A Baptist businessman in Uzbekistan tells about his success
Dmitry Pitirimov, a Baptist lay pastor and computer programmer by trade, believes it takes a miracle to be a successful Christian businessman in today's Uzbekistan, reports William Yoder, Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. In a conversation in Berlin in early December he stated: "Without miracles, business success is not possible. But we are believers, and believers believe in miracles, right? If we attempt something in faith, then all is possible."
In 1989, three years before Pitirmov became a Christian, a US-American appeared in Tashkent. Together they quickly formed a company selling and servicing computers. They were early on the scene, in fact, they were the first private US-Uzbekistan Joint Venture founded in still-socialist Uzbekistan. The business was highly successful, but in 1991, the bank in which their profits were deposited folded. The Uzbek Baptist concedes: "That was a big amount of money which we lost forever."
The American departed, and in 1995 Pitirimov was able to officially open a travel office in Tashkent. That was a natural development, for he had spent years hosting both church and business visitors from the West. He explains: "We had already worked for guests as interpreters. We even obtained living quarters and food for some. Many large firms in Uzbekistan got started with our help. I have remained a programmer at heart, but the industry of tourism is largely a matter of the Internet."
This Baptist cannot separate faith and business. He stresses that his travel office – it has five employees - will only deal with customers who come to Uzbekistan for morally upright reasons. "We do not cooperate with tourists who come there to drink vodka or to deal in prostitution - we do not need their money. So many of our customers are repeat customers, and many indeed are Christians." See their
The businessman also believes in the unity of all Christian believers: "I do not think that we could unify ourselves in one common house, but we can be unified in our struggle for a better future in our country." He cites an example from Columbia/South America, where the joint protest of believers led to a dramatic drop in government corruption.
Dmitry Pitirimov has taken hard knocks as a businessman – but so has his denomination. So many Russian-speaking Baptists have left Uzbekistan, that the church now consists essentially "of a new generation which joined in the 1990s". There are few ethnic Uzbeks in the church and the several congregations consisting primarily of Uzbeks "have many problems with the government. So when Uzbeks come to the faith, they usually do so in secret."
But the businessman remains an unreformable optimist. "This may sound strange," he admits, "but I believe only in a positive future for Uzbekistan. I will continue to live there and also wish a healthy future there for my grandchildren. We will pray and struggle against corruption. We will proclaim the Gospel and that will change our country for the better." He continued: "Our primary problem is fear, and fear results in passivity. But if one believes in Jesus Christ, one has no reason to be fearful."
Remaining in Uzbekistan is also a result of faith in God's promises. Pitirimov recalled: "In 1993 I asked myself: 'Why are Russians emigrating to America while Americans are coming to Uzbekistan to proclaim the Gospel?' If I would leave too, it would mean that I am dissatisfied with my salary or the lack of security. But I do not want anything more – I am satisfied." The businessman therefore made an agreement with God: If he has bread and the freedom to preach the Gospel, then he will not go anywhere else. "I will remain where God has promised to supply me with all that is necessary."
The Baptist reports that all the able-bodied in his small, 30-member congregation are employed. "If a person has no work, we pray that the person might find some. We believe God has a job for you, that you can find it, and that he will take care of you. We believe that if you want something important and you attempt to achieve it honestly, then God will bless your efforts." The Baptist stresses that his congregation is very much capable of funding itself.
Pitirimov sees summer camp as a wonderful opportunity to instill Christian values in the young. Though they themselves number only several thousand, the Baptists of Uzbekistan hold a summer camp involving eight sessions with 70 children each time. Their Camp Director states: "Kids need to feel that they are somebody and that they can achieve something. And if they cannot use their gifts to realise the good, they will use them to realise the bad. Kids are the most wonderful gift we have."