One ministry in Kyrgyzstan works with tuberculosis patients to share with them the hope and healing message of Christ’s death and resurrection.
In some cultures, tuberculosis (TB) is associated with witchcraft or familial curses. This is due in part to ignorance about how TB is spread and it often being associated with HIV, poverty, drug use, homelessness, imprisonment or being a refugee.
One young man shared about the stigma that he faced when he was diagnosed with TB as a 14-year-old. “When I went out with my cousins, some family members would make me eat from a separate plate and would not allow me to sit with my cousins during meals – I had to eat sitting in a corner….
“There were many challenges in school. Parents at school would say, ‘You are going to die soon anyway, so why are you coming to school and spoiling [hurting] our children.’… It was only after I completed TB treatment that I told my friends and relatives I had TB. They then asked me why I was not covering my mouth at the time or tying a handkerchief around my face/mouth – they were not aware that TB can affect other parts of your body too, apart from the lungs.”
The weight of being treated like an outcast, feeling lost and unwanted, can deeply impact a person’s mind and heart, especially for those without any hope beyond this life and in a God who cares.
The Prayers that Move Hearts
World Challenge’s partners in Kyrgyzstan started a ministry to help those who had contracted tuberculosis. One team member explained how ministering to this group definitely comes with challenges.
First of all,” he explained, “in our society, there is a lot of stigma and negative attitudes that people with TB face in their lives. Of course, this shapes the way they feel and think in a certain way. They find it hard to trust people.” On top of the social and emotional toll, TB sufferers face an extra dimension of difficulty. “They also struggle with the whole variety of side effects from the medicines they take. When we started the ministry, we found many depressed, quickly running out of energy, struggling with memory — simply unhappy people.”
Overcoming social rejection and depression while taking medical side effects into account is a major factor for the team as they share the gospel with those who are ill.
Serving in this area requires a lot of time, patience, persistence and God’s grace. Each team member tries to make sure that they share the good news or explain Bible stories in a brief and understandable manner, otherwise those who are on the medication or still struggling with the worst symptoms of the disease get fatigued and cannot stay engaged.
Rysbek* was one young man that they met through the ministry. “[He] was most tough to build a rapport with,” our partner shared. “He was not willing to communicate and was not interested in our sessions. Sometimes he even interrupted on purpose, simply to distract us from telling about God.
“We decided to pray for [Rysbek] even more ,and it took us a while, but we did not want to give up on him and kept asking God to grant grace to this man. After a few meetings, we started to see changes in this man. His appearance changed. He looked more peaceful, more relaxed and started to smile. We realized God working with his heart and bringing him healing.”
Rysbek began to listen to the lessons and ask questions. The team took time to sit with him individually and talk about the thoughts he had on the lessons. As they grew closer to him, he began to open up and share about his past.
Restored Heart, Body and Soul
As Rysbek listened to the stories the team shared, his heart opened to the truth. They decided one day to bring him a Bible as a gift. “He was so amazed and happy and said he would surely read it all the time!”
Through God, Rysbek was discovering hope and the burning desire to live this new life that was taking hold inside of his sick body. This, our partner explained, was particularly noteworthy because “Many times, TB patients feel rejected and almost as if they ‘do not belong’ anymore to their families and their lives before TB.”
The work that Christ was doing in Rysbek’s heart and life was incredibly encouraging, but then the government ordered COVID-19 quarantine measures to be taken, and the team was not allowed into the TB hospital for a time.
While they were away, doctors decided to run another series of tests on Rysbek to see how he was responding to the medications. What they found shocked them.
Rysbek was healthy. His body no longer showed signs of the tuberculosis. They dismissed him from the hospital because he no longer needed to be there. When the team heard the news, they began celebrating his healing. They were able to get his contact information and are currently looking for a church or fellowship group in his area to make sure he continues to be discipled.
“We praise our Lord, who has a clue to every heart and has love for every person,” our partners wrote. “God can restore lives, relationships, bodies and souls! May the name of our Lord, who answers our prayers, be glorified.”
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
*Not real name. For safety reasons, we don’t release names or specific locations in highly sensitive areas.