In the first half of the nineteenth century, Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard asserted that "purity of heart is to will one thing." Peter Deyneka embodied the truth of those words. He was absolutely and totally committed, as were his parents before him and his wife Anita now, to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those in need of forgiveness and hope.
I first met Peter and Anita in the early 1980s in relation to the struggle to win the freedom of the Siberian Seven--Russian Christians holed up in the American Embassy in Moscow for five years. That began a relationship between my family and the Deynekas that has lasted nearly two decades and has been among the most precious in our lives. When my family and I were living in Russia for seven months during 1991, the Deynekas took our children in for ten days when Janice faced emergency surgery in a Moscow hospital. Our children, then eight and ten, still remember visiting a Russian orphanage with the Deynekas.
What made Peter so special was the quality of his commitment to Jesus Christ and the church in Russia. It was virtually impossible to have a conversation with him that did not turn eventually, and usually quickly, to the topic of the work in Russia.
Utterly unusual and remarkable was Peter and Anita's selfless devotion to the task. What made the Slavic Gospel Association, and later Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries, so special was the willingness of the Deynekas to assist other organizations in doing what each was uniquely equipped and called by God to do. Peter was a facilitator. He cared not a whit who got the credit and in that he was utterly unique. I believe God blessed his work precisely because he so beautifully reflected the spirit of Jesus Christ: selfless giving for others with little or no personal concern for himself or the credit that his organization might or might not receive. What God can do with such an attitude has been admirably reflected in what God chose to do through the lives and ministries of Peter and Anita.
Peter Deyneka has always represented for me, personally, and I believe for the Christian church as a whole, and particularly those committed to mission among the Slavs, the highest example of devotion to Jesus Christ. I count it a great privilege to have worked with him for two decades. Although my wife and I are deeply saddened by his homegoing, today I thank God for loaning Peter to us for so many decades to do His work upon this earth.
Somehow the transition from this life to the next for Peter must surely have been much more natural and relaxed than it will be for most of us, for Peter always seemed to reflect the presence of Jesus Christ and His radiance in a way that made one aware that he was already in some profound and unusual way in the company of his Lord. If ever an individual has deserved to hear the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," it is Peter Deyneka.
The best tribute we can all give to Peter is to continue the work he dedicated his life to. In the divine mystery of God's providence and sovereignty, the work and commitment of Peter will continue. His influence will echo down the corridors of all eternity through those who have found the Christian hope and salvation to which he was such an eloquent witness.
By John Bernbaum, president of the Russian-American Christian University, Moscow, Russia
I want to praise the Lord for the role Peter Deyneka played in my life. Peter and Anita Deyneka came into my life in the late 1980s, and my life has never been the same since. Peter made it clear to me that God had a wonderful plan for my life, and that he, Peter, knew what it was! Peter was the one who encouraged me to leave my work with the Christian College Coalition to go to Moscow to establish a Christian college. To me, Peter was a mentor, an older brother in the Lord, a model.
I also want to praise the Lord for Peter's integrity. He was a man of his word. He said what he meant and did what he said. He did not exaggerate what he did--which I find to be a rare characteristic. Thirdly, I want to praise God for Peter's role as an encourager, as an enabler. So many times in the early years of my work in Russia I was very discouraged. But then Peter would call or we would meet together over a meal and he would encourage me. He would lay out the big picture and ultimately remind me that God was in control.
This leads to my fourth word of praise. Peter was a true servant, a humble man who took great joy in enabling others to achieve their goals, without expecting or asking for recognition for his role. This is an extraordinary characteristic that he modeled for me. Recently I read that "nothing of value was ever accomplished in this life in a spirit of arrogance." Peter's spirit was always a spirit of humility, of service. I love and admire Peter for this quality.
I asked Peter to give the first graduation address of the Russian-American Christian University on 19 May 2001 since he, more than anyone else, was the visionary behind the school. He was the one who had the dream and who wanted to see it made into reality. But God had different plans for Peter. Marge and I will miss him greatly. He is one of my heroes.
By Mark Elliott, director of the Global Center, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, and editor of the East-West Church & Ministry Report
I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to pay brief tribute to my friend, Peter Deyneka. Peter in so many ways was a model missionary who taught us much by his effective but quiet example. Peter was a peacemaker, often pouring oil on troubled waters. He had indomitable optimism about the Lord's work. He was a bridge builder, bringing all sorts of folk together in all manner of creative ways to help build the Kingdom. Peter also recognized the benefit of research and academic studies for ministry, and made sure that insight and compassion informed each other. Over decades, Peter and his wife Anita have lived to partner and to network, long before ministry collaboration became a popular concept.
Remarkably, Peter managed to be both a bona fide visionary and a street-leather pragmatist at one and the same time. He dreamed dreams, he infected others with his dreams, and at the same time he got things done. Peter was contagious in the best sense of the word.
Peter always seemed to have boundless energy, for years juggling multiple and diverse responsibilities. Peter trusted people. Occasionally this led to disappointment, but more often it led to people realizing potential they had not known they had. Peter also was imminently trustworthy: The people and missions that benefited from his sober, solid counsel number in the many hundreds. And who received the credit for Kingdom work well done? That was always the least of his concerns.
But I think I will remember Peter above all as an encourager--an encourager of his dear wife Anita, their children, and many others engaged in the Lord's work. At a conference on Russian children at risk in Atlanta in 2000--which was a dream of Peter and Anita's--Russian Christian workers Galina Obrovets and Natalia Loginova shared with me that in June 2000 Peter and Anita gave over four hours of their time in Moscow to discuss how best to help Russian orphans, right before leaving for the U.S. for medical treatment.
At the same Atlanta conference, Phyllis Kilbourn of Rainbows of Hope shared that a homeless Russian boy was once asked how to define loving-kindness. This young orphan said that kindness is giving a homeless child bread, and loving-kindness is when you put jam on it. Thanks, Peter, for the bread and the jam.
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© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report