Uzbekistan (MNN) — News reports indicate Uzbekistan evangelical churches are being closely monitored by the secret police. Christians says microphones have been planted in churches, and spies have been recruited to infiltrate church leaders in Uzbekistan. Despite these attempts to antagonize the church, Russian Ministries reports a growing number of believers.
Vice President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba just returned from Uzbekistan. "Currently cell groups and small groups and family churches have to meet underground secretly. I was surprised to hear that despite very hard persecution, the church is growing. Some of the pastors are in prison now for their faith in Uzbekistan."
Rakhuba says it was like visiting the first century church. While this type of persecution could cause many to keep their faith quiet, he says, "This persecution inspires them [to believe] that they're following the true God."
The trip wasn't problem-free, however. When the team stopped to get tickets to go deeper into the country where Christians were being persecuted, they were robbed of their belongings. "We came out 20 minutes later," reports Rakhuba, "and all our possessions were gone. Most [of the] concern was about all the contacts we had in the luggage. We're praying that it will not cause more persecution for the believers there,"
According to Rakhuba, their Schools Without Walls program will help in "training young Uzbek believers for their ministry [who] are so eager, [who} are so zealous about ministry and just hungry for the training and the skills they can receive with this training to continue expanding their church."
However, this outreach is quickly becoming an international training program. Rakhuba says many Tajik and Uzbek believers from Afghanistan are living in Uzbekistan. "They want to receive some basic training, and [they're] planning to move back to Afghanistan to reach out to their communities there in Afghanistan, reaching out to Uzbeks and Tajiks."
Rakhuba says there are approximately 5,000 believers in the country. And because he's lived through persecution during the Soviet days, he's able to help them cope and plan for underground worship.