TACO Kyrgyzstan - Prayer Update #4
May 28, 2015
We've had some intense days with several hours of meetings with our Kyrgyz organizer, as we try to understand how some of the finances have been allocated. It has exposed some issues that have needed to be addressed for quite some time. It's been tough but will be good in the long run and will hopefully allow partnership with the Kyrgyz team here to continue with more accountability.
Chris was down for the count yesterday, Monday, after throwing up all night. He is joining us today, but is still recovering. Please pray for complete healing for him!
Our show in Bishkek Monday evening organized by one of the largest church in Central Asia (Jesus Christ Church) was our largest yet with an estimated audience of 500. We set up in the intersection of paths in a large park. Many from the church were there to help us and they even had a generator ready for us. Since our venue was deep into the park, our van drove along the large sidewalk to unload our equipment. It didn't stay long, but as it tried to leave, the police stopped it to question our driver and organizers for half an hour, upset that he drove in. We thought the equipment would have to be carried out of the park at the end, but after the police watched our show, they liked it so much that they welcomed the van right back into the park for us to reload.
Since Chris wasn't with us, Erin took the lead both singing and playing clarinet for God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman with Hannah accompanying on guitar. They did great and inspired a little girl standing behind them to do an interpretive dance throughout the song. Dustin wasn't able to share much about God in this venue. He told people if they wanted to find out what filled the emptiness in his heart since his gold medal didn't, talk to us afterwards or come to the show Tuesday night at the church.
We have lost access to the church in Tokmok which was our only team gathering place. Because of that, mixed with the dangerous accommodations for Dave and Chris, we are relocating today to Bishkek to stay in one nice, rented apartment all together. We have an 11am show at an elderly home, then an evening show at Jesus Christ Church.
Thanks for your prayers for God to use us to share His love with the people of Kyrgyzstan. Please also pray that many from last night's event will come to the church outreach tonight and hear the full message of God's love. Thanks!
Kudaiym batasyn bersin sizge (Kyrgyz for "My God will bless you"),
TACO Kyrgyzstan Team
TACO Kyrgyzstan - Prayer Update #3
May 25, 2015
Greetings from Kyrgyzstan!
Saturday morning we had a show at an orphanage near Tokmok. It's in a village of about 500 and everyone is in some way connected to the orphanage that houses 110 kids. When we started picking up sticks and debris from the "stage" area just before show time, about 20 kids immediately jumped up and helped. A few dogs were running around during the show but only once did one cause concern as it meandered through the stage while Dustin was riding. Dustin shared the Gospel but was restricted from giving an invitation. After the show, the director came to the mic and expressed her gratitude for us coming. We were so impressed with how well behaved the kids were, as reflected in Dave's comment afterwards: "All kids should be put in an orphanage."
We drove to Bishkek in the afternoon, learning that our route takes us over a bridge which is Kazakhstan territory. We passed mounds under which lie the ancient ruins of Ak-Beshim, which was an important town along the Silk Road and has remains of a building which apparently was simultaneously a Nestorian church and Buddhist temple in the 7th-8th centuries. Once in Bishkek, we chilled at a great place called Sierra Coffee (started by New Zealanders) as we watched the threatening clouds, rain and wind outside. Thankfully, the second orphanage of the day had an indoor back-up plan so we performed in a large room inside. This orphanage, also government run, houses 38 kids. One of our translators regularly teaches English here, using Children's Bibles as a tool and some of the kids attend church with him. We were thankful to build on the work he and others are doing there. Afterward, we had many requests for selfies with kids, as some tried out the unicycles. Dave connected with a Turkish Muslim named Mustafa who is studying English literature in Bishkek. Dave shared Jesus with him as it sounds like many others around him have been doing. Pray that he will have the faith to believe in Jesus!
Today, Sunday, we had an afternoon show in a Christian school gymnasium in Tokmok. To our surprise, the students had 2 dances, a song and drama to add to our program, which we quickly mixed into our set list at the last minute. It turned out to be a nice addition to our own content. Our tour organizer and his wife also added 2 songs in Russian and Kyrgyz so we had quite a lengthy show. Dustin was able to share the Gospel openly, gave an invitation and a dozen kids raised their hands indicting they had given their lives to Jesus for the first time! Pray for them to grow in this best decision they have ever made.
