Saturday, August 23, 2008

Consecration

WARNING - This is a very LONG post, but well worth it in my opinion.


Consecration - it's a big word and one that I'll be using ALOT this year. It's the theme of our Bible Study lessons with our youth. Consecration means CHOOSING to dedicate yourself to God without reservation, trusting Him, and obeying Him completely. You must trust God enough to give Him your most precious possession. Our first example of this is Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his own son, Isaac, his child whom he waited many years for.

One of the blogs I read regularly - Kristin had a great post on this subject recently....although she never used the word consecration, that's what I see in this post...I've copied both her posts below so you can read them...very moving.


Friday
When God Steps In

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 . . .


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



Friday
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.

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

1 comment:

Jenn Greeley said...

Wow! Such faithfulness and love under such persecution. Those are true Christians. Thanks for sharing. This is an excellent reminder of how blessed we are to live in a country that allows us the freedom to live our faith openly.