A former police officer in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan was ordained earlier this month as the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s first pastor from the native population.
Talgat S. Kubegenov was ordained during a mission conference at the Tokmok Adventist Church in Tokmok in Chuy Province on June 14.
Kubegenov, 39, has already been serving as a pastor of two churches and has worked as secretary-treasurer of the denomination’s Kyrgyzstan Mission since 2010.
Kubegenov is a graduate of the Academy of Home Affairs Ministry and joined the church in 2002. He was ordained a local church elder in 2005, and in 2008 the Adventist Church hired him as a Global Mission Pioneer.
“It was heartwarming to see this small but successful step,” said Ben Schoun, an Adventist world church vice president, who attended the ceremony. “I’m aware that several countries in the region can be difficult for our church to work in, but God is helping us accomplish some very wonderful things.”
Kyrgyzstan, which shares a border with China, is a former Soviet republic. It became an independent country when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991. Many citizens work in mining and agriculture. Its current population is roughly 5.5 million. A large majority of the population is Muslim, and many are also Russian Orthodox.
The Adventist message came to Central Asia through German missionary Philipp Trippel in 1906, said Denis Sand, director of Adventist Mission for the Southern Union Mission, based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. In 1915, the construction of the Orlovka Adventist Church became the denomination’s first church in the region, then known as Turkestan. It had 50 members.
Adventists and other Christians faced heavy persecution during the reign of the Soviet Union, Sand said. Many members buried their Bibles each time after reading them.
Today, the Adventist Church in Kyrgyzstan has nearly 800 members and operates the only elementary school in the Southern Union Mission.
The church in Kyrgyzstan employs Global Mission pioneers who work in the country. At this month’s mission conference, about a dozen GM pioneers graduated from a training program, Schoun said. Earlier this month, the church also opened a new Adventist World Radio studio in Bishkek, home to the Adventist Church’s Kyrgyzstan Mission.