As the last person arrives, the turn of the key locks the gate. The curtains are drawn. We’re all here. All 15 of us. We’re gathered together to worship Jesus as a group … in secret.
This is how our church service begins each week.
We live where freedom of worship is illegal. Where underground churches are violently raided and shut down. Where believers must hide in order to worship together. Where we must meet at a different location each week so as not to draw attention or suspicion from our neighbors.
Recently, my family and I were Stateside on furlough. During that time, we were overwhelmed by the incredible blessing it is to gather as a large group publically. To have the freedom to sing (and clap!) as loudly as we wanted. To hear and join in with the choir of voices that resounded from the multitude in praise to God. We had forgotten. And I was brought to tears.
Our church here is small, yet full of life in Christ. It, too, often brings me to tears. Each week we long for the teaching of His Word which we receive via podcasts. We joyfully unite our voices in song as we praise Him together for His precious grace. We humble ourselves before the Cross as we take communion together as the Body. We laugh and share a meal while encouraging and spurring one another on to love and good deeds.
While we’re here, I long for the openness of worship in America. Yet, while we were there, my mind would often find its way to thoughts of my brothers and sisters that are here worshipping our Lord in a small and hot room with the curtains drawn. My heart loves both contexts—the freedom of unhindered and exuberant corporate worship, as well as the intimate and deeply desperate fellowship of a band of brothers (and sisters) adoring their Savior. I look forward to the Day when both of these joys will be fully and forever satisfied in the presence of our Lord!
Thank you for sharing this. Beautifully written. I wish every believer could experience true worship in radically different settings. It helps move one beyond believing a familiar, comfortable setting is required for worship–to simply experiencing the presence of God and fellowship of believers in deeper dimensions.
Thank you for giving perspective to something we take for granted here in the US. You write beautifully and a paint a picture that both breaks my heart and encourages me at the same time.
Know that you and MAF are always in the prayers of our family. I won’t be able to worship for a while without thinking of you and the rest of our brothers and sisters practicing “secret church” in less fortunate corners of the world.
Thanks so much for sharing!