Imagine the scene. It’s Sunday morning. You’re in the suburb of a city in Central Asia. It’s cold, cloudy and grey. You stand in the street and look around, surrounded by Soviet-era tower blocks – big concrete structures built in the 1950s and 60s. You walk up to one of the tower blocks, find the name of the flat and ring the bell. You are buzzed in.
You find the lift and press the button for the fifth floor. You’re headed for one small flat, much like all the rest, but this one is different. On this Sunday morning, and most others, it’s home to a very secret gathering; an underground church.
You find the right door and knock. You are met by a young man with a smile on his face – you’ve arrived just in time for the ten o’clock service.
This secret service led by a former member of the Russian Secret Service, the KGB. After coming to Christ and leaving the shadowy world of surveillance, Tahir* is now a pastor and you are ushered into his home.
The living room has been cleared and seating placed around the edges. Some people have already arrived and, as guests, you are given a warm welcome. There are young families, men and women, young and old. As the service begins the men sat on one side and the women and children on the other. People’s clothing is a mixture of traditional and modern. And while no-one speaks English, the service feels familiar.
Songs are sung, but people sing quietly, just in case the authorities or prying neighbours might be listening. Sitting on mats on the floor you hear to the pastor speak and ask you to share something to encourage this small group of secret believers. With the help of an interpreter, you share about persevering with Jesus and encouraged those listening that Christians around the world were praying for them, reminding them that they are not alone.
After two hours of fellowship it’s time to leave. The small congregation stay to share a meal together. You’re left with a real sense of their struggle but there is also hope – you realise these brothers and sisters, facing real threats and persecution, are trusting God for their future. You’re challenged to live more bravely in your walk with God.
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