250,000 books in distribution throughout Russia
At the end of May, we received the next 200,000 copies of the Russian-language Gospels of John from the printing house in Siberia.
The books were ready to send to about 100 different cities, in eastern Russia and Siberia. The Gospel of John order was a continuation of the New Testament shipment sent out earlier in the month.
The map shows where the New Testaments, as well as the Gospel of John, have been sent. The distribution of the Gospel of John will cover a vast area, including cities and outlying areas across the country.
This year, Lord willing and circumstances allowing us to do so, our intention is to have an additional 750,000 books printed for evangelism.
Freedom of speech in Russia
Freedom of speech in Russia has taken a hit. As of June 1st, a new law is in effect which relates to freedom of expression. These new restrictions affect freedom of religion and the practice of religion as well.
Churches who wish to remain faithful to the Great Commission by Jesus will find it increasingly difficult.
Bishop Yuri Ananiev, from southern Russia, told the GCM Ministry magazine editor, that the current situation is clearly reminiscent of the Soviet era. The iron curtain is closing once again.
Pedagogical (teaching) activities are prohibited
The situation is such, that if quoting the Bible, a person can now be held accountable before the law.
On June 1st, a new law came into effect and is being enforced, banning educational activities without special permission from the authorities. The law is comprehensive and the penalties are clear.
This means any person lecturing or teaching, including audio and video recordings on the internet, as well as any kind of teaching material that can be downloaded from a website, is now being scrutinized.
Bishop Yuri Ananiev emphasized to GCM Ministries: “The saddest thing from the perspective of the churches, is that the new law covers the teaching and circulation of material for spiritual growth amongst the people of Russia.”
-The aim here is to prevent and control the dissemination of all spiritual educational material in Russia. Thus, it is likely that anyone who re-posts, quotes, or places on the web, words of Jesus that Alexei Navalny quoted from the Sermon on the Mount, can face a 30-day sentence in prison.
Bishop Ananiev was asked to weigh in on the current situation:
How do you perceive that we have come to this point, whereupon it can be said that the iron curtain has closed? Did the restrictions to the freedom of speech begin with the implementation of the Yarovaya Law, have anything to do with where things are at now?
-I remember Hannu told me about this coming to pass about 10 years ago. The last mega-city media campaign took place in Russia in 2012. Mega-city campaigns in their original form, ended then, due to the increasing pressure from the authorities. Soon after that, GCMM began an extensive literature printing ministry for churches in Russia.
A little later we started operating on the internet, and now the state is trying to restrict activities there as well.
At the moment, what we can do, is have churches using evangelism literature and members going door to door sharing the gospel message, the word of God, campaign books and other Christian literature. This activity is currently centralized in Siberia and eastern Russia, where the gospel message is still welcomed and received.
On the European side of Russia, evangelists are shipped off to prison and on the western side of Russia, prayer rooms are being dismantled.
Once again Russia is experiencing a very difficult time.
GCMM’s extensive literature ministry has miraculously continued. We asked Bishop Ananiev, “How can we understand this”?
-Those who have not succumbed to the intimidation and pressure of the state, have carried on the same way as the apostles, who once asked the authorities in Jerusalem, “Who should we listen more to, you or to God?”
The apostles experienced how the Holy Spirit gave them the strength to continue proclaiming the gospel message. Likewise, today, churches that have retained courage, determination, and fearlessness will continue. They get to experience blessings and to see people coming to faith.
I just returned from the city of Rostov. A new church plant was established there in October last year. Despite the apparently impossible circumstances, they decided to hold an evangelistic meeting at a hotel ballroom in the center of the city. There was a political event happening on the street outside the hotel, and these believers could be heard sharing the Gospel in word and song from the ballroom.
As it happened to Zacchaeus back in time, the hotel manager said he would take care of all the expenses of the event, the food, refreshments, rental for the room and everything else. They didn’t have to pay anything. They saw God touch the manager’s heart. We saw how miracles and signs follow those who boldly proclaim the Gospel. The spirit of God works in spite of restrictions and limitations.
You said that one of the last ways to proclaim the Gospel was by using literature, just like GCMM is doing by printing literature for churches and their outreach mission work.
Is this something that can/will be restricted? Punished? Have there been attempts to interfere with this work?
-Personally, I can’t understand how this is possible, that we have been able to continue doing this. It is my understanding that it’s God, who is keeping the door open for us to do His will.
We don’t know how long this can continue. So, we are taking advantage of the opportunity, this open door.
This is a miracle…
-Yes, I believe more and more that this is a miracle of God, that we can continue to print literature, New Testaments and the Gospels, and we have not been labeled foreign agents.
We know that other similar parties have already been labeled in that manner and as hostile organizations.
For some reason, we have been given additional time and opportunity to continue printing literature for evangelism. This is truly wondrous.
Perhaps it’s because we proclaim the Gospel and have no other agenda. God has obviously blessed our work. It is His doing.
Can you explain what a foreign agent and a hostile organization means? What does it mean if someone is labeled as such?
-First of all, if the organization publishes any material, it must be followed by a statement that the organization or entity is a foreign agent.
If this were to happen to us, and we were labeled as a foreign agent, it would mean that all social service providers and firms would refuse to work with us. For example, a printing company would refuse to accept our orders and transport companies would refuse to cooperate with us, etc.
This is comparable to what happened during World War II in Germany when the Star of David was glued to the backs of the Jews so that no one would approach them or deal with them. This is the question even now.
Do you have any closing words?
Before God, there are no different nationalities. We are all one and the same, a part of humanity. God is our Father, and we are brothers and sisters to one another. Even in the face of disagreements or disputes, we are still brothers in the spirit.