Apparently this was posted on BYU Newsnet but has been subsequently removed. Thanks to the blogosphere it continues!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stopped calling missionaries from North America to serve in missions in Russia,officials at the church headquarters in Salt Lake City said.
“The missions are fully staffed and the work is going forward,”church spokesman Rob Howell said. “They have more missionaries than they can use.”
Howell would neither confirm nor deny the decision was influenced by the difficulty of obtaining and renewing visas for North American missionaries.
Howell didn’t comment on the cost of applying for visas or travel in and out of the country while waiting for visas.
Like all non-native missionaries serving in Russia’s eight LDS missions, Ben Wade, a returned missionary from the Russia Samara Mission, was required to leave Russia once a year in order to renew his visa.
“We would fly to Moscow or St. Petersburg and then take a train to Tallinn, Estonia,” Wade said. “We would spend about four hours there and then go back.”
The trip, which took two or three days, was required once a year for all the non-native missionaries in order to renew their visas. The cost of the trip was more than just monetary, as groups of missionaries were routinely pulled out of their areas.
“I had an obedient group,” Wade said. “When we’d go, we would talk about missionary work and come back excited about it. But for rebellious missionaries, it was a time to goof off and break rules.They would get really off-track.”
Renewing visas has gotten increasingly complicated, Wade said.
Effective Oct. 4, 2007, non-Russian citizens are required to return to their native country every 90 days in order to renew their visas,according to a www.russianvisa.org, a Web site which assists travelers in obtaining Russian visas.
The number of Russia-bound missionaries entering the MTC has tapered off over the last year, especially during the summer, said JoshApple, a Russian teacher at the MTC.
“Last week, 30 missionaries were reassigned to places like Texas,”Apple said. “They got the call on Tuesday and left the next day.
“The missionaries were given limited time to go shopping and make other arrangements for their new assignments.
Russian language teachers at the MTC have also been affected by the change.
“Everyone still has jobs, but they can’t hire more people,” Apple said.
Interesting. I’m sure that we’ll hear more about this later.