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Sometimes harassment in Russia can backfire

MOSCOW (BP)–Not all efforts to limit and harass evangelicals in Russia turn out badly.
Russell Kyzar, a Southern Baptist missionary in Moscow, recalls a volunteer team that traveled to Luhovitsi in August for a week of evangelistic work.
The local pastor had received all the needed permissions for the group to present a program in the local “cultural house,” Kyzar said. But a gang of hecklers met their mini-bus as it pulled up in front of the auditorium.
“These young people were carrying communist flags and placards in both English and Russian that said, ‘Yankees, go home.’ They were shouting their disdain for our presence,” he said. “They were loud but not physically aggressive.”
When the pastor and local cultural affairs director asked the crowd to respect the town’s guests, they replied: “We did not invite them. They are not our guests. We are Russian. We are Orthodox. We don’t need their religion.”
The group finally dispersed. Local police officials decided the Americans’ tourist visas did not permit them to do religious work, and a fine was paid for the violation.
Later that week, local television broadcast interviews with the Americans and the young hecklers, Kyzar said.
“During the interview the young people first said they had acted on their own, but then later they admitted they had been paid by local Orthodox leaders,” he said. “Apparently they just did it for the money.”
In fact, the Orthodox subterfuge backfired, Kyzar said.
“Through this all, the local cultural affairs director — who is a Christian sympathizer — was gracious and went to bat for the group,” he said. “A local school director even stuck her neck out for the volunteers to be with the schoolchildren twice during the week. And since then, the local mayor has given the green light for future work with this pastor and groups from the U.S.
“What Satan meant for evil, God turned into notoriety and good.”