Poverty after his father’s murder drove Rustam to robbery before a Damascus-style conversion brought him to Christ. Now a pastor who has served in both Tajikistan and Afghanistan, he recorded SAT-7’s first discipleship series for Tajik viewers.
Growing up with 10 siblings in one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union meant that life for Rustam Begaliev was never very rosy. But when, at 14, his father was lethally poisoned by someone who wanted his father’s factory, things took a dramatic turn for the worse.
The tragedy spurred Rustam’s decision to study medicine. But in 1990, Tajikistan was about to leave the crumbling Soviet Union and, like most of his countrymen, Rustam had no money. In desperation to fund his studies, he took to robbing people in the streets!
A turning point came when Rustam and his accomplices began attending classes run by a Korean Tae Kwando instructor. The instructor was also a Korean missionary to Tajikistan and he started each session with a Bible reading.
“One day,” Rustam says, “the instructor said, ‘Jesus Christ is the risen Lord – He wants to have a personal relationship with you.’”
That night, Rustam awoke to find his bedroom bathed in light. He turned and saw a person clothed in white, who told him, “I am Jesus Christ, the risen Lord”.
Rustam was suddenly gripped by Jesus’ holiness and his own sinfulness. Very afraid, he asked Jesus to forgive him. Jesus answered: “Do not be afraid. Serve me and spread my Word in the whole world.”
POWER OF SATELLITE TV
Right away, Rustam started to assist the Korean missionary in his work and went on to train at a Moscow seminary. In 2001, he began nine years of Christian service in Afghanistan, where Dari, the Afghan variant of Persian, is spoken (Tajik, Dari and Farsi speakers can understand each other effortlessly). It was in Afghanistan that Rustam first encountered the power of satellite television.
“I met many believers there who had come to Christ through watching satellite TV – mostly SAT-7 – and they were very strong in their faith,” Rustam explains.
After returning to Tajikistan in 2010, Rustam served first as an assistant pastor and then began the two congregations he pastors today. One in his home village has 30 to 40 members and the other in the capital, Dushanbe, has 20.
They are encouraged, Rustam says, “to be missionary churches, to spread the word and give it to the next person”.
In a country that has just 65 registered churches, they have a big mission field. Rustam’s series on SAT-7 will provide much needed biblical resources to existing believers.
FROM PASTOR TO TV PRESENTER
For years, Rustam prayed for Christian media to develop in Tajikistan, but now says, “I see God had another way: to make programs through SAT-7.”
When Rustam heard that a TV producer was looking for Tajik Bible teachers for SAT-7, he didn’t hesitate: he had all the content for our new program Foundations of Christian Faith already prepared.
The series was directed by Finland-based producer Mikael Tunér, who works for SAT-7 media partner The Messengers. The program’s 13-minute episodes will offer an easy-to-understand but extensive grounding in the Christian faith for Tajik believers.
Over 20 episodes, the series will cover core teaching on the character of God, Bible doctrines and foundations of faith, and practical teaching on prayer, discipleship and obedience.
“One of the problems the Tajik church has is that there is not enough teaching,” Rustam says. “My hope is that many Tajiks will watch and be fully established and strengthened in faith. I hope other pastors will realize they can make programs with SAT-7 too.”
Since last year, the launch of SAT-7’s Persian language channel on a second satellite means that far more Tajiks can easily watch these programs.
As SAT-7 seeks to increase the production of Tajik and Afghan programs, please pray that new presenters from these countries will be found. Pray for all new Tajik and Afghan believers. Many face fierce opposition from their families. Pray for them to stay strong and grow in faith despite adversity.