A View From the Tenth Floor
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                       10 Dec 2008

Narrator #1:

It is a long way down to the street from Ivan’s tenth floor flat.  At 8 o’clock in the morning there are only a few people up and about.  For most, their work does not start until 9 o’clock.  Of course, the construction cranes are silent now and they will probably not work today.  Construction has slowed to almost a standstill due to financial problems and mismanagement. 

Ivan’s 14-floor apartment building is located on the right bank of the Ishim River and was built four years ago.  His flat has three rooms with a total area of about 500 square feet.  It is a comfortable place but the kitchen is awfully small.  The steel door to his apartment building conceals a world of apprehension.  He wonders as he prepares to push the button for the elevator, … will it be working or will he have to make the long climb to the 10th floor…again. He doesn’t notice the graffiti very much nor the fact that the entry way and stairwell are always dirty.  His biggest concerns are the floors that seem to be breaking apart and the plumbing leaks in both the kitchen and the bathroom. No one seems too concerned about it.  At least this is better than during the Soviet times when the city was called Tselinograd meaning “Virgin Lands Town”. 

It was in the 1960’s that Ivan’s family moved to Kazakhstan from central Russia in response to Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s Virgin Lands Project.  It was good at first when the pasture land used by the Kazakh nomads was plowed up to grow wheat, but the crops began to fail in a few years because of poor management.  The farm collectives that were set up are idle.  The system didn’t work because the bureaucrats from the Kremlin failed to understand the soil and climate of the steppe.   Ivan and his parents worked hard during those years at what they were told to do, but the rewards were few.  

 Things changed for Ivan’s family in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell and Kazakhstan declared independence. The new government set up a democracy and provisions for private ownership of property; … a very difficult concept to grasp in those early years. A large number of people returned to their homeland. There were Russians, Germans, Belarusians, Ukrainians and millions of others who were either exiled here under Lenin and Stalin or who immigrated here because of Khrushchev’s promises. They worked in the mines, the factories and on the collective farms. This exodus caused grim problems for Kazakhstan during the first few years of independence since the skilled workforce was significantly reduced. 

Ivan’s family chose to remain where they were since they now lived in a small dacha on the edge of Tselinograd.  However, shortly after the end of Soviet rule, the name of their city was changed back to its Kazakh name of Akmola. Several members of his family still live in the area.  Their gardens are always productive and his extended family enjoys getting together in the fall to harvest the fruits and vegetables.  Ivan still claims the old home place as his dacha … a place to get away from the crowded city life.  The house is in bad shape and no one lives there on a regular basis. His parents are both dead and are buried in the Orthodox cemetery north of the city.  

Overlay:  Pray for Ivan and others like him to be open to the message of Hope 

Ivan’s grandfather, Boris, is a veteran of the “Great Patriotic War”.  At 94 years old, he has difficulty getting around but proudly displays his ribbons.  Boris’ two sons, Oleg and Sergei, care for him.  His wife is in better health and spends most of her time watching television … but doesn’t seem very interested.  They all live in a development about two miles from Ivan’s dacha. 

Overlay:  Pray for a small group fellowship to begin in Oleg’s home

The kitchen in this new home is a real contrast to the one in Ivan’s flat.   In front of the house, there is even a small garden and flowerbed.  Ivan’s uncle is a businessman and makes good money so he can afford this neighborhood. There is plenty of room for kids to play. It seems to be a good place to live, … much better than his flat, … but it is too far from his work.  Besides, where would he get the money for a house like this?  Perhaps he could build a place out of scrap materials like old railroad ties, which are used in the house going up down the road. 

Overlay:  Pray for multiple small group fellowships to spring up all across Astana 

Ivan’s job in construction has been cut back and he, … along with his friends, … have difficulty in paying the rent.  Fortunately, his wife Tania works at the meat market located in the large enclosed bazaar just across the street from their apartment building.  She enjoys her work and talking to the other employees even though most are Kazakh and they often talk among themselves in their own language. Meat and other food products are very expensive in that store. Usually she purchases her fresh fruit and vegetables at the neighborhood outdoor markets because items cost less. Also the small supermarket nearby has about all they need and is more convenient.  

