The Persecuted Church: At My Backdoor (Part 2)

Last week, I told you about the family who escaped religious persecution eleven months ago and ended up living less than 5 minutes from my house. I met them because God stepped in.

On Friday night, we met at Chick Fil A and I was happy to see them drink sweet tea. Because you know how much that means to me. It was a little awkward at first since our hubbies were meeting for the first time and because of the language barrier. But our kids hit it off and played while we sat down to eat.
Normally, I would not like this kind of situation. But nothing about this meeting was normal.
I wish I could have recorded the conversation. I wish you could hear their beautiful Russian accents and the excitement in their voices as they shared the miracles God performed. I wish I could tell you the whole story, but it would take pages to do so. I wish I could adequately explain the impact it made on my hubby and I. We were deeply moved.
And I am sure we will never be the same.
Before I share the details of their story, you must first understand how dangerous it is to be a Christian in Uzbekistan, which is 98% Muslim. Right now, it is one of the most persecuted countries in the world. If someone is caught with two or more religious items (Bible, Christian t- shirt, pamphlet, booklet) they are fined 20 to 100 times their monthly income. If they are caught twice, they are fined 100 to 200 times or sentenced to corrective labor (prison) for up to 3 years. Christians have been fined, imprisoned, beaten for preaching about Jesus.
Here is their story (while I have their permission to share this, these are not their real names): Igor was born in Russia and maintained Russian citizenship even though he moved to Uzbekistan as a young boy. He became a Christian, after his sister viewed The Jesus Video. (When Igor said this, I started crying. I worked for The Jesus Video Project about 15 years ago). Even though it was unlawful, Igor could not hide his love for God and His Word. He began leading summer camps along with his sister’s husband in Uzbekistan. The camps were held as recreational events with the underlying purpose of spreading the Gospel.
Eleven years later, after meeting and marrying Katerina in one of these camps, Igor and his brother-in-law were planting house churches, holding camps and intensely teaching new followers of Christ with Bibles they smuggled in and literature they secretly printed.
In the height of their underground ministry, Igor was arrested and told that he must leave the country within 48 hours (Uzbekistan officials were hesitant to imprison him because he was a Russian citizen). Igor was shocked at his deportation.
He called his wife and told her to pack some things from the house they had just built. After 22 hours, the police told Igor his time was up. He hid in the mountains, but after his look-alike brother was arrested and held hostage until he reappeared, Igor decided to turn himself in. His wife and children hid in a dirty, abandoned apartment.
He was put on an airplane without any belongings, without knowing where he was heading and without his wife, toddler daughter and 15 day old son. The government knew his wife and children would follow because Igor was told they would be killed if they were seen.
(At this point in their story, I’m crying ya’ll, and breathing deeply).
The family finally reunited in Moscow and lived in a one bedroom apartment with 11 other people for a year, facing much hardship. Katerina’s papers expired and could no longer stay in Russia; she had to return to the place of her citizenship: Uzbekistan, where they faced death.
A family without a home, a family without a country.
They found safety at the United Nations as persecuted refugees and came to America, with $200 in their pocket.
For the past year, this amazing family has learned English, a new culture, and a new way of life.
But do you know where their heart is? They are working tirelessly thru the Internet and Skype to continue their ministry and disciple Christians in their heartland.
Their funding runs out at Christmas, so they are trying to raise monthly financial support so they can continue reaching others. My hubby and I feel compelled to help them get into local churches and share their unbelievable story.
God stepped into their lives and although they faced unbelievable suffering for the cause of Christ, they stood firm. I can’t help but wonder what I would do if serving Jesus cost me my life….
Please pray that their financial needs will be met so they can continue to impact Uzbekistan and other parts of the world. I’m hoping to do some kind of blog fundraiser for them in the future. (What do ya’ll think about that?)
Something Igor said moved me, “My arrest and deportation was terrible. And leaving our possessions and our family was very hard, but leaving the work, the ministry and the disciples…that is the hardest, even today.” And he said this knowing they may never see their families again.
I am in awe of their faith and passion for Jesus.
God stepped into my path to remind me what it’s all about. And He’s using this sweet family to turn me inside out.
Part 1 to this story is here.
Part 3 to this story is here.
Part 4 is here.
And you can donate to them here:

Food for the Soul:
“I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”- Psalm 16:8

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    That is an incredibly moving story. Doing a blog fundraiser for them would be a great gesture. I will keep them in my prayers. Living in America it is often hard to appreciate how precious our freedoms really are. It is hard to imagine how difficult some people have it just because they believe in the Lord.

  2. 3

    says

    Thank you for sharing. Igor and Katerina(I love that name)truly embody what it means to be God’s hands and feet, which oddly enough is our church’s theme for this year. I can’t send money, but I can send prayers.

  3. 5

    says

    Can you open a PayPal account for them, then stick a button/tip jar on your front page with a link to this story? You can bet I’ll drop a few bucks in!