Monday and Tuesday we head to Bishkek to do shows organized by one of the largest churches in Central Asia. They have handed out 1,000 invites for Monday's show in a park so pray that many come! Thanks for praying for endurance for our next 7 shows, good communication with our local organizers, good health, strong stomachs and especially that many will surrender to Jesus through these outreaches and grow in their faith.
Blagosloveniyi (Russian for Many Blessings),
TACO Kyrgyzstan Team
TACO Kyrgyzstan Prayer update #2
May 24, 2015
Hello praying friends!
Our show Thursday in Tokmok city center was a little hectic before and during, but the response afterward was reassuring that all was not in vain. We had some confusion and tension about where to set up. We finally had to humbly set logic and artistic reason aside and submit to the local organizers wishes. Mid set-up the rain fell but was short lived and wasn't a show stopper, PTL! Because of laws, we couldn't be open with the Gospel during the show. Dustin shared how Jesus has changed his life but couldn't give an invitation. The show was a bit rough but the audience must have been forgiving. Katie's dance turned into a comedy act as she rolled into a little girl that darted onto the stage unseen behind her. The little girl, the translator who was chasing the girl, and Katie, all ended the dance as a trio on stage. One of Dustin's unicycles needed maintenance mid-show, stopping one of his acts so Chris quickly jumped in and sang a song to keep things rolling. The monitors kept cutting out because our equipment is under powered.
On a positive note, some local church members were part of the show, one sang a song in Russian, one in Kyrgyz and some teens did a dance. Many other church members attended the show and were blessed, encouraged and said they loved the show. They said that world champions never come to town. One Christian lady thanked Erin for coming and sharing in their community. A Bahai group from Kazakhstan happened to be walking through the park as we were performing and they stayed to watch. Afterward, Katie talked to the youth leader named Jenya who was very open to talk about his religion and listen to the Gospel. She prayed with him and he "prayed" a Bahia chant. Please pray that Jenya will understand that Jesus is the Way,Truth and Life.
Friday morning we drove an hour to Bishkek for an 11am show at an elderly home. There are about 220 people living here ages 24-96 (the younger ones have major disabilities). We were told that we could be totally open during the show since these people are really old and may die at anytime. We performed outside in front of the main entrance with the audience sitting in chairs. Chris was a hit and debuted an Italian prayer a capella, even drawing in some teens who happened to be walking by the street outside the gate. At the end, Dustin shared the Gospel in a creative way, connecting it to his own grandfather who lived 98 joyful years all for Jesus. We could hear many audibly repeating the prayer of surrender to Jesus. As Dustin was wrapping up his talk, encouraging people to read the Bible to grow in their faith, the home director came up, interrupted and told our translator that we couldn't share about Jesus there. The timing was perfect because everything was already said and done. She wasn't too upset because she proceeded to present our team with certificates of gratitude in Russian to "Dustin Kelm and his team" with the seal of Kyrgyzstan stamped on it.
The audience didn't want to go inside afterward because they liked the program so much. They said they don't get to go out to the circus but we came to them. One grandpa said everything was good but he wanted more opera (Chris). One lady told Dustin with tears in her eyes as she gave him a grandmotherly kiss, "You brought the joy to our day." Another grandma gave Dustin a mission saying, "It's good you believe in Jesus. Tell Obama he needs to love Jesus like you and stop doing bad things in other countries."
We all very much enjoyed Mexican food for lunch in Bishkek at a build-your-own-burrito stand where apparently all the foreigners go...for good reason! Saturday we have 2 shows at orphanages in Tokmok and Bishkek. Thanks for praying with us for seeds planted thus far and prepared hearts ongoing.
Blagosloveniyi (Russian for Many Blessings),
TACO Kyrgyzstan Team
TACO Kyrgyzstan - Prayer update #1
May 22, 2015
We're all settled into Kyrgyzstan now. Our team of 6 is sleeping in 3 different places around Tokmok, gathering for free time in a church where we rehearse, meet, eat. Dave and Chris barely lived to tell of their sketchy accommodation where their shower shocked them because the hot water tank which is in the shower, is not properly wired. Dustin and Katie got stopped by police on their walk home one evening, but after their passports were checked and the police called Timo (our Kyrgyz organizer) they were good to go. Erin and Hannah have fared well so far, though they had to move from one room to another in their flat because the hole for the ceiling light was cut too large so rain came through, shorted the light and got the room wet.
