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July 20, 2016 - The law takes effect
The day before the law took effect, I thought about the lawyers at the Slavic Center of Law and Justice. They had offered to defend anyone who was prosecuted by the law. I wondered how I would get in touch with them if I needed them. I looked up their website and found a contact email. I wrote to them:
"I am very grateful for your online seminar. It helped me a lot. I am an American and a Baptist, doing independent missionary work since 2002 in the city of Oryol. (although, by the terms of the new law, I cannot be considered a missionary in the legal sense, because I am not a representative of any religious association) We have a small group, about 15 people. We gather in my own private house. I have a permanent residency permit since 2005. If the local authorities act against us, may we turn to you for help?"
They replied, "Yes, of course. Give us a call." I put their number in my telephone. They sent me a booklet with a summary of information from the seminar, practical answers to commonly asked questions, advice, and contact information.
I had done all that I knew how to do in order to be prepared for any trouble. It was good to have some defense attorneys, but it is much more comforting to know that God will always defend us as we serve Him. Now we just had to trust the Lord to take care of us.
On Sunday, July 24, we wondered if the police would come and stop our service. I spent some time in the service explaining to the people what I had learned about the law. I made copies of the law and the informational booklet available to them. I made sure that everybody knew we were not doing anything illegal. We were just friends exercising our constitutional right to meet in a home and talk about our faith. All went as usual, so we thought maybe nobody was going to bother us. Sunday, July 31, and Sunday, August 7, were just the same. I searched the news every day for reports of police action against missionaries. It looked like everything was calm, and we were just starting to relax and breathe a little easier.
Then came Sunday, August 14. a date which will live in infamy...