Can you imagine what it feels like for your church to have to meet in secret? In many countries in the World Watch List top 50, Christians don't have to imagine - the only way they can meet to worship is in secret.
They meet in houses or apartments. They gather on remote mountainsides, or deep in the jungle. They disguise their meetings, so that services look like simple meals or baptisms look like swimming parties.
Their courage and ingenuity are beyond question, but the pressure is intense. For secret Christians in Eritrea, for example, there is no let up. At school their children need to be careful what they say. And at home, neighbours are always on the alert for any signs of secret gatherings.
“Christians continue to receive teaching and pray together,” says Eyal, an Eritrean underground church leader (whose name has been changed, for security reasons). “It is very difficult. We are watched all the time. Believers cannot move around freely and this makes outreach very difficult. But as hard as it is, we have to continue.”
In the background, behind every secret church meeting in Eritrea is the fear of a police raid. Musse (name changed) is a church leader who was sent to an Eritrean prison – yet even there he found a way to meet with other believers. More than that, he shared the gospel.
“In prison, one of my main purposes as a Christian was to evangelise,” he says. “You continue teaching. Of course, it is forbidden to do it openly, but we did it at night-time when everybody was asleep. We even had Bible portions we could study in secret.”
He found people desperate for hope. “Those people loved what we taught and shared. Some of them even tried to cover for us. We saw many conversions. The gospel can’t be chained.”
However, when pastors are arrested, secret churches are often left without leaders. That’s why Open Doors underground networks help train church leaders, as well as providing smuggled Bibles and Christian literature, and digital teaching and discipleship resources.
And, amazingly, the church is still alive, still witnessing, still growing. In countries like Libya, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea even, the church is standing strong.
“Thank you for your help to us, thank you for praying, thank you for being on our side,” says Eyal. “With the help of God and because of you, we are doing our Christian activities. We are coming together, meeting and helping people in different ways.
“No one, not even the government, can block the gospel.”
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