Getting to Know The Persecuted Church Part 3

Once again, the blog community has surprised me. Blessed me. Left me feeling overwhelmed, but not alone.

Never alone.

I didn’t know I would meet a family of refugees (Part I) from The Persecuted Church at the local swimming pool. I never planned to eat dinner with them and listen to their amazing story of survival (Part 2). Part 4 is here.

Thank you. Thank you for your comments, your emails, your suggestions, your invitations to have this family come speak at your church and mostly, your prayers for them. They are not in vain.

A few days ago, Igor and Katerina called and invited us to their home. They wanted to serve us Russian food and fellowship more.

You cannot imagine my excitement as I put away the spaghetti noodles.

I told my kids what we were going to do and explained that they had to like the food, or at least pretend to like it. I knew this couple would give us their best and I wanted our response to be great.

Only one word describes the look on their faces as they greeted us at the door of their modest, rented home: pride.

“Look what God has given us. He has blessed us with this and this…” Igor said as he pointed out the sofa, dining table in their simple, beautiful home.

We arranged ourselves around the table and joined hands to pray. The food on the table was colorful and it smelled wonderful. Igor explained that the main dish, called Plov, was a meal only served for celebrations. Tradition states that only the men of Uzbekistan are allowed to prepare the delicious meal of rice and meat. (I knew Katerina had been cooking all day, but so had Igor. They were giving us their best and I felt very unworthy).
It was delicious and my kids ate every bite! There was also a cucumber-tomato salad that was incredible and it was accompanied by an eggplant appetizer. Just between us, I could have seriously devoured the whole eggplant dish, because yummy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Katerina was kind enough to translate and share these recipes:

Appetizer:
1 eggplant
2-3 tomato
1-2 pieces of garlic
>2-3 tbl. spoon of mayonnaise
some green onion
loaf of french bread

Slice eggplant like a wheel. Sprinkle salt and fry in oil in frying pan. Lay eggplant out on paper towel.
Sauce:
In small bowl put mayonnaise, add pressed garlic, add some black pepper. Mix everything.
Put sauce on eggplant, then put tomatoes on top of eggplants. Sprinkle salt and green onion. And place on piece of bread.

Salad:

3 tomatoes
1 cucumber
green onion
green cilantro
<
span class="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(102, 51, 0);">olive oil
black pepper,salt
lotus flower (asian section of grocery store) I think this is the secret that makes it taste so good!

Cut tomatoes and cucumber in salad bowl. Then small chop green onion and cilantr o. Add olive oil, black pepper, salt and lotus flower. Mix all ingredients.

The Strawberry Shortcake I brought paled in comparison to the ‘Nest of Birds’ cookies Katerina brought to the table, served with Russian hot tea. And my kids, yeah, it was embarrassing how many cookies they ate. In her broken English, she explained how to make these incredible cookies, but she lost me after the 14th step which involved thinly rolling the dough. Ya’ll know cooking is not my gift. an>

After dinner, we sat around and talked. We learned more of their story and about their current ministry to the former Soviet Union and how they use the avenue of sports to reach people for Christ. If you can read Russian, you will enjoy their website, if not, you will think that it is pretty, like me.

I’m still very deep.

Before we left, my hubby asked if they had any immediate needs. I know this was hard for them to answer. They feel so blessed by what God has done for them. “We have everything we need,” they replied.

My hubby pressed further.
“Well. We could use another pair of shoes. We have only sports shoes,” Igor said as he pointed to his tennis shoes.

And Katerina, hesitated and said something to her husband in Russian, “Katerina, would love to have curtains some day, but it is not a priority,” he said has he pointed to the uncovered window.

I looked around at their modest dwelling. I couldn’t help but notice a 5 gallon bucket serving as their trash can and that they shared one English Bible between them. Their 4 and 2 year olds were happy with their small collection of toys and they considered one pair of shoes, enough.

And they felt rich, like kings.

And thinking of the hours I had spent decorating my own home and my closet full of shoes, I felt like a pauper.
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So, yes they have needs, but I don’t think they are huge priorities for them. They have raised 17% of their budget for next year. And while I would be freaking out with worry, Igor shook his head and said, “We don’t worry about that. We just do exactly what God wants us to do. Look at the miracles He has provided all ready.”

I asked Igor to prepare a list of needs that we as a blogging community could meet and I hope to share them with you soon.


In the meantime, I opened a Paypal account for them. If you would like to donate $1 or $100, please let God lead you. If you or your church would like to support this beautiful family every month, please email me directly and I will give you more information.

100% of the donations will go directly to this family!

I found out that today is Katerina’s birthday. I can’t wait to take her shopping for new curtains!
*Update* Thank you for the donations today: $117.00!  The amount you donated will appear to be ‘unclaimed’ until the account is verified which I’m told takes about a week.



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

When God Steps In-Part I of The Persecuted Church

As I shivered at the edge of the pool, I glanced at the clock.

Again.
Only 5 more minutes of Mommy & Me swim lessons.  In freezing water. 
I noticed a woman and her children sit near our things, as I bemoaned my decision to struggle with my toddler in the water for two weeks of lessons.
I live a tough life.
We toweled off and my toddler kept saying, “Hi” to the lady I had noticed.
She spoke softly and sweetly to my daughter in a language that sounded like Russian.  
“Where are you from?” I asked making conversation.
“Uzbekistan,” she answered in clipped English.
I nodded my head, as if I knew the exact location. “How long have you been in the US?”
“Eleven months,” she replied.
“Your English is very good. Did you move here for a job?
“No, how do you say, we are Christians and we faced persecution,” she answered as she patted her little boy’s head.
It was a surreal moment. Standing in the heat, watching my kids splash in the kiddie pool while talking to an escapee from the former Soviet Union. A persecuted Christian.
5 minutes from my house.
She shared some about her life. Her husband was a Pastor and arrested and later deported for his crime:  preaching the Gospel.
“Did you face violence?” I asked.
I will never forget the look that crossed her face, she nodded, and tracked her children with her eyes.
She said a hundred things in that moment without uttering a word.
We exchanged phone numbers.
On the way home from the pool, I told my older kids about the conversation.  My voice quivered as I shared her story.  
“Mom, do you remember the Sunday School lesson we had a few weeks ago on the Persecuted Church?”
Yes. 

“That was the country I prayed for,” she said excitedly.
Yes. 
I don’t know why I met her.  I don’t know if we will develop a relationship or what the future holds.
I do know that I don’t regret those swimming lessons and I am convinced that God stepped in.
Our families are meeting for dinner tonight (Friday) and I hope to share more . . . 
You can read Part Two of this story here.
Part Three to this story is here.
Part Four is here.
And, you can donate to them here:

Food for the Soul:
Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”