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September 1997

Boris Yeltsin changes his mind; Anti-Missionary bill becomes law

On July 22, Russian president Boris Yeltsin vetoed legislation that would have severely restricted religious freedoms in Russia, especially missionary work. At that time, he seemed to be taking a strong stand for freedom. He pointed out that the proposed legislation was blatantly unconstitutional.

Now, just two months later, Yeltsin has changed his tune. On September 26, he signed a revised version of the law that many western observers say is even more restrictive than the original bill. The law was supported by the Orthodox church, the communists, and radical nationalists.

If the law is enforced as written, it will cause the largest expulsion of missionaries from a country since the communists took over China in the 1940’s.

What now?

God is still in control! We can only speculate about what might happen.

The new law violates the Russian constitution. We would hope and pray that the government will recognize its mistake and overturn this law.

If the law stands, enforcement will determine the results. In one strongly communist city, local officials recently told a missionary that he would have 24 hours to leave the country if the new law passed. In other areas, officials might be more friendly to missionaries, or might demand bribes from them.

If missionaries are forced out of Russia, they could still “set up shop” in nearby countries that are more open. [Latvia or Lithuania, for example] From there, they could conduct operations in cooperation with Russian nationals - such as literature distribution, training preachers, church planting assistance, etc.

25 million Russians live in the 14 other former Soviet republics. Many of these could still be reached with the Gospel.

During the last 10 years, millions of Bibles have been distributed in Russia. Many thousands of Russians have responded to the Gospel message. Even if every foreign missionary were deported, enough Seed has been sown to produce a harvest of souls for many years to come.

Please be much in prayer about this serious situation. It is our desire to be able to live and minister in Russia legally. If that becomes impossible, we will continue to follow the Lord’s leading and remain faithful to His calling to reach Russians for Christ.

We have been in Michigan during September. We have had good meetings here with many wonderful churches. The motor home is running well. The kids are very busy with their school work. In a few more weeks we will begin working our way southward.

We appreciate all your prayers for safety as we travel, for increased support, and for souls to be saved. Last week, I was able to lead a young girl to Christ as a pastor was dealing with her mother about salvation. Praise the Lord, both of them got saved!

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde