For many years SU Scotland has supported the work of Scripture Union in Tajikistan, and we were delighted to recently welcome Mahbuba who, with her husband, leads Scripture Union's ministry in Tajikistan. As Communications & Marketing Coordinator, I had the opportunity to interview her during her visit and chat to her about their ministry.
Q1. Are you enjoying your visit so far?
Yes, I am! I've been away for four weeks now. We spent two weeks in Germany visiting friends who supply second hand clothes and building equipment for us. I don't get much time off, so that was as close to a holiday as I get. After Germany I came to the UK and Dima went home. For two weeks I have travelled around visiting people - we have lots of supporters in the UK who pray for us on a regular basis, so I am enjoying being able to visit them and show them photographs.
Q2. How did Dima and yourself come to work for Scripture Union in Tajikistan?
I come from a Muslim family. My sister became a Christian and she was praying for me for five years. Then when I was 18 years old my parents divorced, and this was a really difficult time for me. In Tajikistan family problems are looked down upon, and so I had no friends afterwards. I was lonely and isolated, and my sister invited me to a women's group at her church. There were women there from many backgrounds and that was where I first heard about Jesus being willing to be my friend. I became a Christian on the 9th November in 1999, and I was baptised the following June.
My sister ran Scripture Union in Tajikistan before me, and when she stepped down she asked me to take it on - I had been volunteering up until that point. I felt it was important to have a male involved in leadership too so I prayed for three years that God would send someone who would understand the heart of Scripture Union and what we are trying to do. I visited one church and spoke to the Pastor there to see if he knew of anyone, and he recommended Dima, who had just graduated from Bible College. Dima was already doing similar work with children (he had a group running in his house) and was eager to volunteer with Scripture Union. After a period of working together I asked him to take on the leadership of Scripture Union in Tajikistan and I would support him, so we swapped roles. It's another story altogether, but we also ended up getting married!
Q3. What does Scripture Union Tajikistan do?
Most of our work involves opening up our home to run clubs for children and young people where we do fun activities, share meals together and teach. At the moment we run seven clubs every week, each clubs lasts about four hours. There is very little for children and young people to do in Tajikistan - we don't have all of the activities that you have here - so many of them are bored and have little to interest them. That is why they enjoy our clubs so much. In addition to that we do a lot of work with families and mothers - many women are isolated and lonely, so we try to bring them together and give them friendship. We have also started up a club for girls preparing for marriage.
Dima works in a school outside of the city - he cannot do any Scripture Union work in the school, but we run two clubs near the school and many of the children attend these clubs. We also help the school to hold celebrations on national holidays and at Easter and Christmas. We then have big parties in our home at Easter and Christmas where we invite over 35 families to join us for the day - this takes a lot of preparation and planning!
In addition to all of this we have campsite that we use in the summer and take the young people away.
On a Friday we open up our house to our volunteers - we have 15 at the moment and they all work very hard. We plan Bible study programmes for the team and many of them help to run this. Also on Saturdays Dima leads a Bible study for older people - this group are very supportive of our work with young people and often provide food for camp.
Q4. What part of the work are you most passionate about?
I love working with the mothers, as we do so much with them. When I was younger I dreamt about being a designer but I wasn't allowed. Now, I am teaching the mothers how to decorate their houses and we do a lot of arts and crafts. Many of the mothers don't have anything else to do during the day so we are able to spend a lot of time together. It is also a good opportunity for me to learn from them, as most have children older than my own.
Q5. Over the last few years our campers have helped to raise money for your campsite - how is the work going, and how will it make a difference to your ministry?
It's going really well, and thank you so much for your help and support. Our young people are very excited about this campsite and have been very involved in helping with the work - this has taught them how to work and how to be patient. Last summer we planted 150 trees, and this September we will be inviting all of the children that we work with, and from the school that Dima teaches in, to come and plant their own tree on the campsite - they are all very excited about this as they are beginning to see it as their camp site. There is still a lot to do and we are working hard, but we have many friends helping.
Q6. How do you balance family life with running the clubs and also building on the campsite?
Last year I didn't - I worked too much, and as a result I had to take two months off. Now we have decided to take one day off every week that is ours, and we turn off our phones and don't answer the door. It is difficult because most of our ministry is done in our home and we always have an open door and lots of people round, so it has been important for us to make this decision in order to keep our door open at other times. We are also trying to get more volunteers involved, and I am especially teaching my trainee leaders not to try and do everything themselves, but to share the work around and work as a team.
Q7. Are there any passages from the Bible that particularly inspire you in your ministry?
The books of Timothy are a constant source of reassurance for me, because most of my work is with mothers who are older and more experienced than I am. I often ask myself, how can I teach people older than me? But God uses young people and we shouldn't feel scared if that's what he's calling us to do.