An ambulance is usually a vehicle that offers hope and rescue.
But in a Central Asian country ambulances are sometimes used by the police as a cover for making surprise arrests.
And, all too often, those arrested are Christians.
A Courageous Leader
Madina* is a Christian who first heard about Jesus around 20 years ago. Eventually, she helped to start a new church. She was made the leader of one of the church’s home groups – a position of real responsibility, given the danger such gatherings could place group members in.
No matter how challenging being a Christian could be in her Central Asian country, Madina knew she had to use the leadership abilities God has given her to call others to know Jesus and to help them grow in their faith.
A Knock at the Door
One week Madina’s home group met at her house to take communion. They had to keep the meeting a secret, as they were not legally registered – a status notoriously difficult for any church group to get from the authorities.
After all 15 of them had gathered together, there was a knock at the door.
It was an ambulance driver, his vehicle parked on the road behind him. He asked if there was anyone ill in the house who needed help.
But it was just a cover story.
The words had barely left his lips when 15 policemen spilled out of the ambulance and stormed into the house.
They intimidated the Christians, forcing them to watch a copy of the Jesus film that they found. They filmed them watching it, as ‘evidence’ of the home group’s illegal activity.
They were taken to the police station. Madina had to endure six hours of questioning and everyone had to write out their testimonies and be filmed reading them. These clips were eventually shown on TV, condemning them as spies who only wanted to get money for their church.
We asked Madina how we could pray for her. You might expect her number one concern would be that she’d lose her job, or that she’d receive a heavy fine.
But remarkably, she’s asked us to pray for something completely different.
‘Please pray that many people in our country may be impacted by our video testimonies,’ Madina asked us, ‘so that they may give their lives to Christ, too.’
Christian leaders in this Central Asian country have to pay a high price for their faithfulness. As a first offender, Madina was fined the equivalent of a month’s salary for her part in the group. Others were ordered to pay $3,000, an extortionate amount in their context.
Madina had courage. But she wanted training and tools to be an even more effective leader in her context. Under such pressure the need for encouragement from a mentor, and help with ideas for her risky evangelism, is much needed.
With encouragement and training, Madina has been revived with a new passion to see more people in her community come to Christ and with a fresh sense of boldness. Her church has renewed its fellowship in Madina’s house with a new eagerness to seek God’s kingdom in their country.
Please continue to pray for Madina and her church.
*Name has been changed for the safety of those involved.