    Amazing – and God Bless you for being open to this encounter. I have a feeling you’ll be working hard for Him in helping this family and the folks they left behind.

  4. 6

    says

    I opened up your post to read this and my girls (who are supposed to be asleep mind you) came running in and hopped on the couch on either side of me to complain about some such minor dispute.

    I honestly don't even know what they were complaining about because I had already started reading your post and I was trying to pay attention to that instead. My 8 year old figured out I was reading something interesting so she started trying to read over my shoulder when I suddenly felt prompted to read the story to them before sending them back to bed.

    SO. Just now, in the half dark, I just had an amazing moment with my two girls, "Igor and Katarina's" story, some Q&A; and some prayer time.

    The ripple effect is in full effect. THANK YOU.

  5. 8

    says

    Wow. That story is absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. I look forward to hearing how God continues to work in this.

    And, I second Marianne’s idea. A Paypal account would be a great way to let us help contribute to their needs.

  6. 10

    says

    Truly, truly amazing. Thank you SO much for sharing this with us.

    I was telling my husband about your first post and also telling him that if I heard someone speaking in Russian I would think nothing of it. NOTHING!! We live in an area of the country where there are many, many Russians/Eastern Europeans. If I asked someone speaking Russian around here where they were from they’d say, “33rd and Pine.” God truly had your time to meet her set aside as a divine appointment. And how He tuned your ears to hear and your heart to ask her a simple question, “Where are you from,” simply amazes me.

  7. 12

    says

    What an amazing, precious story! Thanks so much for sharing this with us. And it is so neat how God works, isn’t it?

    And thank you to Amber, whose comment I read about how she read the post to her girls. My son was sitting right by me, so then I read the post to him. What a great lesson! He was amazed and we prayed for their family and all other persecuted families.

  8. 13

    says

    I have been waiting all week for this post! As someone who works in an area of persecution, this story really touched my heart.

    I think it would be great to put something on your blog. The other thing I suggest is to ask this family how the body of Christ in American can serve them as they serve the Lord and their home country. This will be an eye-opening conversation to be sure and will open doors that you would not have known about otherwise.

    God bless you and may He continue to lead and guide your steps, unveiling His will as you go.

  9. 14

    says

    I have been waiting all week for this post! As someone who works in an area of persecution, this story really touched my heart.

    I think it would be great to put something on your blog. The other thing I suggest is to ask this family how the body of Christ in American can serve them as they serve the Lord and their home country. This will be an eye-opening conversation to be sure and will open doors that you would not have known about otherwise.

    God bless you and may He continue to lead and guide your steps, unveiling His will as you go.

  10. 15

    says

    Sorry I posted twice…I also wanted to say that as “rich” Americans, we tend to think in terms of helping out financially (which is good), but they might give you some other ways the body of Christ can really serve and use their gifts.

  11. 17

    says

    Thank you so much for sharing this story and for having a Christian centered blog! We will certainly keep this amazing family in our prayers.

  12. 18

    says

    Your chance meeting with this family has certainly allowed all of us to remember how lucky we are. It’s hard to complain about the economy or school starting too early when you realize what other people are going through right now.

    Thanks for sharing their story.

  13. 19

    says

    Unbelievable story. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the reminder of just how blessed my life is. I will add this family to my prayers.

  14. 20

    says

    Thanks for sharing that story. I get chills thinking of you working on the Jesus Video and later meeting someone whom it had such an effect on. Isn’t God AWESOME! We do so many things that are so small and He takes them and uses them for something big!

  15. 21

    says

    WOW! so amazing how God brought all this about. I am excited to hear all the amazing things that are going to happen because of this. WOW! keep us posted

  16. 23

    says

    Kristen praise the Lord for this entire encounter. Thank you for sharing with us and reminding us about truly letting God step in each day He wants to – or at least to hear when He so choses.

    We would love to support in any way. I agree with Stonefox what way can we help out as Believers here in the US?

    My mother was in on the early phases of The Jesus Video too. I so remember when that took off. Praise God.

    May we not take our Lord and our freedom for granted.

  17. 25

    says

    OH my Gosh. What a terribly wonderful story. Does that make any sense at all?

    Yes, definitely do fund raisers. Surely there are many things that can be done to help this family.

  18. 26

    says

    what an amazing story…… Blogging about this family will help them so much, I believe the Lord will do great things through your blog..
    Thanks for sharing it.

  19. 27

    says

    What a powerful story of God’s grace! I will be praying for this family and I think the fundraiser is a great idea!!

    I did not know that you had worked for the Jesus film project. Our church purchased land a few years ago from a family that had been praying that a church would buy the land. The money we spent to purchase the land, went directly to the Jesus film project (and paid for about 150,000 copies)! Our church was honored to be used by God even in what is sometimes considered to be trivial events.

    Keep going girl, God is using you!!!

