Missionary, Daughter, Jailed in Visa Mixup

Post a Comment » Written on February 9th, 2006     
Filed under: News
BELARUS (February 9, 2006) – Leonid Regheta thought he was going to a family wedding. Instead, he went to jail in the former Soviet republic of Belarus. But all the while, he says, God was at work.

On Sunday, January 29, Regheta and his wife, Leanna, both Evangelical Covenant Church project missionaries to Russia, were traveling from their home in St. Petersburg, Russia, to Berdichev, Ukraine, for a cousin’s wedding. Unbeknownst to them, the train on which they were traveling passed across the border of Belarus.

Leonid and Leanna Regheta While Leanna, a Russian citizen, was allowed entry, Leonid and their toddler daughter, Linnea, who are U.S. citizens, were detained for not having a valid transit visa. They were taken to a border crossing jail, located in a sparsely populated area not far from the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Despite frigid temperatures, the only heat in the jail cell came from a barely functional radiator that had been torn off the wall.

“My calls to (the) border guards for better treatment went unanswered,” Regheta says. “At one point, they accused the United States of not treating Belarus properly, so they didn’t feel compelled to assist us – American citizens – in any way, either. I demanded to see their commanding officer, but his answer was similar. In fact, he told us he was ‘no Jesus Christ to help us.’ “

The Reghetas were eventually released and told they had to travel to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, to resolve their visa problem. “After traveling the whole night . . . on a car, train and bus, my very pregnant wife, our Linnea, and I made it to the visa services office in Minsk,” Regheta says, where they were nearly arrested before their visas were finally granted – at a cost of $380.

They then bought tickets for a flight from Minsk to Kiev. After spending the night in the airport, they flew to Kiev and then drove another four hours before arriving safe, but weary, at their family’s home in Berdichev.

While there, word of their troubles in Belarus spread among local Christians and Regheta was invited to speak to a city-wide gathering of pastors. “I had the very unique opportunity to address them and discuss with them the Covenant’s work in Russia, Ukraine and Moldova,” he says. Nine pastors there, he says, were interested in learning more about the Covenant work in Russia.

He added, “I am sure I wouldn’t have had that opportunity had we not experienced the hardships of Belarus.”

Rather than risk a return journey through Belarus, the Reghetas flew home to St. Petersburg, where they arrived safely this past weekend. “There were no problems once we landed in Russia,” he says, “other than dealing with minus 22 Celsius temperatures.”

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog