Lessons from the Great Steppe and Nomadic Life

Chua Thow Chiang

From 2019 to 2020, I had the opportunity to serve in Central Asia as a Mathematics and IT teacher. This region is vast and sparsely populated. Its land area is 20% larger than India’s, but its population is only 5% of India’s. The local people are most proud of the Great Steppe* and the nomadic life. Our school is located on the steppe,** surrounded by pastureland. 

Every day, we teachers travelled by car to and from the school. From the main road to the school, it was a long and winding road. On the way home, we would always encounter slow-moving cattle and sheep. Everyone would inevitably slow down to “sheep and cow” speed, look out over the vast grasslands, and give praise to our wonderful Creator God. Not surprisingly, the fatigue of the day would disappear. 

Occasionally, there were horses passing by and everyone in the car will immediately be on high alert. After all, “road” in the Chinese language is called a “horse path” (马路), so the horses have the right of way and you have to give sufficient space for them to pass by without running them over. Sometimes, when two or three horses chase each other, it feels like ten thousand horses galloping by, so extreme care must be taken. 

The local people say that only nomads are qualified to raise horses because they eat an astonishing amount of grass. Each horse needs one square kilometre of grassland. To visualise the space required, an area the size of Shanghai could only support 7,000 horses. These nomads follow their horses moving wherever their horses eat. 

In the Old Testament, there was a period of time when the Israelites also lived a nomadic life. Let us meditate on Psalm 20:7 as an encouragement in our day of BMWs and horsepower: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Will you consider coming out here to reach the unreached peoples of Central Asia? 

* The Great Steppe is found in Central Asia stretching from Ukraine to the Tian Shan ranges in China. (Wikipedia) 

** A steppe is an ecoregion characterised by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. (Wikipedia)