Stories from Paul H's Desk


The church of Isfara is alive! No-one could stop this ministry!

Tajikistan – 15 years after the assassination of missionary Sergey Bessarab:

At the bottom of the window frame you can still see the bullet holes – silent witnesses of that January evening in 2004 in the church of Isfara (Tajikistan), when missionary Sergey Bessarab died in the hail of bullets shot through the window. He had been praying in the sanctuary of the little church, playing his guitar and singing songs, when the shooting started and killed the servant of God.

A few years before, while in prison, Sergey had given his life to Jesus Christ Who set him free from an alcohol addiction and the life of a criminal. When released from prison, God sent him to Isfara, the heartland of radical Islam in Tajikistan. Sergey and his wife Tamara began caring for a small group of 5 believers and founded the first and only church in Isfara, the city with over 120 mosques. The church grew fast up to 50 members, many of them Tajiks. Opposition and threats from Islamic fundamentalists resulted in a public newsletter article with the headline: WHO WILL STOP THE MISSIONARY?

Through this window, the hail of bullets killed missionary and pastor Sergey Bessarab.

Sergey had been a criminal and prisoner. He accepted Christ in prison and later became pastor and missionary of the church of Isfara. 

He was assassinated in 2004, but the little church is alive, and God continues to write His story in Isfara today.


After the assassination of the missionary, the church of Isfara suffered persecution and oppression. Due to the threats many church members were afraid going to church. But the bullets which killed the servant of God couldn’t stop God’s work! God continues to write His story in Isfara through that little church in answer to the prayers of Sergey Bessarab.


Sergey Bessarab spent up to three hours per day on his knees. He would tell the people he wanted to win for Christ, “I will pray for you!”– Words with a powerful effect because he committed himself to prayer — Words that had an impact on his stepson Sergey jr. and lead him to repentance and acceptance of Christ at the funeral service by the grave of his stepfather. Those words entered the heart of the alcohol addict Anatoly, moving him to give his life to Jesus. Today, Anatoly and his wife Lena lovingly lead the small church of Isfara as well as the children’s ministry. Together with the widow Tamara, Lena witnesses, “I am convinced that it was for his prayers too that the church of Isfara survived.” Sergey had also prayed for the children and the ministry he started is being continued to this day by the church members of Isfara.

The church of Isfara today serves among children from families at risk and broken families.


The church of Isfara specifically serves children from at risk homes in Isfara and the surrounding towns of Taboshar, Shurab and Kanibadam. Every weekend, a crowd of up to 20 children comes from Shurab to the church of Isfara. None of them come from a “normal” family. Their homes are broken because of the poverty of the parents, due to unemployment and the terrible living conditions in Shurab, where people live without heating and even without water. People need to buy every single drop of water. Absolute hopelessless is the reason their parents run to and perish in alcohol and drugs. Their children are hungry, and lack basic hygiene. They try to survive on the streets and live on the edge of a criminal life. The only chance these children have lies in the effort of others to rescue them.

In the church of Isfara they find that which is so unfamiliar to them – love and care, people who understand and listen, who feed them and give them an opportunity to wash themselves. In Bible lessons written for children, they learn about Jesus Christ Who loves them and never leaves them alone, even in their greatest need.

Often, they stay for the weekend, because no-one cares for them in their own families. What a chance for the Christians to spend time with them and to plant God’s good Word in their hearts. Young people like Artyom and Faina are a fruit of this ministry today. When they were Children they too were running to the church to escape from their violent drunk parents. Today, they are preparing for baptism. Artyom wants to become a church minister and Faina plans on leading the children’s Sunday School.

The construction of the Hope Center was started.
These children are the future of the church of Isfara.


Up to 20 children come to the church of Isfara regularly and spend the weekend here. But the space in the little church is limited. They need a kitchen and a dining room, showers and sanitation, as well as bedrooms. A Hope Center can provide for all these needs and give children a chance to find living hope in the living God.

Today you can help build a Hope Center at the church of Isfara and develop the wonderful ministry once started by missionary Sergey Bessarab. A ministry he gave his life for–A ministry which is the future of the church of Isfara, and the future of a country predominated by Islam. Please help. With your prayer and your support you are part of God’s work through the church of Isfara, and of the next chapter of God’s story in this place.


The building project is for the size of 80 sq. meters and will include:

  • dining hall (for other activities too)
  • sanitary facilities
  • kitchen
  • accommodation
  • classrooms

Thank you for being part of God's story in Isfara!