Azerbaijan (MNN) — In a country where religion has been restricted, the Azerbaijani church is growing and reaching out.
That's the message from the President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba, who is traveling throughout the former Soviet Union this week. Rakhuba says while the government required the re-registration of all religious organizations, unfortunately not a single evangelical church has been allowed to register.
Rakhuba says persecution has followed. "Several pastors [have been] imprisoned for many months for activity on behalf of their church. So they would provoke them into something, throw them in prison, and persecute them."
While persecution has increased, it hasn't affected church growth in the predominately-Muslim nation. Rakhuba says young people are open. "They say, 'We want to have a relationship with God. We want to know more about God. However, traditional Islam does not give us any grounds to learn more about [Him].'"
Many are turning to Christ as Christians reach out covertly with the Gospel, says Rakhuba, and these new believers are passionate about evangelism. "They're so active. They're so clever. They're so strategic in reaching out to villages in Azerbaijan under tremendous threat."
Aside from the persecution, these new believers have other challenges. "When we asked, 'What are your needs?' everyone [says] Scripture and training. Their government does not allow them to print any Christian literature inside the country. Their government does not allow them to import any Christian literature from outside."
As people turn to Christ they can't read God's Word for themselves. The solution? "Like in old Soviet days, they can print Scripture underground in Azerbaijan, but that requires resources [money]," says Rakhuba. "So I would encourage people to pray that God would provide resources to provide Scripture for Azerbaijani evangelical believers."
As you financially support the Azerbaijani church through Russian Ministries, you're actually empowering the believers in cross-cultural ministry. How? Many of these believers have a heart for the lost. "They reach out to their neighbors. And, of course, it's always a risk. But then many of them would like to reach over the border in Iran."