The name of Grozny is often associated with the horrors of the Chechen war. But the tragedy of Grozny is also a story of God’s victory over all attempts to wipe out Christianity in Chechnya. Literally on the ruins of the church of Grozny, the Lord is doing great things today. He allows us to be witnesses and participants of the revival of the only church in all of Chechnya. In His perfect timing, God is now answering the prayers of those who shed their blood and gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel in this Muslim country. And because God’s story is a story of God’s victory, it is the only church in Chechnya now, but we believe that it is also the first church of many. Because even in the valley of the shadow of death, no-one can extinguish the light of the Gospel.
The story of the church of Grozny is indeed a story of joy and horrible tragedies. 133 years old, it survived the Tsars and the Soviets and grew into a large family of 300 adults and many children. In 1975, they dedicated a new church building to the Lord, which they had built all by themselves. Everybody had worked with the hope that the the lamp lit in their city by the Lord Himself, would never die out. But when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990ies, the church found itself in a valley of the shadow of death, and in the midst of a terrible civil war.
Brother Ruvim remembers:
“The combat started right in the city, many buildings were destroyed, many people were killed, and even more people starved. The believers of the church of Grozny fed the hungry, gave shelter to those who were left without a home. Local people were coming to the church to find protection from God Himself. However, the fury of the evil one reached the church, too. It was very dangerous to remain faithful to Christ. The radical islamists chopped one pastor’s head off, another pastor was shot, one more was missing and no one even knew where his body was. Some Christians had to run for their lives and leave the Chechen Republic. The house of worship of Grozny was severely damaged, and the authorities took the building from the church.”
15 years later, in 2015 God gave brother Ruvim a clear call to return to Grozny. He and his family left a good life in Moscow to come to Grozny. When they arrived, there were only three grandmothers left who had belonged to the church of Grozny in the past. Ruvim found and gathered handful of believers scattered over Chechnya, and they started meeting again, although they didn’t have a church building. Today, up to 40 people come to the church services. The believers started an outreach ministry in two more places of Chechnya. They tirelessly intervened with the local authorities to have their church property and land returned. Finally, in 2018, they ventured a huge step of faith and started to build a new building on the ruins of the destroyed church building of Grozny.
God has given us a chance to support our brothers and sisters in Grozny in the construction of their new Prayer House. They want it to be a Center for discipleship and training of new leaders, and also a Hope Center for community outreach. For the church in all of Chechnya, it will be strategically important to have their own worship and ministry center among the minarets of the mosques and fundamental Islam. Today, God allows us to be part of His work through the believers of Grozny, who serve to reach out to their community around and make a difference by being a light in the midst of darkness.
We trust that the prayers of those who shed their blood and gave their lives for Jesus sake, as they built this congregation, will be heard and the lamp of this church will rekindle its fire and the church will rise again, just like Jesus rose from the dead, brother Ruvim witnesses.
Please pray for the believers in Grozny, and for the evangelical church in Chechnya, not the only one, but the first one.