After a couple days of rehearsing, we had our first 2 shows yesterday, Wednesday, May 20th. Our first one was at a little village school 60 km from Tokmok. This school is operated by Mercy Foundation and has 54 students. A group from Tokmok goes to this school every Wednesday to teach music, dance, sports and other skills, as well as the Gospel. We incorporated students into our show where they demonstrated a song and dance/acrobatics they have been learning. They were great!
All the students and teachers plus many families from the village came to watch our show. The afternoon sun was hot but they had a nice canopy under which the audience sat on stools and we performed. Unfortunately the surface was loose sand/rocks so Dustin couldn't do as much unicycling as normal. We were totally open with the message during the show and Dustin even gave an invitation. After the show and a photo shoot where nearly the entire audience surrounded Dustin, we had lunch they had prepared for us. Many teachers ate with us as well. The main ministry worker at the school said this was an opportunity to pray with and share more about Jesus with the teachers, many of whom are not yet Christians. So Chris shared his testimony, incorporating the Gospel and Dave prayed. It was a special time.
We drove back to Tokmok for our evening show in a park with lots of beautiful flowers and a big playground. We had a small but attentive audience and many even responded to the invitation to follow Jesus! Kostya, our tour organizer, shared with those interested how to connect with church people who were also in the audience.
Today, Thursday, we had a chill morning (except Dave who had a productive meeting in Biskek with the OM Central Asia North leader). We are preparing for our show tonight in Tokmok city center. Thanks for praying with us for many to respond to Jesus, good translation of the message, good relations with our local organizers, rest, health and energy.
Blagosloveniyi (Russian for Many Blessings:>),
TACO Kyrgyzstan Team
TACO Albania Spring - Final prayer update
May 14, 2015
Hello Praying Friends,
Monday morning we left Tirane just before 7am. We drove south along the Albanian Riviera to one of its most important tourist attractions, Saranda. There are two routes to Saranda and we took the scenic, mountainous one along the coast. The view was breathtaking and beautiful! There were red rock formations and canyons, enormous lush mountains, beach-side towns and quaint mountain villages, with the turquoise waters of the Adriatic and Ionian Seas always in view.
It was quite the ride however, and our driver was driving like he stole it, whipping us along the hair pin curves and narrow mountain roads. A few of our team nearly lost their breakfasts. Only once did our brakes overheat and smell like death on a steep decent.
Saranda is a cute little city on the Sea. A local pastor rented a street for our show. It was supposed to be closed off and eventually was on one side, but cars, motorcycles and bikes still shared our stage throughout the show. Our preshow audience was old men and mocking teenagers. We had a pretty fluid show crowd and though we had a few enthusiastic responders, the majority felt cold. A local TV camera crew showed up and videoed the first part of our performance. The Gospel was presented, people responded, literature was distributed and we helped promote the local church.
There was a tourist from Australia who connected with our Aussies. She stayed for most of the show and heard the Gospel. Pray she surrenders to Jesus. Katie talked to a guy named Adi after the show who has left the church, having been disillusioned by prosperity preaching and not seeing God as a reality in His life. Please pray Adi will realize his need for a Savior and see God at work in this messsed-up world.
Our second show in Saranda for Tuesday was cancelled. After applicable team devos on the parable of the sower and seed, we hit the road back to Tirana. This time we drove the inland route with only a few adventurous mountain passes to enjoy.
This wraps up our Albania tour. We all fly to Istanbul Wednesday morning. The Aussies will continue doing outreaches in Turkey and the rest of our team will do the same in Kyrgyzstan. Thanks for journeying with us around Albania through your prayers! God has heard and answered. Please continue to pray for the pastors as they follow up on new believers and contacts, and start and grow churches. Also pray for all the seeds sown to take root in good soil and then multiply!
Me Shprese (With Hope),
TACO Albania team