The North American Central Asia Forum (NACAF) was established with a vision to ignite passion for Christ honoring, kingdom ministry among the unreached Central Asian people of the world. Its primary focus is in mobilizing and educating churches and individuals in North America. We have learned some valuable lessons regarding how we can come alongside Central Asian believers and expat workers to provide training, human and material resources and prayer. At each of the NACAF’s we have been able to have a small contingency of Central Asian nationals which has greatly added to the forum.
In the fall of 2007 the majority of the leadership of North American Central Asia Partnerships met in Dallas for the purpose of seeking God in regards to ministry within Central Asia. This meeting was organized and largely funded by a church in Grand Rapids, MI. It was also the purpose to inform all attendees an overview of their network/partnership/people group and to interact, discussing region-wide initiatives that are coming from the national partnerships and what that means to us. Other topics included lessons learned/best practices of partnerships, responding to the current geo-political climate of the region, discussing the Central Asia Consultation and more. Many of these partnerships were in crisis. The thought was the crisis looked at loss of numbers but also focus and purpose. The numbers reflected some of the following statistics. The Tajik Partnership had last met in 2000. The Turkmen was down to about a dozen participants. In 2005 the Uzbek partnership had over 200 in attendance. In 2008 the number dwindled to 20. Those involved in the Kazakh Partnership were clearly asking for help as they saw their numbers dwindle from well over 250 to less than 40. Exceptions to this declining pattern were the North American Kyrgyz Partnership which was still going strong, the Azeri Partnership lead by strong leadership with numbers remaining steady at around 60 and the Uigher Partnership which had built its foundation on the people group and not on expat workers. There was also representation of the North Caucasus area and Tatarstan even though no North American Partnerships/Networks had been formed at that point in time.
The desire was to see this type of meeting expand. In February 2008 at the Central Asia Consultation, Bruce Huseby met with some these same leaders to see how things were going in regards to North American Partnerships. The desire to see a North American gathering of all of our partnerships was not only a surprise to him, but the energy to see it happen as soon as 2009 was encouraging. While that meeting did not transpire, the idea took root and in 2010 a meeting in Seattle among most of the North American Central Asia partners took place. At this meeting the desire was to strengthen partnerships/networks which have been weakened by the loss of workers in the region and have experienced a drop off of local church involvement. The opportunity to hear reports from nationals and expats from within the region was desired. As a result, the direction to expand and put much effort into what could be called a full-blown forum was agreed upon.
A lead team that consists of Carla Davis of Partners International, Jake Koh of United World Mission (Jake has recently left UWM), and Chris Jones of the Azerbaijani Network. Each of these has brought a unique strength to the lead team.
The Stated Purpose (Vision) of the NACAF is:
-To Ignite passion for the unreached peoples of Central Asia
-To Ignite passion in people who are willing to reach these unreached
-To Ignite passion for partnership within the region
This purpose was agreed upon as we went into our very first expanded NACAF at Maranatha Bible Conference in Muskegon, Michigan in 2011. We were very encouraged with the 130 in attendance as the theme of, “Ignite” was our way of seeing the purpose fulfilled. We had overwhelming agreement to keep moving forward.
It was decided to move the 2012 Forum to Columbia, South Carolina where we felt the missions focus of Columbia International University and the commitment of a local church helping guide the forum would be of great benefit. Students from CIU led worship and several attended the meetings. We also made a great friend in the President of CIU. The church experience taught us many lessons. We had 110 in attendance and became concerned that we are just, “preaching to the choir.” How to see the second area of our purpose realized has been elusive. Our theme was, 200 Million Cups of Tea and dealt with reaching and discipling Central Asians throughout the world.
In 2013 we held NACAF at Cedar Mill Bible Church in Portland, Oregon. The church did a fantastic job in hosting and we continue to learn. Our attendance was a bit disappointing as we had about 100 come. We advertised in a stronger way, but the local ads only brought in 6 people. Many churches in the Pacific Northwest have traditionally had very strong focuses on Central Asia. The evaluations once again proved the importance of the forum to the people. Our theme was, “Open Doors” and focused on ways God is giving opportunity to reach people with the gospel whether through business, media, education or reaching the diaspora.
We are finding that attempting to have a national event seems very difficult for most. As we approach the future we realize that a critical mass, “the choir” will most always attend because they are committed. The region we have the meeting in needs to be nurtured in greater ways. We are already planning on this type of promotional effort as we look to the 2014 forum in Denver. This will include the forming of a multi-church and agency team to work with the host church. The Denver area has at least 4 churches with connections to Central Asia as well as key agencies such as WorldVenture, DAI, Navigators and others that work in the region. We also desire to engage in greater ways with Central Asian nationals. This of course gives us in North America a better grasp of what is taking place in the region.
In 2015, the leadership of NACAF decided to turn the care of the ministry over to Crossover based in Columbia, South Carolina.
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