Darrow Miller is Vice President for Staff Development of "Food for the Hungry International". His experience of living, studying and traveling in more than 40 countries is invaluable to his work at "Food forthe Hungry", where he provides leadership for a team of staff development workers.






Date: Sat, 25 Mar 2006


Dear friends and family

Thanks you for your prayers these last few days. I have lived through days I will never forget. What a privilege to be in Belarus as the people are struggling to have freedom birthed in their hearts and then in their nation.

My sense this week has been that I have been walking with “giants” Brothers and Sisters in Christ who have crossed the threshold of fear. Many have come to say that they no longer fear their tyrannical government. One of the pastors whom we met this week said it very clear, “To fear is to give authority over your life to the one you fear.” To fear a tyrannical government is to give that government power over your life. Many now are walking with out fear in Belarus. Pray that a critical mass of Belarusian¹s would turn their backs on fear.

This week has been a clash of emotions. There have been such highs as I witnessed common citizens waving the historic Belarusian flag in the city square in defiance of the “stalinist” government. The highs were reinforced as I had the privilege of meeting with Christian pastors who have a vision for seeing and working towards a new Reformation in their nation. The lows were a reflection of my own inadequacy for words and actions in the face of crushing injustice.

The Vision Conference that Cristi (my associate from Romania) and I were facilitating had about 60-70 church leaders. As usual our conferences focus on Biblical worldview and wholism in the development of nations. The themes were very appropriate for the church in Belarus at this moment in her history. During the first two days of the conference, many of the leaders were in contact with leaders on the ground in the square. Sometimes the leaders in the conference would go to the square to pray, speak or bring moral support those gathered. The evenings they would discuss what to do about those who had been arrested from the square and strategize for the next day.

We awoke on Friday morning to the news that the police has swept through the square at about 3:00 AM arresting the remaining 250 demonstrators. With others that had been incarcerated earlier in the week, there were now said to be about 600 in prisons. I was told that about 20% of the demonstrators were Christians. The fact that only about 2% of the country is evangelicals is a reflection of the commitment of the church in Belarus to speak into this movement for freedom. One of the pastors in the conference said that there were 13 young people from his church alone who had been arrested.

The session on Friday morning was very sombre. There were many tears, distraught faces and bloodshot eyes. What to say to my brothers and sisters whose hopes had been so crushed a few hours ago. I offered some feeble words of encouragement and then prayed for them and Belarus. My words seemed so inadequate for this moment in their lives. I asked if they wanted to continue the conference or if they wanted to take time to pray? They said they wanted for the conference to continue and they wanted to hear my session, appropriately titled Reviving the Reformation. About an hour into the session, I saw tensions increase with some of the leaders in the room moving towards the doors of the room and talking quietly together. I knew something was going on. After about five minutes, I was given a sign to stop and go sit down. Within 10 seconds the secret police (KGB) entered the room. How they new of this gathering, perhaps we will never know. Did someone call them? Did they track down one of the pastors through his cell phone, no one knows.

The please came in and began videoing all the conferees. They took Cristi and my passport to examine them to see if we were in the country legally. And they found we were. Then they recorded the documents and took personal information from the participants. They also interview some of the key pastors. Under their breath my new found friends could be heard to say the “unlawful laws.” What we were doing was legal under the law, but the police were looking for pretext to break up the meeting. This phrase reminded me so much of what my mentor Francis Schaeffer had said about “arbitrary absolutes.” A nation that looses it’s foundations in God’s Revelations of moral absolutes will eventually end up creating arbitrary laws that are then applied absolutely in a nations. Theses ³unlawful laws² are the reality of what Schaeffer predicted. After they finished their integrations¹ of the participants, they left with two of the leading pastors in their custody. The gathering quickly disbanded.

The lawyer for the organization that had invited us to Belarus went with the two pastors to the police station. In order to secure their release of the two pastors, in an act of Christ like humility and self-sacrifice, the lawyer took personal responsibility for the conference. The pastors were release and we heard a few hours later (after a “trial”), the lawyer was sentenced to 10 days in prison. One of my new friends burst into tears and asked in despair “What kind of a regime would imprison someone for doing good?”

As we drove back to the place where we were staying, I could not help but ask the question, “With these pastors in jail and all these people identified and under threat of intimidation, was it worth it?” Obviously, if we had finished the conference without the police coming, we could have felt good about being able to encourage and bring substance and some practical tools to the church in Belarus. But, with the breaking up of the conference was it worth it? My mind was spinning and I had wondered if perhaps we should not have come. When we arrived back at our place of lodging, we heard that the two pastors had been released from prison and that they were already contacting Cristi to see if he would be willing to finish the conference on Friday evening. So that answered my question. Having left Minsk for Moscow on Friday evening, I will need to wait some days to hear from Cristi to see if they finished the conference.

As I was driving to the airport for my flight to Moscow, my head was spinning. I asked the pastor who was driving me to the airport what he felt was the international response to the crises in Belarus. What he told me was sobering. He said the European response has been inadequate. He said the there is a Chamberlain spirit of appeasement in Europe. They have forgotten their roots and what it takes to have free societies. They are more concerned for their personal peace and affluence then for the freedom of Belarus or even their own freedom. He said that the only country in Europe that has responded adequately to the crisis is Poland

He then said that, in addition to Poland, the only other nation with an adequate response was George Bush and the USA. He said that the US is the only nation left that seems to understand the price of freedom. He said that if America ever looses its conviction and willingness to stand sacrifice for freedom, the world will be overwhelmed by tyranny. I was taken by his perspective of these things. And knowing the debate raging in the US over our response to Islamic fundamentalism, we are not that far away, as a nation, from abandoning a commitment to living in freedom. Personal peace and affluence are now deeply rooted in American psyche. Will we be able to have a vision and commitment to live as free men and women?

As I left Belarus, my friends asked me to please tell all I know to pray for the people of Belarus and for the birth of freedom here. So please pray:

1) For freedom for Belarus
2) For courage of pastors and church leaders to continue to speak into
this movement of freedom
3) Those 600 + people, many of them brothers and sister in Christ, who
are imprisoned for peacefully protesting a corrupt election process
4) That churches would grow in demonstrating God’s love in their
communities and seek to engage in transforming their culture
5) Thank God for the safety he provided for Cristi and I

For me, Belarus will no longer be a spot on a map. It will now be people and faces. As I leave my new friends, my heart is heavy for their current suffering and light from their laughter, the brightness in their eyes as they imagine Christ and His Kingdom coming to their nation.

In His Grace,