Photo CC Juho Korhonen

Sharshenbeck was a committed Muslim, following a faith that had long been a part of his Kyrgyz culture.  He prayed five times a day and was actively involved in his local mosque.  He also ran a used-car parts business, a job that requires a tough, calloused demeanor.

Sharshenbeck’s wife, Taalaykul, had also been raised a Muslim, but at some point in their married life she had stopped attending mosque.  Sharshenbeck detected a change in her – she seemed more at peace and kinder – but he didn’t understand why.  When he finally found out, he was enraged.  She had been sneaking off to a Christian church with a friend!

I forbid you from going there ever again,” he threatened her, but his bullying did not stop her.  For nine years, in spite of continued threats and abuse from Sharshenbeck, Taalaykul attended church.  Feeling he could no longer control her, Sharshenbeck warned he would do something drastic if she didn’t stop.

During this time, Taalaykul was not only attending church; she was also praying for her husband.  She prayed that God would change his heart and bring him into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Suddenly one night, in the middle of his sleep, Sharshenbeck woke up screaming, sweat pouring down his face and neck.  Taalaykul tried to calm him down, but he couldn’t stop crying.  ”It was Jesus,” he tried to explain. “He kept asking me again and again, ‘Why are you running from Me?’”

Jesus’ midnight visit proved to be an experience Sharshenbeck could not shake.  He soon stopped attending mosque, sold his business and moved to Kiev, Ukraine, with his wife and family, where he enrolled in a Bible college, thanks to a Christian organization that offered to pay his tuition.

Sharshenbeck eventually returned to Kyrgyzstan “on fire for the Lord.” He now pastors a church of 60 parishioners, considered a large congregation in this Central Asian country that is still culturally Muslim.

With much enthusiasm, he talks passionately about bringing his fellow Kyrgyz to the Lord.  He has even agreed to share what it means to be a Christ-follower on FEBC’s new FM station.

When asked if he was afraid to share his faith publicly on the radio, he simply answered, “We’re told by our Lord that we can expect to be persecuted for our faith.  My job is to share Christ.  The rest I leave in God’s hands.”

Learn more about First Generation Churches

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