NOVOROSSIYSK, Russia, March 20, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Two young men representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia have been released after being detained for more than two weeks, according to a prepared statement by Church spokesman Eric Hawkins.
“The two volunteers detained in Novorossiysk, Russia have been released and have left the country,” Hawkins said in an e-mail sent to multiple news agencies Wednesday morning.
“Elder Kole Brodowski, age 20, who was nearing the end of his service, will return home to California. Elder David Gaag, age 19, will return to the United States for a short time, receive any needed support, and then continue his service in a new mission.
“While in detention, the volunteers were treated very well and maintained regular contact with their families and mission president. The Church is closely monitoring conditions in Russia for all volunteers and will continue to fully comply with Russian law.”
Russia banned missionary work in 2016, so those who serve there are called volunteers rather than missionaries, and they focus on community service rather than proselytizing, the Church has said.
According to the post by Brodowski’s father Kyle, Kole and his companion were conducting an English lesson early this month when they were picked up by authorities.
A statement attributed to the men’s attorney said that teaching English violated the terms of their Visas, and were being deported.
Brodowski’s father shared his joy and relief in a Facebook statement:
“It’s finally over! Kole is headed home, and his companion will receive another call.
“I want to thank the thousands of people world wide that prayed for him/ us and sent messages of comfort and support. There were many people I’ll never meet that worked day and night for the past three weeks to free these young men. Thank you to all. Mission President and Sister Ottesen. Each day they drove 6 hours round trip to the detention center to visit and provide support to our boys, also calling and emailing Laura and I daily, in addition to dealing with many other worried parents. They are Super Human Hero’s!! To be half a world away and helpless, with many dark and empty nights, President and Sister Ottesen were our Ministering Angels!
“God is there, our prayers were answered. Hallelujah it’s over!!”