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Dmitry and Marina Shestakov with their three daughters: Alexandra (left), Vera (centre), and Maria (right).

Pastor Dmitry Shestakov and his family fled Uzbekistan three years ago after he had endured four years in a labour camp and, subsequently, received numerous death threats. The family's journey to freedom officially ended on August 30th with their arrival in the United States where they were granted asylum.

Nearly ten years ago, authorities had arrested the pastor after raiding the Full Gospel Church in Andijan. Uzbekistan's Religious Affairs Committee claimed Dmitry was not an authorized leader of any officially recognized religious organization. Labelled an "imposter," he was sent to a prison camp more than 640 kilometres from his home. The distance made it difficult for his wife Marina and their three daughters -- Maria, Alexandra and Vera -- to visit him. (A previously posted report on Dmitry's arrest may be reviewed here.)

Following Dmitry's release on January 21st, 2011 (exactly four years since he entered prison), the government continued to monitor him closely, requiring him to obtain written permission in order to leave his house. After two years of living under these restrictions and receiving death threats, Dmitry finally moved his family to Ukraine where the United Nations Human Rights Council granted them refugee status.

Today, Dmitry and Marina, along with their youngest two daughters, Alexandra, 20, and Vera, 16, are starting a new life in the United States. Their eldest daughter, Maria, 22, will remain in Ukraine with her husband.

We are thankful to the Lord for providing Dmitry and his family safe passage to their new home. May He now lead them to a church where they can continue to grow in their faith and serve Him within a community of fellow believers. Pray that the testimony of the suffering experienced by Dmitry, his wife and daughters will be used to encourage believers in the West to also live out their faith with unwavering commitment and courage.