First, I would like to express my gratitude to Presiding Judge Gleb Borisovich Noskov for not imposing [pretrial] imprisonment on me, which meant that I have been with my family the entire time. Also I wish to thank all of the clerks for their work.
I offer special thanks to the prosecutor, Madam Nadezhda Gennadiyevna Naumova, because no undue pressure was exerted on me and the questioning was conducted properly.
I would also like to thank my lawyers, Madam Irina Aleksandrovna Krasnikova and Mr. Anton Nikolayevich Bogdanov, for the tremendous work they have done. I confess to being very surprised when they managed to bring in a specialist from Chelyabinsk.
Thanks to all of you dear friends, for coming to all the sessions to encourage me, even though it was known that the sessions would be closed.
Thank you to my mother, who, in spite of poor health, came to the court sessions to support me.
Thank you to my beloved wife, who for the past 37 years has supported me during good times and those more difficult moments.
Of course, the greatest gratitude goes to my beloved God, Jehovah, who has filled my heart with peace and joy. You may find it hard to believe, but in my heart there is no shadow of discontent or resentment about what has happened to me, only joy and peace.
Second Corinthians 4:8, 9 is Bible prophecy being fulfilled in my case: “We are hard-pressed in every way, but not cramped beyond movement; we are perplexed, but not absolutely with no way out; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed.”
This tells us that not only will God’s servants be hard-pressed and persecuted, but also that the work that the Lord Jesus entrusted to them will not just continue, but will gain momentum and expand. These words apply to all who consider themselves followers of Christ:
Matthew 28:19, 20 tells us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”
Jehovah’s spirit continually leads Christians, giving them power beyond what is normal and thus helping them to perform their God-assigned tasks despite the pressures they face. We become even more convinced of this when we take a look at the past. In the 1930’s, God’s servants faced what seemed to be an impossible task, that of covering the entire Soviet Union with the message about God’s Kingdom. But since the preaching work is directed by Christ, he arranged matters so that in the early 1950’s the Soviet government itself sent thousands of families of Jehovah’s Witnesses to Siberia into the farthest corners of the country without charge. It has been [more] than 60 years since then and what have we seen happen? Officials throughout Siberia have been astounded when they have seen how the preaching work has spread. One analyst who is familiar with the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the USSR expressed it this way: “Fighting against Jehovah’s Witnesses is like blowing on dandelions. The stronger the force that is used against them, the more seeds fly and the farther they go.”
Today that same situation with Jehovah’s Witnesses is being repeated. Whom do we meet when we preach from house to house? Housewives and pensioners. It is difficult to find working people at home. It is also difficult and sometimes impossible to get into high-security buildings, prisons, courts, and prison colonies. But the preaching campaign is directed by Christ and he [Jehovah] has put it into the mind and heart of the Ministry of Justice to carry out His will. In the end, the Ministry of Justice, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the prosecutor’s offices, and other law-enforcement agencies have seen to it by their direct and active involvement in the preaching campaign of Jehovah’s Witnesses. How? Because of their actions, from Kaliningrad to Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands; from Arkhangel’sk to Crimea, and Yalta; within families, at workplaces, in prisons, courts, and correctional colonies, the name of the Universal Sovereign, Jehovah God, is being proclaimed. We as Jehovah’s Witnesses could never have dreamed that this campaign would reach such magnitude. So now a new door has opened for the ministry in what are essentially new circumstances and new places. For Jehovah’s Witnesses to preach the good news in new places is truly a great honor. And it is the prosecutor’s office that is making this possible.
Let us take a look into the future. If for another ten years or so the government keeps putting Jehovah’s Witnesses in prisons and correctional colonies, there will be about 200 of them in each penal facility. Imagine four congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in one prison! The prison administrators will be begging the Ministry of Justice to set Jehovah’s Witnesses free. What do you imagine the majority of Witnesses would pray for? “Lord, don’t soften the heart of the administrator; don’t let him set me free. I have so many Bible students and sincere people to talk to in here.”
If you were to look at the current situation from an unbeliever’s viewpoint, you might despair. You might say: “I have not killed anyone, robbed anyone, stolen from anyone. I have not even quarreled with anyone. This evidence is in the reports from the rural administration and from the district inspector. Nevertheless, the prosecution is asking that I serve three years in a prison colony.” This would seem to be the time to despair; but as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I look at this situation through the eyes of faith. If God permits me to be convicted, it means that I need to view these three years not as a punitive sentence but as a special assignment to serve in a new location! So I do not despair. Rather, I view it as a great privilege, the privilege to serve God where there are as yet no Jehovah’s Witnesses. The mass media has already plowed this territory very well in preparation. Now is the time to sow.
God is one and the same whether we are free or in prison. Therefore, we are not abandoned. He is with us everywhere as long as we stay faithful to him. In my case I am confident that God is taking my physical and spiritual health into consideration and, if it pleases him, he will put it in the presiding judge’s mind and heart to grant your petition regarding my sentence, Madam Naumova. I am looking forward to April 1st. Hebrews 13:6 assures me: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Jehovah God himself will help me. Of whom should I be afraid?