Using Tradition in Evangelism

by The Bible League

For centuries in Central Asia, oral tradition has been the major source of wisdom and history. According to the common stories, no one knows where the "Father of Blessings" comes from or where he goes. Also called "the Father of Travels," this stranger travels incognito from village to village, blessing people. If you greet him respectfully, you will get a blessing, but if you don't greet him respectfully, you will lose your blessing and happiness.

The Father of Blessings tradition is the root of much of the remarkable hospitality Central Asians extend to strangers. Central Asians sincerely welcome strangers and grasp their hands to greet them because of this tradition. Folklore says that if you touch a stranger's hand and you feel an emptiness or hole there, you have identified the true Father of Blessings. You are to hold on to him until he blesses you.

This mysterious stranger is said to often ride into town on a donkey. Many times after blessing a person, he disappears. It is common to say to those leaving on a trip, "May your road be unobstructed, and may your road companion be the Father of Blessings."

The Bible League's director of Central Asian Ministries has recently unraveled the ancient mystery surrounding "the Father of Blessings." His discovery has opened the door for tradition-loving Central Asians to hear the gospel in a new light.

The First Century Thomas

Historical research reveals that before the Apostle Thomas took the message of Christ to India where he died, he brought news of Jesus to Central Asia. The folklore of the Father of Blessings is, in fact, the remnant of the stories that Thomas told about his Lord, passed on from mouth to mouth for 2,000 years. Today, this folklore is the key to opening the Bible to people of this region. The Father of Blessings is the key for them to recognize the One who can truly bless them—with eternal life.

The Biblical Bridge

There are several passages in Scripture that link to this Central Asian figure:

‑The practice of holding on to the Father of Blessings parallels Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with God or an angel or a man and holds on until he gets a blessing.

‑Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. In John 20, when the other disciples tell Thomas, he replied, "I will not believe until I put my finger in the holes in his hand and in his side." Then Jesus appeared and said, "Thomas, come, don't doubt, believe, put your fingers into my hand and in my side." The identifying mark of the Father of Blessings is the very thing that Jesus used to prove his identity to Thomas.

‑The Father of Blessings rides into town on a donkey, just as Jesus rode into Jerusalem in Luke 19. There is no other prophet in Islamic culture who rides on a donkey.

‑In Luke 24, two followers of Jesus walked on the road to Emmaus. The incognito Jesus came alongside the two men. This is similar to the parting wish "May your road be unobstructed, and may your road companion be the Father of Blessings." The disciples didn't recognize Him, but their hearts burned within them. Like a Central Asian, Jesus tore the bread. And just as in the folklore, their eyes are opened, they realize who He is, and then Jesus disappears.

When people of this region hear these passages, they are often gripped by the Bible because it so relates to their culture. Something so often thought to be Russian or Western suddenly feels like a Central Asian book—their own book.

How do Christians in this region use this analogy in witnessing? They speak of the Father of Blessings and suggest they know his name. Central Asians naturally want to know it, and through this curiosity the Scriptures can be introduced and explained. Then they, too, can know the true Father of Blessings: Jesus.

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