Thanks, Jeff Tunnell, for covering my blog for me while in Uzbekistan.
While there, I spoke at an “underground conference” to cell church/house church leaders. Ninety percent of those present were leading unregistered churches. Only the churches started before 1999, in fact, are considered “legal.” All churches after 1999 are “illegal.” The current government is trying to quell religion in the country and wants believers to only meet in officially sponsored churches (sounds a lot like China).
Of course, God’s Spirit can’t be contained in “government sponsored” churches. He works in His own way and those leaders present at the conference were obeying His guidance.
The Uzbek leader of the event said afterwards, “You don’t know how fortunate we were that the police didn’t break up our meeting, and that we weren’t thrown in prison.” Even though about 100 believers were present, I learned that many others stayed away because of the threat of persecution.
I focused my teaching on the cell group during my four day conference. I also talked about how to plant simple cell churches. All Uzbek churches must be very simple. Most of the pastors at the conference told me that they bring their cells together only once per month or just on the holidays. A few pastors present met in weekly celebrations.
I’m sure you’ve spoken at churches or events where it was “easy to speak.” This was one of those events. These perscuted believers radiated God’s love and grace. I felt picked up just looking into their eyes. Their love and genuine humililty helped me to stop “peforming as a seminar speaker” and simply relate to them as a fellow brother and teacher. I wish I could show you the photo of the nineteen leaders who committed themselves at the end of the conference to plant a new church in Uzbekistan (each one planting a new church).
The highlight was the last night’s foot washing. The Uzbek believers washed our feet, prayed over us, and then clothed us with an Uzbek robe.
I went away encouraged by God’s work in Uzbekistan.