Ivan’s car broke down a year ago so he no longer owns one.  The gas is too expensive anyway costing 100 Tenge per liter … or about $3.24 per gallon.  At 50 cents a ride, buses cost a lot less to get around the city even though they are often crowded.   

André, Ivan’s son, wants to go to college but he has not been able to get a scholarship to pay the tuition.  It seems that the Kazakhs get most of the opportunities at the better universities like the Eurasian National University.   For now, André is working across the river in the new part of the city maintaining equipment for the shiny new buildings.  It is not what he wants to do but at least he has a job.   

Overlay:  Pray for volunteers to work with college students  

Ivan is bothered that the government spends so much money making the area on the left bank a showcase for the world but, … in his neighborhood … on the right bank … the streets have many potholes, …and sidewalks are only partially finished and actually dangerous for children.  There are no lawns … only weeds and trash in places where grass could grow.  In the “new” city crews are assigned to carefully manicure the lawns and take care of the trees and sidewalks.  But, thus far, … where Ivan lives … it is simply ugly and ignored by everyone.  Just prior to the 10th anniversary of Astana becoming the new capital of Kazakhstan, clean up and repairs were made in the city, even on the “right bank”.  But now that celebrations are over, things are once again slipping into disrepair.  

Overlay:  Pray for small group fellowships in apartment buildings and private homes  

As a Russian, Ivan considers himself Orthodox but he has not prayed to the icons for God’s help in years.  Yet, Ivan is a good man.  He does not get drunk like so many others and takes care of his family the best he can.  A new church is under construction within walking distance of their flat.  When it is finished, Tania plans to go and see what it is like but Ivan is no longer interested in religious things. 

Overlay:  Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel 

Prologue – Narrator #2:

In Astana and throughout Kazakhstan, there are many people like Ivan and his family.  They are doing OK and are better off than before independence.  However, as Russians, they feel marginalized since the prestige and power of the former Soviet Union is now gone. There is a sense of emptiness in their lives.  They feel threatened by the prominence of the Kazakh people and their culture while forgetting about those who immigrated or were exiled to Kazakhstan.  

Even though progress can be seen outside of his 10th floor window, there is uncertainty, … fear, … and hopelessness in Ivan’s heart.  True Hope for Ivan will not come from improved circumstances or a better living environment, instead it will come when someone shares with him that there is person who cares, …

Overlay:  Pray for volunteer teams to come and interact with Ivan and others

who will give him joy and peace … and who promises never to leave him in any circumstance.   

Local believers already know this. But the facts seem overwhelming in Astana: almost one million people – only one Baptist church. 

Overlay:  First (and only) Baptist Church of Astana 

Believers in Astana, … Russians and Kazakhs, … gather together at this church for worship knowing that only through the power of God will neighbors, like Ivan, hear about the One who can change their lives. They are praying, but the task seems so large. They are trying, but the task seems overwhelming.  

Every weekday morning, a small group of Russian and Kazakh believers gather together to pray for their city and sing songs of praise … songs of rejoicing.  They urge the people of Kazakhstan to rejoice and are thankful that God is with them.  They anticipate the time when Emmanuel will come to all. 

Won’t you consider coming to Astana

Overlay:  Pray for short and long term personnel to serve in Astana

on either a short-term mission trip or a longer term of commitment?

  Narrator #2:

“But how can they call on Him to save them
 unless they believe in Him?
And how can they believe in Him
 if they have never heard about Him?
And how can they hear about Him
 unless someone tells them?”   

Overlay:  Romans 10:14 (NLT)


Akmola                       awk-mah-LAH

André                          AHN-drey

Boris                           bor-EES

Isham                          EE-shem

Ivan                             ee-VAHN

Oleg                            ah-LEG

Sergei                         sair-GAY

Tania                           TAHN-ya

Tenge                          TEN-gay

Tselinograd                tse-LIN-a-grad


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