Witness to Russia

by Bernard R. DeRemer

Peter Deyneka, Sr. was born in 1898 and grew up in Russia (then the U.S.S.R.) where he was educated to be an atheist. He was so hardened he "found it hard to believe that anyone could take seriously the message of salvation."

But God had other, better plans. In 1914 he came to the U.S. and settled in Chicago. His desire to learn English caused him to attend Moody Church, where he heard the great evangelist Paul Rader. The church offered "free English lessons" in a Bible class, which drew Peter at once.

Eventually he realized his spiritual need and was saved in 1920. Then he studied at Moody Bible Institute evening school and later attended St. Paul Bible School (now Bible College). In spite of his "fractured English," he was chosen to give the graduation address in 1925.

That year he returned to his home land, where he was distressed to learn that his father and other relatives had died in the great famine of the 1920's. [An estimated 5 million perished then in a classic communist blunder.] Only his mother and younger brother survived. They opposed the gospel message, but Peter, deeply burdened, preached and held evangelistic meetings in churches and in a chapel which he built.

He was "excited and filled with compassion for the spiritual hunger" of his hearers, but was grieved that the harshest opposition came from his own mother and brother.

On a later trip to Europe,'he rejoiced to find that his mother had accepted Christ. After another extensive tour, Peter realized that an organization was needed to call Christians in the U.S. to pray for the largely unreached Slavic people.

So on Jan. 6, 1934 he met with four businessmen in the back of a Chicago shoe store; the Russian Gospel Association (now Slavic Gospel Association) was formed. Dr. Paul W. Rood, a prominent pastor and conference speaker, served as the first chairman. Peter became general director and missionary/evangelist for the organization.

In 1941 Peter was responsible for airing the first short wave Russian evangelistic radio programs into the Soviet Union, preaching over HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. It was the beginning of SGA's radio ministry, which was mightily used over the years.

For many, these precious broadcasts were their only church services. They "drop out of the sky like a gift from heaven," a Russian grandmother once wrote. Whole villages came to Christ through them.

In 1943 came another major milestone. With the help of Pastor Oswald J. Smith, of Toronto, Canada, Peter founded the Russian Bible Institute, the only Russian Bible training school in the world. It offered a three year course in Bible doctrine, evangelism, and other subjects. Later the school moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it continued fruitfully training Slavic young people for ministry. It has since become indigenous and is now operated by nationals.

Peter always emphasized the importance of prayer in Christian life and work, and often led all night prayer meetings. His frequent expression, "Much prayer, much power" (also the title of a book he wrote) challenged Christians to pray without ceasing.

In 1975 he retired as general director, to be succeeded by Peter Deyneka, Jr., who had worked with his father for many years. He testified, "I am what I am today because of my father's love for the Lord that was passed on to me."

In 1987 at 89 the elder Deyneka went to be with the Lord. Among the multitude of tributes from around the world are these:

"Peter Deyneka Sr. was loved by all of us and we have all been inspired and challenged by his ministry over the past 40 years." --Dr. Paul B. Smith, pastor the People's Church, Toronto.

"We are grateful to have worked together to communicate the gospel to Slavic people worldwide." --Dr. Paul Freed, president Trans World Radio.

"His life, devotion, and dedication to the Lord still inspire us." --Walter and Eldy Covich, SGA senior missionaries in Alaska.

Truly, "He being dead yet speaketh."

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