Stories Stories Seeds of Hope: News from our media partners in Central Asia As we focus our daily prayers on Central Asia this week, this is a timely moment to share an update from our partners on how the spread of COVID-19 is affecting daily life in this region. Despite living in relatively close proximity to China, our partners in Central Asia have yet to see the rapid rise in cases of COVID-19 we are currently experiencing in the UK. In early March, the authorities were priding themselves that no cases had been reported, but we recently heard from our media partner, “the situation with COVID-19 is getting worse. From today all classes in universities, schools and kindergartens are cancelled for at least three weeks. Government has closed the borders and all flights are cancelled”. At the same time, the authorities recommended people stay home. As in the UK, panic buying set in with huge queues forming in supermarkets and essential items in short supply. Being alert and prepared! Fortunately, our broadcast partner in Central Asia was prepared. Seeing the situation unfold in neighbouring China they had prepared all their procedures so that in the event of such an emergency they could keep sharing the Good News! Since early March these measures have been in place so that all who can, are working from home. Steve* our project leader reported recently, “All works are happening well. We do all our projects as it was before. Yes, it is uncomfortable for the team, but that is the situation”. Remarkably, in the midst of so much turmoil and uncertainty, he was able to say, “everything is going well. This is an interesting challenge for all of us, but out of this more people are tuning in”. Daily programmes tackling COVID-19 From the moment COVID-19 became the main talking point in Central Asia, our partner has been producing a series of programmes about the virus which are airing in prime time slots twice a day. “We do our best to be servants and helpers for people in this hard situation. We are also planning a new series soon based on the resources we have received from Feba UK”. As well as discussing COVID-19 and how to stop it’s spread, these daily programmes include prayers, words of encouragement and other helpful content to “make our audience more optimistic and make them not feel alone”. One of the great joys of working with our partners in Central Asia is their infectious sense of optimism along with their total trust and dependence on God, particularly in times of adversity. Interestingly, well before this crisis broke, the team had already stated in their goals they wanted to “help believers be less fearful and more optimistic, to see themselves less as victims and more as ‘shapers’ of their communities and families”. Like many families in the UK, our Central Asia broadcaster is experiencing the challenge of everyone living and working at home all the time. Many of us can relate to his comment, “I’d forgotten how active my kids are! Usually they are outside all day with school, additional classes and sports, and in the evening they are just tired. I really thank and appreciate all their teachers now!”. Government crackdown Since late March, all gyms, restaurants and other public places have been closed in the parts of Central Asia in where our partner ministers. Everyday life had been shut down by the Government. Unlike the UK, the authorities have imposed very heavy fines and harsh penalties for anyone deviating from the strict quarantine rules. Despite the imposition of heavy restrictions, Steve and his team are seeing a growing demand for their programmes: “We are doing our work even more so than before, more now all church services and small home group meetings are cancelled”. The team in Central Asia is using technology and their own ingenuity and expertise to bring believers together online and keep them more connected than they’ve ever been before. Alongside those who are yet to take their first steps towards Jesus, these “stranded believers” have caused listenership to increase by over 30%! Advantages of adversity In this situation, our partner in Central Asia are at an advantage because they are used to working in difficult circumstances. “We know how to do everything remotely… We’re well practised and very used to avoiding personal contacts due to the security issues here”. “We will face this challenge by being armoured and armed by the faith, with the Lord’s blessings, with the Holy Spirit in our hearts and His inspiration as Christian media people. We just keep calm, and carry on”. Please pray: That during these times of mass fatality when many look to God, as listenership rockets on our broadcasters programmes, that those tuning in may submit to you, and through this enjoy the hope that is only found in you. For God’s protection over our Central Asia broadcaster. Ask God to continue to keep them safe, healthy and optimistic especially with so much heightened security and surveillance in the region at this time. For listeners and believers who are learning to connect in new ways online now they can no longer meet and enjoy fellowship together. For Feba’s partners across the world that they would continue to be ready and prepared to respond to this crisis with Christ-like wisdom, endurance and grace. Can you pray for Feba's media partners throughout this time? You can sign up to receive our monthly Prayer Focus letters by clicking here. * For the sake of security, some of the real names of people, projects or programmes have been changed or omitted.