I always think of September as a month of transition. We are transitioning away from a summer vacation mindset back to things like cooler temperatures, fall routines and school. However, 2020 has proven many times over to be anything but normal! Many of us, including myself, are still feeling uncertain about what the coming months will bring. Will there be a second wave of the virus? Will children and teachers be safe at school? What will happen with our federal government? I also look at the world around me and see more widespread division, conflict, injustice, mistreatment and fear than I ever remember in my own lifetime.
My heart today is broken for the horrible injustices that our partners in ministry are sharing with us from the country of Belarus. We don’t talk about Belarus as often as Ukraine, but this month, I feel that I must step up to be an advocate on behalf of people who are experiencing terrible suffering. Maybe you have heard, however briefly on the news, about what has been going on in the last few weeks after the recent presidential elections. Hearing about Belarus on the news is a rare occurrence in North America, which speaks volumes about the seriousness of the situation.
Please understand that my message in this letter is not political. Mission Partners does not support or address political issues. We do, however, work together in unity with other Christians for the cause of Christ. And today, some of those we minister alongside and care deeply about in Belarus, have been arrested unjustly. Several have been arrested while out on the streets praying for their country. Many people who have been taken by security forces were not participating in protests. Some have experienced horrific abuse and torture! Reading and viewing these firsthand accounts has left me horrified and appalled.
Rather than try to explain the details myself, I will let the words of Sergei, a talented musician from Together Camping Ministry speak for themselves. I met Sergei personally in 2014 when I was at camp Hutorok in Belarus. You will find excerpts from Sergei’s story on the back page. Please note that we have also posted parts of the video of Sergei sharing his experiences firsthand on our YouTube channel.
Right now, I want to humbly implore you to consider joining with me to help our partners in Belarus. First, these men and women of God need to know that we are standing with them, praying for peace in Belarus. Second, we also need to pray that God will use these horrible experiences and this tragic situation for His glory. Pray that through the witness of these incredible servants of God, that many eyes and ears in Belarus will be opened to the truth of Christ Jesus. Third, we need to help in an active and immediate way. We need to send our Belarussian partners the support they need to share hope, bring emotional healing, and ultimately the message of the Gospel to the hurting people of Belarus.
I know that I simply cannot overlook this situation. I must help my Christian partners, the people I care about, who are being arrested without cause. I also know that I must take action to give these men and women tools to be an effective witness for Christ to those around them who are suffering today. Those tools could be anything from food or other emergency supplies to Christian counselling or evangelistic material.
Because of the variety of needs people will have, I cannot outline an exact dollar amount to help one person or one family. What I can tell you is that I am committed to sending as much as we are able to help as many hurting people as possible. Will you stand with me? Will you stand with the believers in Belarus?
My name is Sergei. I am 32 years old. I am a musician and a composer. Let me tell you my story. I live in Minsk, Belarus. On August 11, my friend and I were walking downtown. As we walked along we saw that the sidewalk was blocked by soldiers in black.
We approached the soldiers and asked what would be the best way to get to where we were headed. We kindly asked if we could walk through the square. The square was empty with no political rallies or gatherings. They replied that if we really needed to we could just walk through.
Suddenly one of the soldiers yelled to arrest us. We were made to stand with our hands behind our backs, legs apart and faces to the wall. One of the soldiers checked my phone. In my messenger app he found a couple of news feeds he didn’t like so he arrested me. They tied my arms behind my back with a plastic zip tie and took me to a bus with others already on it.
When we arrived at our destination, we did not know where we were. I was already feeling severe pain in my hands because the zip tie was tied really tight. The zip tie was eventually removed, but my hands had turned blue. We were made to stand against a wall with our legs stretched apart as far as possible and our hands above our heads. If we didn’t do it to the guards satisfaction, we were hit on the legs with batons. The soldiers kept saying that we were all going to die there.
After a while, we were forced to sign a paper admitting we participated in the anti-government demonstrations. I was so cold that I couldn’t even hold the pen. Those who refused to sign were beaten until they agreed to sign the paper. We spent the whole night standing against the wall with our legs spread apart and our hands up against the wall. Finally, after 12 hours of standing in that position, we were allowed to sit for 10 minutes. My body was shaking with pain, cold and fatigue.
The next morning we were taken away to an other location. But on the way, we were forced through a corridor of soldiers with batons who beat us as we passed by. They did this three times on the way to our destination. In the prison truck, we were forced into a metal cabinet meant to hold three people, but they forced six adult men into each one. We stopped having enough air after only a few minutes.
At our destination, 80 of us were forced into a 16 x 16 concrete yard. We tried to sleep, almost on top of each other, but it was terrible. The whole time we were given food only once. It was a strange breaded fish that made us all sick plus one loaf of bread for all 80 people.
In the middle of the night, they threw a younger teenage boy into the yard who had been beaten so severely that is legs had been broken by the batons. He had to be rushed to the hospital.
I was let go the next day, but I was told that I would still have to go before a judge later to be sentenced to 15 days in prison. Sergei