(Photo Courtesy of RMI)
On November 27, local authorities served them with an order to vacate the building and hand over the keys no later than Wednesday, December 5.
The church had written letters appealing to the Belarusian council of ministers and to the administration of the president. They had someone stationed at the church 24-hours a day for prayer and protection. Many people from around the world joined them in their protests and prayers.
Russian Ministries and other mission organizations and human rights groups added their voice of support for the church under fire. They also received local support from the 50,000-strong main Belarus Pentecostal church who called on their members to pray.
In Belarus, religious communities do not have the right to develop their own media, to establish religious education institutions, to train religious personnel, or to invite foreign priests to satisfy religious needs of believers.
Members of a religious organization do not have the right to share their convictions or to carry out any religious activity, beyond the borders of the location where the community is registered. So not having a church building would have been discouraging for the church members.
The day before the eviction was scheduled; the acting Bishop Sergei Tsvor invited Pastors Goncharenko and Lukanin to a prayer meeting of pastors from Minsk and Minsk Region. Many pastors expressed their support for them after the meeting. Jim Couzens, the deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Minsk, visited New Life Church on December 4.
As the church was in the midst of prayer and intercession, a Supreme Economic Court officer called a church administrator and told him that "the court's executive production [has] been stopped, and no one is going to confiscate the church property."
On December 4, a legal representative of the church obtained a paper that said that "government officials gave up on their decision to confiscate the church, and the confiscation case has been closed and filed away at the Court's Archives."
New Life's Administrator Vitaly Antonchikov said, "This isn't the end, of course. The eviction is cancelled, but legally our land and building still belong to the authorities."
The next 24-hour service will be a time of worship and thanksgiving. One member spoke on behalf of the church, "Thank you so much for your support and decision to be on our side! We sensed we were not alone! Jesus is Lord!"
Praise the Lord that this church is continuing to share the Gospel in their community. Pray that the local authorities will continue to let the church have a presence in the building.