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September/October 1998

Closing doors in Russia

Severe economic problems continue to plague Russia. Because of drought, the agricultural harvest this fall was the worst in forty years. Officials are trying to buy huge amounts of food from the U.S. to avoid mass starvations this winter. Entire cities in northern Siberia may have to be evacuated. (The population would be moved south, where it is cheaper to keep them warm and fed.) The Ruble has devalued to about 30% of the value it held just a few months ago. Some banks have closed. Most people, including the military, depend on the government for a paycheck. They have not been paid in months. Two million Russian children lack families, and almost two-thirds of those live in the street. The Kremlin seeks billions of dollars in international aid just to stay afloat.

Political turmoil makes these problems even worse. President Yeltsin’s health is so poor that he has given up trying to run the everyday affairs of his administration. As he checks in and out of the hospital, he insists that he is still ‘overseeing’ government reforms. The ethnic region of Kalmykia is threatening to secede from Russia. A similar threat from Chechnya led to bloody civil war a few years ago. Potential candidates for the presidential election in 2000 don’t offer much hope for positive leadership. Primakov, the Prime Minister, seems to be a weak leader. Zuguyanov of the Communist party almost won the last presidential election. Zhirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist, wants to expel all foreigners and take Alaska back from the United States!  Not one of the dozens of possible candidates is in favor of religious freedom, as Yeltsin has been.

I am concerned about closing doors in Russia, but not as you might think. I do not worry about the government or the economy. The Most High still ruleth in the kingdom of men, and I know He is able to make a way for the Gospel to reach the hungry souls of Russia. There are, however, three doors of opportunity that are certain to close. These closing doors give me an urgency to get to the field.

1. LIFE – As long as a person is still alive, we can present the Gospel to him. Death closes the door of opportunity. Every day, 6000 Russians die. Even if the Russian Government rolled out the red carpet of welcome for missionaries tomorrow, I could not reach the 6000 who died today.

2. CHRIST’S RETURN – I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. I have a space of time, from now to the trumpet, to reach people with the Gospel. When Jesus comes, the door of opportunity for me in Russia will close.

3. THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – My spirit shall not always strive with man. The Russian people today are receptive to the Gospel. The Lord has opened their hearts. (Acts 16:14) Many countries that once were open, like Japan, have hardened their hearts against God. Sometimes, He gives them up. (Acts 7:42, Rom 1:24) Surely we are obligated to go and open the Bible where God has opened the heart. The door of opportunity for a great harvest could close if Russians begin to resist the Spirit of God.

We now have about 60% of the support we need to go to Russia. We continue to travel to churches; preaching, soulwinning, singing, and presenting the need. Pray for us, and pray for Russia. We hope we can raise the rest of our support and leave for the field next spring or summer.

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde

p.s. Will you write congress, asking them to consider religious freedom issues in any aid package for Russia?