Dr. Gregori Komendant was the president of the Baptist Union for a period of time before and just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 1992, Dr. Billy Graham was visiting Moscow, where for several days he preached in Moscow Stadium. So many people came to faith in Jesus Christ. Drs. Graham and Komendant (sitting to Dr. Graham’s left) were invited to meet with the first and the last president of USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev. It was an historic meeting as it was instrumental in opening all of those countries up for the for the spread of the Gospel. Subsequently, each member country of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States established their own national Baptist Union. SGA is honored to serve these Unions and member churches of each country. We are thankful for the way God used Mr. Gorbachev to open the window of freedom that led to so much spiritual fruit in subsequent days. We are praying for his family and loved ones as they mourn his passing.
As news broke at the end of August about the passing of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, it was entirely appropriate for the SGA team to reflect on the history of the past 30-plus years and the impact on our small mission. Even beyond that, it was — and remains — an opportunity to consider yet again how God sovereignly ordains world events and uses men in high positions —often unwittingly to them — to set things in place for the greater advance of the Gospel.
As most of our long-time partners know, SGA was founded by Peter Deyneka in 1934‚ birthed by Peter’s burning passion to see his homeland won to Christ — all the more so after atheistic communism had taken root. Our mission’s service to the oppressed churches in the Soviet Union took many forms, and two key methods were Gospel broadcasts over international shortwave radio, along with the covert distribution of Russian-language Bibles and Christian literature. Peter’s motto, “Much Prayer, Much Power!” was put into practice as he prayed fervently for his homeland to open up to the Gospel. Peter at one time led prayer meetings for Rev. Billy Graham, who subsequently visited Moscow in 1982 and preached at the historic Central Baptist Church.
Mikhail Gorbachev came to power as Soviet leader in 1985, and through his policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), began loosening the restrictions that the communists imposed on the churches. Peter went to be with the Lord in 1987, not living to see the historic day in October 1992 when Dr. Graham preached to more than 100,000 people in Moscow after the Soviet Union collapsed.
I can’t help but think of how Peter Deyneka would have rejoiced to see what God did over the next three decades through SGA. We saw the establishment of in-country Regional Ministry Centers to serve the churches, direct sponsorship of biblically solid seminaries and Bible institutes for the training of pastors and church workers, sponsorship of several hundred missionary pastors to take the Gospel to the unreached, the launching of effective, fruitful ministries to children such as Orphans Reborn, Summer Camps, and Immanuel’s Child. The faithful churches we serve are able to distribute much-needed food and other aid to the needy through Compassion Ministry, and thousands of Bibles, theological works, and other Christian literature have been distributed. I say Peter would have rejoiced, but in reality, he is rejoicing now in the presence of his Savior! And the SGA family around the world rejoices today with thanksgiving to reflect on it all.
And this brings me back to Mikhail Gorbachev. I do not know his eternal destiny. That is in the hands of our omniscient, sovereign God who alone knows the heart of man. But I think of Isaiah 45, and what that chapter says about how God used a king named Cyrus to accomplish His divine purpose whether or not Cyrus realized it at the time.
In that chapter, God refers to Cyrus as His anointed . . . whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut (Isaiah 45:1). Much has changed since the days of Mikhail Gorbachev, and in many ways, the nations of the former Soviet Union have reverted back to oppression as state tools of control. But God is not deterred by anything man can do, and we thankfully praise Him that He is still using our tiny mission to advance the Gospel in the former Soviet Union. Our duty is to occupy until He comes again, and with your continued prayers and support, we will do just that — for His glory!
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