US missionary's work ended by Russia's anti-evangelism law

Don and Ruth Ossewaarde. A Baptist preacher, Ossewaarde was fined 40,000 rubles for holding religious services in his home.

The American missionary who fell foul of Russia's draconian anti-evangelism law is bringing his ministry there to a close.

Donald and Ruth Ossewaarde work in the central Russian town of Oryol and Donald was one of the first to be fined under the new law, which severely restricts evangelistic activity. He is appealing against his conviction, which saw him fined 40,000 roubles (around $700).

Ruth has already returned to the US and now Ossewaarde has told Baptist Press that he now intends to leave the country as well.

"I really think that the political situation in Russia has reached a point where they are going to, one way or the other, they're going to get rid of me," he said. "So I really decided to end my operations here. It's sad because there are people here that really enjoy what we do. It's a big part of their life."

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 told Baptist Press: "I'm very sad. This is a dream that I've been living for 22 years since the first time I visited in 1994."

He added: "This has been my life, what I've lived for. I guess we expected from the beginning that this wasn't going to last. I guess we were surprised that it lasted as long as it did. But now it just seems like the window and the door of opportunity is finally closing."

As well as Ossewaarde, in Moscow, Ghanaian citizen Ebenezer Tuah, who heads the Christ Embassy church, was arrested and fined 50,000 rubles after police raided a sanatorium where he was performing baptisms.

And Sergei Zhuravlyov of the Ukranian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ was arrested while preaching in St Petersburg and accused of "violating a provision of Russian anti-terrorist legislation that bans illegal missionary activity".