of the Kazakhs.”
Part of the identity of a Kazakh, Uighur, or any Central Asian is to be born Muslim; to be a Uighur is to be a Muslim. In Kazakhstan 80% of its citizens are Muslim and the rest of the population is Eastern European or Russian and who do not identify as Muslim. In Kazakhstan, Islam is actively spreading.
Growing up in a Muslim family, Azim remembers his father reciting Muslim prayers on a daily basis. He lived in constant anxiety, shame, and fear of Allah. He tried to be religious, comfortable, trying to please God and people.
Around the time he was 20 years old, a Christian friend invited him to a conference where he saw people who were happy and calm in God’s love. At that conference he accepted Jesus into his life and he remembers that he could physically experience His presence. The growing anxiety and fear gave way to peace and confidence. For Azim, God was transformed from a punishing judge to a loving Father. He used to hate himself and other people but he is now able to accept himself and love other people as God’s children.
Over the past 25 years, more Muslims in Central Asia have accepted Christ than in the past 1,500 years. A secret awakening among Muslims has started transforming the Muslim world to turn to Christ!
Azim and Anara have been married for 17 years and have four wonderful children. Together with other Christian leaders, they helped start a traditional local Church where Azim has served as a pastor for 15 years. During this time, they have worked to convey the message that “Church is a big family” that impacts not just Sunday, but our whole lives. As is true elsewhere, this is a difficult message to live, and often times for Central Asians Jesus will make a difference to them on Sunday, but their faith has very little impact on them the rest of the week.
As the ministry has moved forward, God redirected the Janbakiyevs’ focus toward family and smaller gatherings that function as house churches, allowing spiritual change to come through the family. They believe that home churches will help bringing Jesus into the homes of people and Jesus will become the God of the family, society, and nation.
Their dream is to see how the long-suffering life of the peoples of Central Asia, filled with fear and shame before the punishing Allah, to be transformed into a joyful, confident life after meeting with a loving Christ.
- For God to open the door to society for the Gospel to be spread through family values, through fatherhood
- That God would give us, the 0.3% of the Evangelical believers in Kazakhstan, a deep love for Muslims and desire to boldly proclaim the Good news
- That our children may know the loving Christ personally and be His light in the dark