Three years ago, Pastor Dmitry Shestakov and his family fled Uzbekistan after he had spent four years in a labour camp and subsequently received numerous death threats.
The family’s journey of freedom officially ended on 30 August as they arrived in the United States, where they were granted asylum. Mission Eurasia is assisting the family as they make this transition.
Nearly 10 years ago, authorities arrested the pastor after they raided Full Gospel Church in Andijan, Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan’s Religious Affairs Committee claimed Shestakov was not an authorised leader of any officially-recognised religious organisation. He was labelled an “imposter” and sent to a prison camp more than 640km from his home. The distance made a visit from his wife, Marina, and their three daughters, Maria, Alexandra and Vera, difficult.
After his release on 21 January 2011 – exactly four years since he had entered prison – the government still closely monitored and forced him to obtain written permission just to leave his house. Following two years of living under these restrictions and receiving death threats, Shestakov moved his family to Ukraine, where the United Nations Human Rights Council granted them refugee status.
Today, Dmitry, Marina and their youngest two daughters, Alexandra, 20, and Vera, 16, are starting a new life in the United States. Their eldest daughter, Maria, 22, remains in Ukraine with her husband.
Source: The Voice of the Martyrs USA
- Thank the Lord for providing safe passage to a new home for this family.
- Pray the Lord will lead them to find a new home church where they can continue to grow in faith and serve the Lord.
- Pray the testimony of the suffering experienced by Dmitry, his wife and children may be used by the Lord to encourage believers in the West to also live out their faith boldly.
Australian John Short was taken prisoner in North Korea. He was repeatedly interrogated. He was forced to write a ‘confession’ of his ‘crimes,’ including the offense of wanting more North Koreans to follow Jesus. Yet he would happily go back. John Short shares how God strengthened him during his captivity and the Scriptures and earthly examples that most encouraged him.
Listen to the full interview on VOM Radio here https://secure.persecution.com/radio/default.aspx?pdid=6568
VOM received this letter from a prisoner in the Ukraine. Even in prison, this brother is sharing Christ. He prays that we believers will learn to love and serve Muslims.
Dear VOM ministers, brothers and sisters! Peace be with you! The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14.
By God’s grace, since 2014 I have been receiving your VOM newsletter. Thank you very much! In it I find encouragement and support. The difficulties I face as well as my life sentence are nothing compared to the suffering that our brave brothers and sisters in Christ undergo. Every day I send my prayers to God for all his suffering children. I thank God for the honour to be a partaker in their sufferings!
We are not able to change Muslims, but we can do our best to change ourselves, to become disciplined and faithful in prayer, and become a light to them. In our prison, there are a few Muslims with a life sentence. Recently God put me into the same cell with one of them. I shared about Christ with him and prayed five times a day right next to him – he prayed as a Muslim and I prayed as a Christian. In Matthew 10:16 the Lord says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
I read that Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, but I do not like Christians, who are not like Jesus Christ!” There are so many people around us, who do not know God, but none tells them about Him. We Christians are often busy with our own problems, struggles and fights with one another. I thank you very much for sending me your materials that remind me to re-evaluate my Christian life and my values! I pray that Christians learn to love Muslims and serve them, while preaching them the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the way they live and act towards other people.
With gratitude and love, your brother,
Please pray for our brother in Christ in China, human rights lawyer Zhang Kai, who was placed under ‘criminal detention’ on 26 February.
On the same day, Zhang’s father was summoned to the offices of the Wenzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau – and has not been seen since. Until 26 February, Zhang was being held in an unregistered or illegal ‘black jail,’ his home for the past six months.
Zhang Kai is being held because of his involvement with Zhejiang churches which the authorities have targeted for demolition or cross removal for more than two years. He was arrested in August in Wenzhou city, where he was helping churches mount a legal challenge.
Zhang was originally charged with “endangering national security” and “gathering crowds to disturb the social order.” There has since been concern that these could be replaced with the more serious charge of ‘spying.’
Sources: China Aid, Release International
- Please pray for the immediate release of Zhang Kai and his father.
- Pray that the Chinese authorities will end their persecution of churches in Zhejiang and of lawyers defending religious rights.
- Pray that churches in Zhejiang will find a fresh unity as congregations of all denominations are targeted for attack.
VOM’s partner office in the UK has launched a petition calling on the Chinese Government to release Zhang immediately. Please sign the online petition and forward to your contacts to sign also.
CHINA: Pastor Jailed for Social Media Prayers is Freed
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Restricted Nations: China
Thirteen Christians were arrested in the city of Varamin, south east of Tehran.
Zari Shah Khasti (Poorkaveh), Simmin, Bahram, Amin, Leyla, Zahra, Mehdi, Farzaneh, Shayan, Sara, Nazanin, Elnaz and Mohammad Shah Khasti were arrested by agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence following a raid on a house church. Most of the group were previously members of the Emmanuel Protestant Church in Tehran, which was forced to close by Iranian authorities in 2012 and to end its Farsi (Persian) language services.
Another member of the church who was not at the gathering was arrested at his home in Tehran during the early hours of 2 November. Since their arrests the group’s whereabouts are unknown and family members are concerned about their safety.
There has been no improvement in human rights under Rouhani’s presidency, despite his reputation as a moderate. Instead, Iran has witnessed a deterioration in the human rights climate since his election to office. Political opponents, journalists, activists and members of religious minorities continue to be imprisoned, with converts to Christianity and members of the Baha’i faith being targeted particularly.
Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- Pray this group of believers and their families will be comforted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit as they endure this difficult trial. Pray for their release.
- Pray that God will provide opportunities for them to clearly share the Gospel with prisoners and authorities (Colossians 4:2-3).
- Pray this latest round of arrests may be used by the Lord to spur on Iranian Christians in the faith; ask the Lord to continue to strengthen His church in this nation in spite of man’s efforts to suppress it.
IRAN: Pastor Abused, Threatened with New Charges
IRAN: Christian Released from Prison
IRAN: Religious Freedom in Decline