Reflections from my travel journal:
The other day I preached. The church was packed to overflowing – so many kids and young people! It was Communion Sunday, which is a time when they allow young adults to practice preaching. Three young women preached before I ever got up! One on persistence in prayer even when we don’t receive what we are asking for, one on the danger of sin, and one on the church as a temple for God. The woman who preached on prayer became a Christian a few years ago. She began praying for her husband to accept Christ but ultimately he told her to choose between him and “her God.” When she chose God, he left her and their two sons to fend for themselves.
Many people here are nominal Orthodox in the same way that many Christians in the US are nominal. It’s more of a cultural thing. This nation is also about 80% Muslim – there are over 2,000 mosques – and Saudi Arabia is funding the building of new mosques. Interestingly, there are a number of nominal Muslims – which may be why the Saudis are so keen. For Protestant Christians, local churches must register with the state. A group cannot be considered a registered church unless you have at least 200 members. If you are not registered, you cannot legally gather for worship. Evangelism by churches in the other category is prohibited: they are not allowed to invite people to church or have foreign visitors for religious purposes.
Today we baptized a young man who is 24 years old. He and two other young men (19 and 21 years old) came to the seminar with their pastor Igor (who is also pretty young!). The man who was baptized oversees the education section of the community center in his town.
Seminar participants are so committed to faith and evangelism. Inspiring! If you want to be Christian here you have to be incredibly committed. Several of the young adults are attending the seminar with their pastor.