Below is a true Boots on the Road story highlighting one of the many unreached people groups along the Silk Road. This story is excerpted from the book, Live Dead Together: A Practice in Group Abiding. Order the book and find other Live Dead resources here.

Ever dream of hiking into a valley lost in time, still appearing very much the same as it did hundreds of years earlier? The Yagnob valley is such a place and is home to the unreached people group, the Yagnobi. Houses, lifestyle and celebrations are like a snapshot of the past. The Yagnobi are descendants of the ancient Sogdian people and were isolated from Arab conquerors because of the remoteness of the Yagnob valley. The Yagnobi language is somewhat of a relic, considered to be the closest thing to the original Sogdian language of Northeastern Persia.    

Gradually the Yagnobi were pressured into converting to Islam and today there are no known followers of Jesus among them. Like the intense terrain of their homeland, the Yagnobi are intense in their identity as Muslims but also intense in the spiritism that permeates their lives. Some of the most famous fortune-tellers and witch doctors in Tajikistan are Yagnobi. Despite the Soviet Union’s attempts to destroy the identity of the Yagnobi people, they remain very proud of their heritage.

Malika is an elderly lady who cooks lunch at my office. She loves to cook for us, to laugh and to tell us that she is Yagnobi. In fact, if you ask her about being Yagnobi she will tell you that she is a descendant of a Yagnobi king. Malika has actually never set foot in the Yagnob valley because her parents were forcefully relocated to work on cotton plantations. Malika dreams of returning to her people’s homeland before she dies. I hope to get to be a part of that great homecoming for Malika…and another homecoming…the Yagnobi people knowing, loving and taking pride in worshiping Jesus as they were created to do.

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