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January-March 2017

High Court Decisions

Last August, the police charged me with illegal missionary activity, and the court found me guilty. We appealed the case in the local courts, and they ruled against us in September. We submitted a second appeal to the local courts in October, and they decided against us in November. We filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court in November, and another appeal with the Russian Constitutional Court was filed in December.

Just before Christmas, I went to America and spend a wonderful month with my family. My wife and I were able to visit our children and many other family members in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Florida. I was invited to preach in three great churches, which was an unexpected blessing.

I returned to Russia in January, and soon learned that the Supreme Court had ruled against us. We hoped that the Constitutional Court would overturn the law, but they decided against us in February. We have exhausted all options in the Russian legal system. I want to thank everyone who donated to help with legal expenses.

We filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in March, but we do not expect any short term relief there. It normally takes several years to get a decision from the European Court, and Russia often ignores those decisions. All the same, it puts international pressure on Russia.

I am consulting with my dear Russian friends about the possibility of continuing the ministry here in another form. The Russian Constitution guarantees the right to practice your faith individually or with others. However, as the courts have interpreted the law, it is no longer legal to just meet together as individuals. If they wish to continue to meet, they must file papers with the authorities, to establish a religious group. This is an intimidating process, which requires them to put their names on a list in a government office. They are reluctant to form such a group, and I cannot form one without them.

Some months ago, after much prayer and counsel, I decided that my ministry here in Russia is coming to an end. It has been an honor to serve in the former Soviet Union for 17½ years. Souls were saved and lives were changed. At age 56, I am convinced that the Lord is calling me to go back to America and serve in the Christian education ministry.

I will be resigning as a BIMI missionary, effective upon my return to the states in May. Supporting churches will make their own decisions about when to discontinue our support, but Ruth and I would be grateful if some of them could keep us on through May, while we make our transition.

We are grateful to the many people all over the world who followed our story and prayed for us. God bless you! Please pray that local authorities in other parts of Russia will not prosecute missionaries. Please pray that we will be able to sell our apartment in Oryol.

In the service of the King,
Don Ossewaarde