Baptist Missionary Donald Ossewaarde in Russia, Facing Charges and End of Ministry.
- Missionary is facing charges for engaging in missionary work by definition under anti-terrorism law.
- Don Ossewaarde has been in ministry in the city of Oryol for over 14 years.
- Spent 2 1/2 years raising support in the US, then 3 1/2 years in Ukraine.
- A fine equivalent to about $600 has been imposed in the case.
- He claims to have been threatened if he does not leave the country.
(Vero Beach, FL) Baptist missionary, Don Ossewaarde was fined 40,000 rubles for holding a Bible study in his home. He is accused of violating an anti-terrorism law aimed at stopping the formation of radical Islamic cell groups in Russia.
Donald and his wife Ruth work in the central Russian town of Oryol and Donald was one of the first to be fined under the new law. Although the new law defines missionary acitivity in part, as performed only by registered religious organizations, further explanation reveals that it may include independent individuals as well. It prohibits the distribution of religious material in public and knocking on doors to spread the message. In essence, it restricts evangelistic activity. Ossewaarde is appealing against his conviction, which saw him fined 40,000 roubles (just over $600). A judge has already ruled against his first appeal. The missionary and his legal team are attempting a second legal phase. Ruth has already returned to the U.S. and Ossewaarde says he now intends to leave the country as well.
"A local attorney met with me and said, 'Somebody in this city in a high position doesn't like you.', and he said, 'I would advise you, as a lawyer, not to appeal this case; just pay the fine and go back to America, because something bad could happen to you or your wife.' "
Ossewaarde is an independent missionary who had to raise his own support for his work. He has been conducting street evangelism and holding Bible studies and prayer meetings in his home. He expresses much sadness at having to pack up and leave after two decades of service in that community. Ossewaarde says that his family just wants him back in the U.S. safely.
"My younger son called me and very emotionally told me .. dad get out of there ... I've got three kids .... I don't want them to grow up without a grandpa please get out of there .. do it for me".
As well as Ossewaarde, in Tver, Ghanaian citizen Ebenezer Tuah, who heads the Christ Embassy church, was arrested and fined 50,000 rubles. Sergei Zhuravlyov of the Ukranian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ was also arrested while preaching in St Petersburg and accused of "violating a provision of Russian anti-terrorist legislation that bans illegal missionary activity".