    Hugs!

  20. 29

    says

    Thank you for sharing that conversation with us. We just don’t know what it is like unless we have been through it. I think we did live a little of it through their eyes, and your media.

  21. 31

    says

    I love your posts about boogers and 80’s hairstyles, and I also love that you are so sincere and caring. Thanks for sharing the story of this amazing family. They will be in our prayers, and I’m excited to see how we are able to help. :)

  22. 32

    says

    This just gives me chills! This is an awesome story. Its also awesome to watch this whole thing unfold through this blog. I think the funraiser would be great. :)

  23. 36

    says

    God is so much bigger than we remember sometimes. Thank you for sharing this story…please continue your friendship with them. I think this would be a wonderful cause for our bloggy community to support. Bring it on!

  24. 39

    says

    I’ve been anxiously awaiting the details of your get-together! How amazing! I wish we could have all been there…what a reminder to cherish our religious freedom here in this country. If you decide to do a fundraiser for this sweet family, I would love to feature your posts and their internet ministry as one of my Ministry Monday spotlights. Thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful story.

  25. 40

    says

    Wow. I’m not even sure what to say other than wow. I’m so thankful that God brought them into your life and you into theirs as part of the journey so that they can reach your heart for Him more and so that you can help them in their efforts to spread the Gospel. Thank you for sharing, and I definitely think you should have a bloggy fundraiser for them! Let us know what we can do (other than prayer, of course) to further the efforts!

  26. 42

    says

    The world feels so small to me right now. I always hoped that some day it would be safe enough that I would feel comfortable visiting the place where my husband grew up. I guess I had better pray a little harder.

  27. 43

    says

    We are so blessed to be able to worship our Lord and Savior here in America without persecution. Their story is very moving and touched my heart. I think a blog fundraiser is a great idea! Anything to help this couple continue spreading the Good Word!

  28. 44

    says

    How very exciting that God has allowed you to be a part of this family’s adventure. Thank you for sharing it with us. I too often take for granted the fact that I can worship freely at church and at home. I think it is wonderful that you are allowing the Lord to use you to help this family. I look forward to learning how we too can help our brother and sister in Christ!

  29. 45

    says

    This is truly an amazing story! You hear of families such as this, but you never think you will meet one. How wonderful for you. I think it is a great idea for you to do a blog fundraiser. Great idea. Do you think that is the reason God put you together when he did?

  30. 46

    says

    This is truly an amazing story! You hear of families such as this, but you never think you will meet one. How wonderful for you. I think it is a great idea for you to do a blog fundraiser. Great idea. Do you think that is the reason God put you together when he did?

  31. 49

    says

    Oh my gosh, what an amazing story – especially prevelant to me because last week our message was on the persecuted church. I’m so thankful they were able to make it to America and my heart is so happy that they’re still ministering to their country. I’ll be praying for them.

  32. 51

    says

    i think i am just as moved by the many comments as i am by the original story. please keep us posted as you figure out how those of us in blog-land can help!

  33. 53

    says

    Thank YOU for your obedience in listening to this story and sharing it with others.
    I work overseas, and often times when I share needs here, I feel like it falls on deaf ears. Or people just listen, and then sort of nod and forget about it, not seeming to see how they can be part of the solution.
    But sometimes miracles do happen, like someone giving me The Word on tape, when unbeknownst to me a local believer would go blind due to diabetes a few weeks later. I had the scripture to give to him.
    Sometimes I DO get discouraged, when I share a need and get no response, then I hear people talking about how “poor” they are and can’t afford to spare any financial help, even though they have 2 cars, a 200,000 house, kids in private school, TV in every room, etc, etc.

  34. 54

    says

    This is awesome. Thank-you so much for sharing this. It truly is an eye opener. I will be praying for this family and their heartland. May God give them peace and continue to use them in mighty ways for His glory.

  35. 58

    says

    I am so glad I stopped by your blog tonight. Sometimes I start getting depressed that my life is not going the way I want it to. Then I read something like this, about a family who is willing to risk everything for what they believe. I am so fortunate to be able to get up on Sunday and go worship the way I want to worship without persecution or death threats. My issues seem a lot smaller tonight. Thanks for sharing.

  36. 59

    says

    Wow! I too and crying my eyes out! That is simply amazing, I find it hard to find time to read my Bible and its all free for us, I can’t imagine how they feel. I would love to see you have a fund raiser! I would love to help!

  37. 60

    says

    I just can’t imagine. I told lots of people their story the first time you mentioned it, and I’d love to hear more from them. Maybe you could start a new blog for them, to post their stories and solicit funds for them? I would love to hear more about their lives.

  38. 61

    says

    Their story sort of reminds me of the novel “Safely Home” by Randy Alcorn. It’s about the persecuted church in China and while it is fictional, it’s based on facts and truths. Terribly moving and beautifully written novel!

    Anyway, love the fundraiser idea.

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