Exactly four years after his arrest Uzbekistan authorities released Pastor Dmitry (David) Shestakov from the Navoi prison. Wearing prison dress (black jacket, trousers and cap) Dmitry left the colony at 3pm on Friday, January 21 and was met by his wife, three daughters and two members of his home church. “I am overwhelmed with joy and wish to thank all my brothers and sisters who have prayed for me and who have thought about me while I was imprisoned”, Dmitry shared with one of Open Doors’ field workers. During his imprisonment Open Doors assisted in advocacy on behalf of him and launched a writing campaign to encourage his family where they received hundreds of letters from supporters.
Pastor Dmitry (David) Shestakov was arrested in 2007 during a raid on the Full Gospel Church in Andijan, Uzbekistan. He was later charged on two counts; the illegal organization of public unions and religious organizations, and the manufacture/distribution of materials that contain a threat to the social safety and public peace. The judge sentenced him to four years detention. Dmitry was transferred to the closed labor camp in Navoi in Central Uzbekistan, approximately 450 miles away from his home. Because of this great distance his wife Marina and his three daughters Masha, Sasha and Vera were only able to visit Dmitry in prison several times a year.
Although the Full Gospel Church is legally registered, the church is under constant pressure from authorities. “Only two church members came to take Dmitry home from the labor camp. No one else dared to come, because they’re afraid to attract unwanted attention due to their connection with him.” the field worker shares. “Pastor Dmitry has to be very careful and everything he does will be strictly monitored. This includes the people he will be talking to, everything he says, everywhere he goes, and much more.” Dmitry adds, “I have been ordered to follow strict guidelines and regulations. I am a pastor and I want to serve God but I have to find a wise way to do this.”
Dmitry is very thankful and glad to be out of prison but at this time he is also grieving the loss of his mother who passed away on Monday, January 24 – just three days after his release. Praise God that they were able to see each other before she passed away. Pastor Dmitry and his family have asked for our prayers during this time of transition as they get reacquainted and begin building a new future together as a family.
Father, we give praise and thanks that You provided and sustained Pastor Dmitry and his family during his imprisonment. As they move into the future we first want to pray for Dmitry’s health as he is suffers with heart and liver problems. You are the great physician and we ask for Your healing touch on his body. Strengthen him both physically and mentally so that he can continue to serve You. Father we also pray for his family and his church; that they will feel Your peace at this time. Remove the fear in their hearts and replace it with boldness as you bless them with wisdom in all their decisions. And lastly, may this time of healing and reunion be sweet; filled with thanksgiving and joy. Amen
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