May 1, 2015

Central Asian mothers experience Christian community through book study

Written by  Chris Fretz
The first Wisdom for Mothers study group watches one of the DVDs. The first Wisdom for Mothers study group watches one of the DVDs. Photo provided by an EMM worker in Central Asia.

CENTRAL ASIA — After leading a 10-week group study of the book Wisdom for Mothers by Denise Glenn, an Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) worker in Central Asia has facilitated translation of the book into the local language and is hosting Glenn and her husband for an upcoming book tour in May.

“The desire for more Christian family resources to be made available here has often been expressed during our years here, especially by women struggling to know what Christian family should look like,” said EMM worker Maria. “Most of the Christians here are first generation believers, with few or no examples of how to raise Godly children or what a Godly marriage involves.”

Maria and her husband Alexander (whose real names are not used to avoid endangering the local Christians they serve) learned of the book Wisdom for Mothers from another worker who used to live in their city. Maria joined with her pastor’s wife to facilitate a group book study with 12 women from various churches.

“Women from different churches studying together was unique as there is usually not a lot of crossover between different church groups,” said Maria. “Some were in full-time ministry positions, others were pastors’ wives, and others were simply church members with typical jobs in the community. The focus of the book is less on teaching women specific techniques for raising their children and more on repeatedly pointing them to the source of wisdom that they need to parent well.”

Although the study had a strong impact on the women, some of whom were navigating generational patterns of spousal abuse and alcoholism, many of them had trouble understanding certain parts of the book due to reading it in a trade language common in the region rather than in their own language.

“For women from smaller villages or less educated families, their education in the trade language was not sufficient for fully grasping the text and entering into the study on their own,” said Maria. “We long for spiritual formation and expression in this nation to take place in the heart language of the people, so we have chosen to learn the local language rather than the trade language.”

Maria’s co-facilitator has since translated the book, with editorial assistance from several women in the community. There are now 1,000 copies of the workbook available in the local language. Although the leader’s guide and DVDs are still only available in the trade language, Maria and local church leaders are planning on using any proceeds from the sale of the translated workbooks to translate the leader’s guide and DVDs.

There are currently plans for new groups to start using the translated workbooks in 12 different villages in another part of the country.

Maria and Alexander have kept in touch with the missionary who first introduced them to Wisdom for Mothers and learned that she was working for Kardo, the ministry organization of the author and her husband. The Glenns often travel to locations where their studies are being introduced and give presentations at weekend marriage and family conferences.

The Glenns plan to travel to Central Asia for two weeks in May and will present at two conferences in the country where Maria serves, one in the capital city and another in the second largest city.

Maria said that the study has been designed to encourage Christian community in a culture where sharing together is not often encouraged.

“It emphasizes the need for Christian community in which older, more experienced women can help to encourage the younger; where there can be open sharing and prayer support,” said Maria. “This model was what God laid on my heart. I hoped to increase the openness and vulnerability of these women, something that doesn’t happen easily in a shame/honor culture where preserving your reputation is often the highest priority.”

While Maria is seeing the book studies bear fruit in other mothers, she is also learning about God’s plan for her as a mother and for her children.

“My children were uniquely created by God for unique purposes. I too am uniquely created and am different than other mothers. Only God can fully know and understand all of the intricate and intimate details of our family’s personalities, needs, and calling, and so He can provide the best wisdom and answers to my parenting questions.”

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