Friday, October 30, 2009

Some News From Russia

Speaking of "praying for our persecutors" (as mentioned in today's text) I just got this email which a sister from British Columbia passed along (and is making it's way around in case you've already seen it). It's about our brothers & sisters in Russia, and how the government is really stepping up the effort to ban them, and launching more propaganda media we should make sure to include them in our petitions since they are being put to the test right now by their 'persecutors'. They need to meet together in the woods just to have an assembly because no one is willing to rent a facility to them (on account of the opposition there).
Here's some photos of a recent 'forest convention' they had, followed by some info from a Canadian brother who is serving in Russia with his wife...

"Hi all! A couple weeks ago we were all secretly told thru our Service Groups that October 4th we should be prepared for our Special Assembly Day. Besides the instruction to dress warm and bring money for transport, no other details were given. However, having the assemblies in the forest isn't something new here any more. Last summer after our venue was cancelled for the District Convention, the brothers thought up this great idea to use a plot of private land belonging to one elder and his family as a convention site. It went well despite attempted interference from police. This summer it was planned at the same location from the get-go in view of major difficulties in finding any place willing to rent to us.
But this fall was a first. An assembly in the forest in October! That means that the facility that we've used to hold the last 3 smaller assemblies in a city about 2 hours away has finally caved under pressure from the church, the authorities, the fcb {?} or all 3 and will no longer rent to us despite it being very profitable for them. So that leaves us to the forest!

This was all pretty exciting for me since I wasn't here last summer for the first forest convention and obviously this summer I wasn't in Russia either so I missed the second one. We all bundled warm, bringing extra clothing and rain gear and thermoses of hot drinks. I have to say we were very fortunate. The whole week before and the whole week after our meeting it rained every day. The day of the assembly was beautiful and sunny. It was close to freezing in the morning, of course, but at least we weren't soaking wet. By the afternoon it was actually quite pleasant! For this S.A.D. (Special Assembly Day) we had about 1800 in attendance, the whole district.

I was totally amazed at how professional the whole set up was. Hopefully you get an idea from the photos. The chairs, stage, sound system was all set up perfectly. Even tents were set up for those with children and the elderly in case of rain. Outhouses were shipped out to the site (the largest expense of the convention) and a make-shift hand washing station was set up. Nothing was overlooked. All went off without a hitch as far as I know. One of my Bible students came and one of Blazej's African Bible students, Gordon, came as well despite the cold and only understanding half of the program.

It looks like we're resigned to having such gatherings in the forest from now on since we just had a resolution read to set aside money for the purchase of portable toilets since the rental of them is so costly. How many circuits in Canada own their own Jiffy Biffys eh?

But that's not all.

The authorities seem to be stepping up efforts to eliminate JWs here. It was openly stated on the news last month that efforts are being made to ban us. Last Friday a completely slanderous program was aired on TV about us and how we make millions and kill children and things like that. These get a wide audience and Russians, being rather gullible when it comes to what they see on TV, tend to believe the lies. We're meeting with a lot of questions and suspicions as to who we are and what is our organization.

For our local needs Friday, we were informed that due to efforts to ban us and our literature, we will no longer be stocking any literature in the Kingdom Hall whatsoever. Not one piece will be stored there. Just like in the old days before we had a Hall! It will be distributed thru the service groups. Also no announcement board or schedules for meetings will be posted. This Friday coming up we'll also be having a special part with more information pertinent to the situation. This is over the entire country, not just in our region. Forest assemblies have become something very common all over and the decision about literature was made at the Branch and will be effective everywhere as of this week.

We just wait and see. The preaching work goes on without problems as of yet. Who knows what will happen soon. Our nasty neighbor below us hates us and constantly writes complaints about us and accuses us of being from a sect, etc. They greet us with 'Hello Witnesses' is a snide tone. Interestingly enough, our other neighbor who we're friends with informed us that the nasty lady was invited for an official meeting with the police on the 15th (I guess that's tomorrow). We have no idea why that is but we're suspicious that suddenly they're taking an interest in her complaints because of the fact that we're Witnesses. Again, we'll see!

So that's the latest and the greatest here in ------. We'll try to keep you informed. Of course being newlyweds and all we don't email so much but we'll do our best!!

Hope you all are keeping busy in the service and never taking for granted the freedom and ease you can preach with. You never know when that might end. We'll do the same! Take care all," (End of report from Russia)