If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 1 Corinthians 12:26
For Marina Shestakov and her three daughters, the imprisonment of their husband and father, Dmitry, was a time of great loss. But four years of loss soon became four years of gain, as Marina and the girls discovered they had a new family—a family without boundaries. Christians from around the world came alongside them reminding them of God’s love through their prayers, letters of support and offers of practical help.
In 2007, Pastor Dmitry Shestakov was sentenced to four years in a labor camp. He was leading a church in the east of Uzbekistan and had been watched by the security services for some time. In an attempt to blacken his name, he was falsely accused of many things, such as the excessive use of drugs and alcohol.
Marina will never forget the moment Dmitry was arrested. “It was a huge shock,” she says. “Suddenly I was left alone. Quickly many things changed in our family. The girls (Sasha, Masha
and Vera) were at an age when they were discovering all sorts of things, and sometimes they did not take notice of what I told them. Once Dmitry was gone, that changed. Gradually we became a close-knit team. That was good, but at the same time hard. They missed a part of their childhood.”
After Dmitry’s arrest, division arose in the church that he led. Some of the Christians were afraid and fled. However, God also brought good out of the situation. “Often in Central Asian cultures, when the pastor is removed, the whole church falls apart,” explains Marina. “Although some families left, new leaders arose as well. I’m thankful to everyone who took over Dmitry’s work,” she adds.
When Dmitry’s arrest became known outside Uzbekistan, several organisations launched aid campaigns for the Shestakovs. Open Doors started a writing campaign and encouraged its supporters to send cards and letters to encourage the Shestakov family. This support was vital for Marina and the girls.
“All the cards were a great encouragement for me,” shares Marina. “I thought it was so wonderful that people sent cards which were intended especially for one of us: for Dmitry or for me, or for one of the girls.
“I gained most strength from the Bible verses. The promises of God that He was watching over me, that He was holding me in His hand: those promises that people had written on the cards helped me to get through.”
RESPONSE: Today I will thank God for the oneness of His body around the world and the encouragement we can be to one another.
PRAYER: Pray for the Shestakov family—and others like them—as they struggle to resume their lives after the pressures of isolation and separation.