Brothers and sisters,
As I am writing this August update I honestly don’t know where to begin, how to proceed and how to finish. It feels like during this one month we have lived through a whole era. I will not go into details of how political situation developed. I am sure you can find a lot on the web if you Google ‘protests in Belarus 2020’. In brief, our nation has been ruled by a power-thirsty dictator for over 20 years. We ended up living in a system built entirely on lies and violence. On August 9th an election took place where most of the people voted for another candidate. However, the official results that were announced were false. What followed was hundreds of thousands of people on the streets across the nation demanding honest election and current president’s resignation. In the subsequent 4 days over 7000 people were captured and jailed. Hundreds were tortured. A few people are dead, many are still missing. This triggered even more protests in various forms, including strikes at major factories. All of this continues to this day. The government is not admitting any of its crimes, yet the people are adamant to defend their freedom and basic constitutional rights.
How is this affecting the church in Belarus and my ministry in particular? A number of my Christian friends have been detained recently. Some of them are still in jail, some awaiting trial. One of our church members was an observer at the polling station. He asked a simple question that one of the officials didn’t like. They lodged a statement with the police against him. Now he is awaiting trial that will most likely result either in a hefty fine or several days in prison. The national suffering came very close to us in this way.
There is an interdenominational prayer meeting that takes place every weekday on one of the central squares in Minsk. I try to attend it a few days of the week. I am able to give a 5-7 minute address from Scripture and lead in prayer. The attendance ranges from 20 to 60. I can see that believers need encouragement from the Word literally daily. In some circles the Gospel is unclear, the truth of God’s sovereignty is unclear. My desire is for people to have a full-orbed biblical view of God. It’s not an easy task for us as pastors now to preach the whole council of God, placing God’s justice and God’s grace in Jesus in their proper places. My head is busy with this all the time.
I am thankful for the spirit of unity among different Christians as we face evil and violence together. I am thankful for every social media post and every video address where more and more Christians and non-Christians speak against lies and lawlessness. I see this as work of God’s common grace. I realize that by God’s mercy many unregenerate people beginning to seek truth and justice. As a church we have ultimate answers to ultimate questions. Today people are confronting evil without, and that’s good in and of itself. But tomorrow they will have to confront evil within. This is a much more difficult confrontation. We stand with all those who want to see good triumph over evil but our Christian ambition is far greater: to see final victory of the Righteous King over the kingdom of Satan. I want my countrymen to see that the problem is far more serious than it looks even now. I want them to see that the solution is eventually not in their hands but in the hands of God.
About two weeks ago I was having a long ride on the train. I found myself in a conversation with a woman. She was going to Minsk to join a big protest march the following day. She told me how in the previous weeks her world turned upside down and how uncertain the future looked. I shared with her how I process the situation as a Christian. I feel all the same worries and fears but I put my trust in the King of Kings who sits in heaven. He appoints kings and dethrones them. He holds history in his hands. He loves me and keeps me. She warmly thanked me for an encouraging conversation. She promised she would check out my YouTube channel. I know that the Lord invariably turns evil into good for his beloved. I pray that it may be true in the lives of many whom God still plans to call and make his sheep. I know my conversation was one in thousands that faithful Christians were able to have with people out there.
We see so clearly that freedom has a cost, biblical convictions have a cost, faithful preaching has a cost. Today many other pastors like myself realize that we have no guarantee that things will turn out safe for us. Anyone who made public statements against state violence crossed the line. We are on an emotional roller-coaster: one day it feels like the victory is close and this giant with feet of clay will collapse, the other day you are overcome with dread and despair. I keep telling my own soul and my fellow believers that we don’t base our hope on the news we receive daily, good or bad; or on the forecasts of political analysts, optimistic or pessimistic. We set our hopes in God. Our God led his people though trials hundreds of times and never failed them. As I open the Bible in the midst of our national crisis I find the same God, Creator of all things, the same Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed us with His blood, the same Holy Spirit, who fills us with power to be witnesses for Jesus.
There are many ways you could pray for us these days. Here is one specific suggestion from me. Please pray that the following passage from Heb 12 may be true in the life of every Belarusian Christian:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Your brother in Christ,