Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Sixty-three-year-old Lena has established several secret churches in her Central Asia country. She now leads seven house fellowships which meet together in small groups. On several occasions she has had to cope with arrests. “One time police with guns entered the house where we were meeting with a group. We were taken off to the station. Of course we were afraid,” says Lena. The reason why Lena can talk so “nonchalantly” about her arrest follows quickly. She does not necessarily see it as a problem, but as an opportunity to testify.
“I experienced how God took away my fear and gave me peace. Even more, I had the chance to tell the gospel to the head of police. While we were locked up there, I simply started to talk. I was given the opportunity to tell him what God had done for me,” says Lena. “After some time, the man only said, ‘Take your group away.’”
While she is telling her story, there is not a trace of fear, anger or bitterness to be found on her face because of the injustice. When asked how this is possible, Lena only has one answer. In God’s Word, it says that for a long time there will be persecution, but that He will also grant a way out. She recalls Isaiah 41:10, which says, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. So Lena lives out her life in Uzbekistan, bearing in mind that God is watching over her everywhere.
She provides Bible teaching for Christians and has a heart for work with children and young people adding, “We have to do everything to help Christians to become mature believers.” For example, Lena and other Christians try to hold annual children’s camps where, for a few days, the children are introduced to the gospel through play. The enthusiasm of the children makes it clear that the camps are a success. But Lena and her staff encounter problems year after year. “It’s difficult to find a suitable location, where we can receive the children in safety. And things remain tense: the police may always come and disrupt the camp.”
Despite these difficulties, Lena does not give up. She sees the church growing and hammers home the missionary message of Matthew 28, in which Jesus calls on us to make disciples of all nations. This message is what Lena is living out, in the midst of persecution.
“We must understand that the church cannot grow without disciples,” emphasises Lena. “Become a disciple!”
RESPONSE: Today I will become a true disciple of Jesus using every situation—good or bad—to share my faith with everyone and encourage and train other younger believers.
PRAYER: Pray for Lena and others like her growing the Church of Jesus amid great persecution.