Underground University Russia
Underground University Russia enables the church in Russia and the former Soviet Union to prepare for martyrdom and persecution amidst escalating legal restrictions. Such preparation must focus on helping the church here to remain one body with the faithful church around the world today and throughout history.
We had plans to hold our UU Russia training in Russia or one of the CIS countries this year, but God had other plans. Due to the pandemic, there was no international travel allowed, so God brought Russian speaking pastors and church leaders to us in South Korea and through Facebook, videoconference and small in-person trainings (following all Coronavirus regulations). Currently, there are approximately 190,000 Russian speaking people living in South Korea.
Below are two short testimonies from our most recent training.
Imprisoned Pastor Bakhrom from Tajikistan
As a small group of Russian speaking Christians gathered around a small table to hear Petr Jasek tell his prison story via video conference, one of the women gathered was from Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov’s church in Tajikistan. Pastor Bakhrom is featured in the January 2021 issue of the VOM Korea newsletter. He pastored two churches in different cities, but in April of 2017, one of his churches was raided and his church members were beaten. KNB officers confiscated his belongings and Christian materials were found on his computer. Later he was charged with having “extremist views” that incited religious hatred. He was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison. During his time in prison, his church members continued to worship in creative ways, including worshipping in a shipping container. In December 2019, Pastor Bakhrom was released early and was able to return to his family.
Petr Jasek (formerly imprisoned in Sudan) teaches a group of Russian speaking church leaders.
Our UU Russia participant not only attended his church, but also studied together with him at the same seminary. When she found out about Pastor Bakhrom’s arrest, she was initially shocked, but gradually realized that God chose him as the one who should have the honor to suffer for his faith. According to her, when the police put pressure on him to have 10 church leaders sign some documents confessing to crimes, Pastor Bakhrom took full responsibility himself and told his church leaders not to sign.
She also said there was no limit to the joy of the whole church when they found out the news about the early release of the pastor from prison.
When she came to Korea she struggled with psychological trauma due to the persecution she and her church received. One of the sessions of our UU Russia training dealt with that very topic (taught by Dr. Foley). Due to Dr. Foley’s counseling degree and her work with persecuted Christians all over the world, she was well equipped to help the UU Russia participants deal with the past traumas they received as a result of persecution. We’ve found this to be a key teaching session in all our UUs . . . UU China, UU NK, UU Eritrea and now UU Russia.
Pastor and Dr. Foley take a photo with the lady from Pastor Bakhrom's church in Tajikistan.
Muslim Background Believer - Pastor S from Central Asia
Pastor S, who attended one of our trainings, is not only from Central Asia, but was also born and raised as a Muslim. When he came to faith in Christ, he received persecution from his family and even from the government.
During the time when he faced severe persecution, a pastor gave him a book to read. Pastor S said this book gave him great comfort and peace during his difficult time. This was Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ. He later passed this book onto another Christian, and that person later became his wife. Pastor S wanted to attend our UU Russia training so he could thank us for the work that VOM is carrying out in this part of the world.
Please Pray With Us For The Following Requests:
- Pray for our upcoming UU Russia trainings next year. Because of pandemic we could not organize an in-person training for the pastors and church leaders from outside Korea, but still we are thankful to God that even amidst lockdowns and COVID restrictions we were able to hold the training in Korea for Russian speaking pastors and church leaders, and others participating virtually. Please pray that next year’s Coronavirus regulations lift and we will be able to expand UU Russia in-person participation and have participants from all over our Russian speaking constituency.
- Keep praying for pastors who are facing fines and sanctions from the government. More pastors of Protestant churches from Russia are facing restrictions and persecution now. Please pray that God would give them wisdom to continue serving their congregations under the restrictions, being faithful witnesses.
- Keep praying for believers in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries with predominantly Muslim populations. Christians in those countries face persecution from the government but also from their Muslim family members or communities. Those who stay in Korea still have to be careful as they are watched by their own governments. Please pray that those in Korea would share the gospel with their family members online or through phone calls.