Around the world, more than 325 Langham Scholars are serving in 90+ nations. Langham has supported these men and women financially and pastorally to complete theological PhDs.
The country of Stan*, however, has never had an indigenous, evangelical scholar – until now.
Thanks to the generosity of Langham’s supporters, Stan’s first evangelical scholar ever is currently completing his PhD (in the US). He will return to serve the Church in this country, where preaching the gospel is illegal and violence against Christians is common.
“My name is Amir*. I was born in Eastern Stan in a really rural area. When I was seven years old my parents decided to move to the capital city for a better life. Since we were part of the Soviet Union, maybe 20 per cent of the population is Russian. They would identify themselves as Russian Orthodox. Those like me who speak Stani as their primary language would identify themselves as Muslim.
Being a Christian is not really safe
“Evangelicals are a mixture of Stanis and Russians together. I think there are between 0.2 and 0.7 per cent in this range. Being a Christian is not really safe so when my parents accepted Christ, after two months someone told them that they’re going to kill them. And they also told my parents that they know the schools that me and my sister go to and which classes we were in.
“Therefore, I grew up with this very high sense of being alert to not tell anybody that I’m a Christian because being a Christian in Stan most of the time means its dangerous. So we have that grand narrative saying if you’re Stani you have to be Muslim. So Islamic faith determines or identifies your ethnic identity.
“When I share the gospel message with Stanis the first question is how a Stani can be a Christian. For the Stani Church to multiply, we need Stani workers.
The harvest is plentiful
“In the Bible it says the harvest if plentiful but the workers are few. That exactly fits Stan. The harvest is very very plentiful. Stani people are very open to these religious conversations, to the questions of faith. But we have very very few people from the Church who can effectively communicate it to engage with those issues.”
Amir’s PhD will create new opportunities for him to equip church leaders across the country.
“I think that education in the first place is not just information it’s a transformation. So I think PhD has a different level of impacting us, changing us, so we think maybe in deeper ways in some issues comparing to Master’s degree students.
To my knowledge – I might be wrong – there is no Stani-speaking Stanis who have this degree from a seminary. We have so many Islamic schools in Stan and whenever a regular Stani Christian wants to talk to these Muslims, they say you don’t have proper training to talk about these kinds of issues so stop talking to me.
“Another reason for me to have a PhD is to show them I am educated, I have all the credentials to talk to you about the religious issues. So when I graduate, I’m going to be the first Stani who’s primary language is Stani who has that PhD.
“This I hope will motivate other young Stanis to study and have a deeper understanding of what they believe.
“Without this Langham Scholarship I wouldn’t be able to afford to study here.
“We are planning to move back to Stan as soon as I’m done. I’ll be teaching in one of our underground seminaries. I’ll keep writing articles, maybe even books.
Creating an authentic Christian identity
“But the big vision for me is to create an authentic Stani Christian identity and to do that I think we need real Stani Christians there first.
“We have to stop sending missionaries there or stop using all these resources produced outside of Stan. So we have to produce the theology there.
“In heaven I want to speak the Stan language, which means I want to have many Stanis there!
Amir is aiming to graduate in May and plans to return to Stan with his family in June.
He is one of 85 Langham Scholars currently completing their PhD. On average, each Langham Scholar will train 7,733 students over the course of their career.
*The Central Asian country featured in this article is extremely sensitive, so names and places have been changed to protect identities.