LIVERPOOL - The backdrop of a pastoral student's experience in Central Asia is set in villages where the name of Jesus is not uttered, girls are bought by wealthy men as young as seven years old to be brides, and orphanages are filled with children who will probably never see adoption.
These individuals training to be pastors and missionaries attend Bible colleges in the country of Moldova and surrounding areas. These schools are made possible by a ministry known as Key Ministries based in Perry County.
Paul Beech, of Richfield, is the spokesperson for the ministry organization, traveling to churches in Pennsylvania to raise awareness as well as traveling abroad to the Asian Countries in the "Silk Road" region of the world.
Paul Beech, director of development for Keys Ministries, holds an ancient city gate key while visiting in the former Soviet Union. The key, he said, symbolizes Keys Ministries.
Beech was named Director of Development in 2011 after spending years as senior pastor at Richfield Mennonite Church.
He spoke to The Sentinel shortly after his new position began in the summer of 2011, when he was ready to embark on his ministry endeavors. This summer, he spoke to The Sentinel again, sharing what has developed in the first year.
The former RMC pastor was working internationally on three separate occasions in the past year in Turkey, Romania and Moldova. Beech was once again face to face with pastoral students in the former Soviet Union on his most recent trip April 10-23. He joined them as they learned first-hand where their mission field was located.
"Sex and slave trafficking that is the 'at-risk' group," Beech said. Young girls in impoverished families are purchased by the wealthy men, promising the family money in return to help them live a better life. The result is a young girl becoming a party of a harem.
"If you're female and attractive, you are in trouble," Beech explained, adding that if men do not find the young women attractive, the girls still face grave circumstances as they are then bought for slavery as part of the caste system.
Keys Ministries is currently training over 500 college students who are nationals from the Asian Countries enrolled in colleges in eight different regions. They are being instructed how to present the gospel in a safe manner and to develop relationships with families in poor villages before they make the decision to sell their loved ones into prostitution and slavery.
The students at the colleges training to be missionaries and pastors are not white Americans. They are citizens of their country. They are members of their community some of whom live within the poorest villages and are able to attend the college based on Keys Ministries' funding.
These native men and women have the best chance of reaching those who know little about Christianity, Beech said.
"They know everyone in their town. Most times when you share the message of Jesus Christ in public the people reject it. But many of them return in secret to the pastor and ask questions," Beech said.
"When people in the former Soviet countries are told it is illegal to be a Christian they conclude if the government is against it, it must be the truth," he added.
However, when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior in these areas, "Their life is so full of a joy they become like a city on a hill," Beech said referring to the scripture in Matthew 5:14.
Some of the other ways the college students are reaching out in these areas is by means of setting up halfway houses for orphan girls exposed to sex trafficking. There are also women's clinics built within the villages to give girls free pap smear testing and prenatal care. The students in these clinics are primarily women who are also nurses.
The villages are accepting of this free health care opportunity and do not question the origin of the facility, Beech said.
"Most in the community do not know they are students," Beech said and added half of the colleges are "underground" schools because of the risk of government intervention, including death.
During Beech's most recent trip he saw first-hand the dangers involved in sharing the Gospel. Simply carrying a Bible in one's hands can be trouble.
The team members from the college were travelling with Beech. Beech left a cab and forgot his Bible. The men inside the car were fined $210 for having Christian literature. Beech asked his friends upon hearing the news if it was because of his Bible they were charged. His friends only smiled and told him they did not want him to worry. Had Beech been found holding the Bible the penalty would have been higher because he would be viewed as an American missionary instead of just a tourist simply for carrying a Bible.
"It's real," Beech said of the persecution.
His friends then told him they had faced $5,000 in fine sin the past year for holding Christian literature. Helping pay for those fines is a need of Keys Ministries. Anyone who would like to donate to that need can contact Keys Ministries in Liverpool or Paul Beech directly.
Beech is still available to speak locally and to raise awareness of the spiritual and financial needs. Those seeking more information can contact him by phone at 694-3232, email, firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Keys Ministries (Attn Director of Development), 381 Barner Church Road, Liverpool Pa., 17045. The website for the ministry is www.voiceforthepersecuted.com.