Basil Malof: Apostle To Eastern Europe (Part
By James A. Stewart (1910 – 1975)
In the early twentieth century, Basil Malof (a native of Latvia) was called of God to spread the Gospel among the Slavic people. While ministering in Moscow, Malof met growing opposition from the Orthodox Church and eventually he was arrested and banished from Russia for life. Soon after his banishment, World War I broke out and hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers found themselves in German prison camps. Greatly moved by the desperate condition of the Russian soldiers, Malof went to the United States to organize a work to evangelize these captured fellow countrymen. Over $120,000 was soon raised. Tracts and New Testaments in the Russian language were sent to Russian-speaking preachers in Germany who distributed them among the prisoners of war. It is estimated that at least 30,000 or more of these war prisoners became Christians due to access to this gospel literature! Then in 1918, with the Peace Treaty of Versailles, these prisoners of war were able to return each to his own home.
The devil had banished from Russia one missionary. Now God was sending in his stead many hundreds. That is how God works; when the enemy thinks that he is at his best, God causes him to be at his worst. The devil’s “Calvaries” result in God’s “Resurrections.”
Pastor Malof told me [James Stewart] about one letter from Russia which he received from the southern province of Harkoff telling that through the witness of the returned war prisoners, over 800 new Baptist churches came into being! Hallelujah! And this in spite of the fact that it was no longer Czarist Russia, but Communistic Russia.
Mighty revivals broke out all over the country, so that Lunacharsky, the Communist Commissar of Education under Lenin stated, “Since the Bolshevist Revolution, the evangelicals have grown from about 100,000 to over 6,000,000 in ten years’ time!” What a triumph was this for the Gospel! What glory God had brought to Himself and to His dear Son through the pastor’s banishment! As Malof himself said, “God foresaw the coming of Communism, and in good time built a mighty bulwark against it through the holocaust of bloody war, plucking out thousands of war prisoners as brands out of the fire, and transplanting them as fruitful plants of righteousness into the orchard of the Church of God.”
What otherwise would have been fraught with almost insurmountable difficulties with respect to evangelizing Russia, now became the easiest of problems. Those who know something of the Russia of those days will also know how difficult it was to receive permission to hold a gospel meeting. Permits as a rule were not granted. Meeting halls could not be obtained, and in the few cases where one succeeded in securing a hall, the village priest would do his utmost to hinder the people from coming – even standing at the door of the hall taking names. Let the banished apostle himself describe to you what actually did happen.
“A Converted Prisoner’s Return”
“He has been away a long time. He has fought for his country; he has suffered long years of imprisonment by the enemy of the land, and returns in consequence a hero. He may even have the cross of St. George, the highest Russian military decoration, or some other medal on his breast. He is welcomed by everybody. He embraces his wife, he kisses his children, while tears of joy flow copiously at the happy reunion.
“Soon at the news of his arrival, the whole village is astir. His native hut is quickly crowded by neighbors and even strangers, and as the home folks sit around the steaming ‘samovar’ (tea self-boiler), the villagers inquire as to his experiences, where he has been, what he has seen, what new things he has learned in the far-away German lands. Naturally, he tells it all while his own home folk and the villagers listen with eyes and mouth wide open. Every gaze is riveted on the speaker who appears to them now so clever and above everything they know themselves as many of them had never seen a railway or a steamer.
“When the returned war prisoner has told all they have asked him, we can imagine him getting up at the end of the table. Everyone notices that he is about to say something of importance. And so it is. He begins slowly to tell them of the most wonderful of all the experiences he has had while away in the strange land. He puts his hand in his pocket and pulls out a copy of the New Testament. He holds it reverently in his hand, lifts it up and says,
“‘You all know what a bad man I was before I went to war; how I used to get drunk, and how often I was causing trouble in the village by fighting and noise. You know, dearest wife and children, what a bad husband and father I was when drink got the better of me. But now, praise God, Jesus Christ has become my personal Savior. He has saved me from the penalty and power of sin which made me a new creature. I will never ill-treat you again, my darling wife. I will never be cruel to you again, my beloved children, nor be a bad neighbor to you, my beloved neighbors.’
“One can imagine what effect such words would produce on his listeners. His very demeanor seems to lend force to his words. They feel that what he says is not empty talk. He opens the Word of God and reads a passage, expounds it as well as he can, and then suggests that they all kneel and pray.”
Such instances were multiplied in hundreds of villages and towns hitherto totally unreached with the Gospel. No wonder Pastor Malof, with deep feeling, could say in America as the results of the campaign came filtering through:
“God moves in a mysterious
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.”
Following the end of World War I, Malof’s story continued through the founding of a training school in USA, where young Russian students came to prepare for service in Eastern Europe. The Russian Missionary Society was formed. In Russia itself, a Communist revolution had overthrown the Czarist government and the power of the Orthodox Church had been broken. But there was not evangelical liberty, for the government was atheistic. Numbers of God’s people were put to death. But through the Russian Missionary Society, evangelists were smuggled into that nation, and hundreds of mission stations and scores of churches were opened in Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland. Of these brave evangelists James Stewart writes: “They went everywhere preaching the Word. They were mocked. They were stoned. They were beaten. They were robbed. They were tortured. They were imprisoned over and over again. They risked their lives week after week as they crossed the frozen lakes and braved the mighty forests infested with wolves and robbers, moving forward by horse and sledge. They entered into hostile villages and towns knowing that before them lay the danger of possible – or certain – imprisonment. They paid the price to evangelize!”
Malof himself was used of God for a mighty work in his native Latvia. While he was speaking in America, World War II broke out and the Communists overran Latvia. The church buildings in which they were experiencing glorious revival were confiscated. Malof’s own brother, an associate in the ministry, was sent to Siberia and killed by the Communists. In the United States, Basil formed the Russian Bible Society which printed many Russian Bibles and had them carried in where the Gospel could no longer be freely preached, knowing that souls would be saved through the reading of God’s Word. The Russian Bible Society was later incorporated in Sweden. After fifty years of devoted service, Basil Malof went to be with his Savior in 1957.
– From A Man In A Hurry by James A. Stewart. Copyright Revival Literature, 1965, used by permission. This 149-page hardback book is available from Revival Literature to U.S. addresses for $9.00 including shipping and handling. Revival Literature, P.O. Box 505, Skyland NC 28776.