Jeff Thormodson, director of the MissionShift Insitute, and I were guests in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, for three weeks in late 2016. First let me say that the hospitality was outstanding. The Kyrgyz people are uniformly friendly and caring and the Christians among them specialize in making people feel welcome, so that was a highlight of the trip. The accommodations at the Philemon House were excellent and I met many dedicated, mission-oriented people in that venue. This place of shelter was homey with modern touches (can anybody say high-speed internet?). The food in town was also outstanding, or to put it in the words of Thormodson who was with me, “It was impossible to find a bad restaurant.”
As to what I accomplished as a professor, I was there to teach a Reformation course over 60 hours of classroom time. This actually amounted to a bit less than 30 hours of material, as the translator had to turn my English into Russian. The students were attentive when they weren’t sick (some kind of flu was going around) and interested in the subject. I had eight students, but there were frequently 12 or so in the classroom, including the local professors and other interested listeners.
The high point of the trip was being a guest at the home of Bishop Kenjebek Botabaev. After seeing the beautiful snow-capped mountains and visiting the memorial to war and revolutions, we came to his home. Abundance is not an adequate noun to express the amount of delicious food, caring and love that was shown us there in a four-hour, “feast for a King.” There we also exchanged gifts and I received the honor of receiving a Lutheran pastor’s hat and a beautiful leather picture of “the philosophical” Manas, a folk hero of the Kyrgyz people. I will remember fondly my visit, and look forward to returning again in the future.
Dr. Timothy Dost is associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.