A United Methodist local congregation has donated $130,000 to establish a mission center in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan in Central Asia.
The new center will be located in the city’s downtown area, and measures three-acres including an unfinished building.
South of Russia and east of China, Kazakhstan houses 16 million and boasts a stable economy and a democratic government. Its primary religions are Islam, Russian Orthodox, and Protestantism.
Kazakhstan became an independent nation just last decade on December 16, 1991, and its new constitution protects freedom of religion. According to the U.S. State Department 1999 Report on Religious Freedom, the only occasion that the government has clamped down on religious groups is when Muslim missionaries imported ideals that were contrary to the constitution. According to Global Harvest Ministries Online, “there have been complaints of low-level government officials harassing Christian missionaries, but overall, Kazakhstan is still an open door for the gospel.”
The Rev. Joong Um Kim, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Flushing, New York presented the donation to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries this October.
Bishop Joel N. Martinez, president of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries notes that, "This represents a new pattern of direct mission partnership between a local congregation and the board."
Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive added, "We are very optimistic about the Central Asia Mission. We are working closely with the Eurasia Area, currently led by Bishop Ruediger Minor in this effort.”
An initiative of the UMC’s Russia and Eurasia region, the Central Asia Mission was launched just last year, and it already has six congregations—three in Kazakhstan, two in Kyrgystan, and one in Uzbekistan (UMNS).
The Rev. Kim visited Almaty last year as part of a delegation viewing mission work begun in the area by UMC, and was so excited by Central Asia’s potential that the 1000+ member Flushing congregation was purview to it, and in September decided to invest $130,000 to the mission.
The Flushing church is the largest congregation in the United Methodist New York Annual (regional) Conference and serves the largest U.S. Korean-American congregation of more than 1,000 people every week, reports UMNS. Other congregations are also assisting with the Central Asia Mission. An additional $23,400 has been received and another $10,000 pledged already.