THE HAND OF GOD - It sustained Peter Rumachik through years of Soviet persecution


"If you don't stop praying to God, weil keep you in prison for the rest of your life!"

This was one of many threats that Soviet wardens snarled at their Christian prisoner, Peter Rumachik. However, Pastor Rumachik believed in obeying God, not his atheist captors. He continued praying in the prison camps, and the Lord answered prayer. Today he openly preaches in Dyedovsk in the Moscow region of Russia.

Pastor Peter Rumachik was born near Brest, Russia, in 1931. Remembering his childhood, he shares that, although his mother wasn't an educated woman, "she had a very sincere faith in God and constantly prayed to Him about me and all the other children." But even as a child Peter could see that life for Christians wasn't easy in his country. In his teen years he decided that someday he would follow Christ—but not until he was 50 or 60 years old.

Then, when he was 18, the suicide of a close friend shook Peter's thinking. He realized that he needed something worth living for if he didn't want to end up as hopeless as his friend. About three months later, while walking through a frozen forest, he felt moved to get down on his knees in the snow. There, he repented of his sins and asked God to cleanse his heart. At the same time he determined to serve God for the rest of his life, even though he knew that believers were sometimes arrested as criminals.

Four years of duty in the Red Army followed. When he was discharged from the military, Peter married a Christian woman named Luba in 1953. Pondering their decades together many years later, he remarks, "What a great joy it is when two married people believe in God, when their children can see that they have the same philosophy and outlook on life and the same relationship to God!"

Two years later, in 1955, Peter was ordained to the ministry in the city of Dyedovsk.

Nikita Krushchev took over leadership of the Soviet Union, persecution of Christians temporarily halted. So in 1956 Peter, his wife, and several Christian men redeemed the time to start a new church. "Many thirsty souls listened to the Gospel and received Christ," he recalls with happiness. In time, however, policemen began attending services to spy on the believers. Then, like a returning tide, persecution resumed. The authorities forbade Christians to meet for worship, but God's people—heeding a higher call— continued to gather in private homes and apartments. In 1961, Peter and four other leaders in his church were tried and sentenced to five years of exile in Siberia.

Even while in Siberian exile, however, Peter looked for opportunities to serve God. Confined to a village called Lesnikov, Peter heard that several elderly women were Christians. He located these ladies and learned that they had been without a pastor for 11 years. "Brother Peter, the fact that you're here is an answer to our prayers," they told him. So they began worshiping together. Later, Luba and the children joined Peter for his five-year-term of exile, and they joined in sharing about their Christian faith. Before long, other villagers professed faith in the Lord too.

When a local official warned that the authorities would ship Peter north to the Arctic Circle if he didn't cease holding services, Peter replied, "Are you aware of the fact that I'm here by the will of God?"

"I wasn't aware of that," the man answered.

Peter continued, "I'm here by the will of God. Now, if I've fulfilled the task He has for me here, then He'll allow you to send me above the Arctic Circle. But if I haven't completed my mission, and you prohibit my activities as you are talking about doing, then God Himself will have to deal with you."

Amazingly, the man agreed to leave Peter alone. When the Rumachiks were allowed to return home from Siberia, they left behind a growing church that had ties with congregations in other villages.

Back home in Dyedovsk, Peter and his family attended church, but the persecution was far from ended. "The church essentially met underground," Peter explains. "Police units would burst into services held in private homes, forcefully take people out, and throw them into the back of trucks. Then they would take them and drop them off on some uninhabited road in the forest some 30 to 50 kilometers outside the city."

Before long, Peter was arrested again and locked in a prison with criminals. "The life of the church was like the waves of the sea, always churning back and forth," Peter recalls. "At one point, the persecution would subside momentarily only to redouble its fervor again. The goals of the Communist powers, however, always remained the same—to wipe out the existence of the church."

Sadly, some individuals opted to avoid harassment and stopped worshiping. But other believers clung to hopes for a brighter day. Even when they couldn't foresee a time of freedom when they could openly proclaim the Gospel, these believers continued praying for a change.

In all, Peter Rumachik ended up serving five terms (more than 18 years) in the Soviet penal system for boldly living his Christian faith. He admits that his health often deteriorated and that he frequently reached the end of his physical strength. But he doesn't credit his survival to his own stamina. Rather, he notes that when the challenges were greatest, God intervened. "Even when I was in solitary, I was always aware of the presence of God, of His miraculous and wonderful help; I always saw His saving hand."

Sometimes the convicts questioned why he was in prison. After all, if God were real, wasn't He powerful enough to protect Peter? He replied, "I am here to serve the Lord. No one would willingly put himself in these kinds of situations. So God has brought me along this path so that you might be able to hear about Him while I am here in prison." And occasionally a prisoner—or even one of the camp guards—would take an interest in listening as the imprisoned pastor shared his faith.

When Pastor Rumachik was released in 1987, he had no guarantee that he wouldn't be re-arrested. After all, in the past his days of freedom seemed more like brief lulls between inevitable arrests and sentences. But God was at work. In an answer to countless prayers, the Soviet Union changed and eventually collapsed, and Peter has since remained a free man.

Today, Pastor Peter Rumachik is still active as a pastor of a church in Dyedovsk, Russia. In addition, with the aid of American believers, God has blessed him with several opportunities to visit the United States to raise funds to help construct more Russian churches.

Pondering the transformation of his homeland and the evangelistic opportunities it has spawned, soft-spoken Peter is pressed for words. But his reply points to the source that sustained him through years of persecution and that fuels his spiritual passion more than ever:

"Praise be to our Lord for all things! Alleluia, amen."

Power for Living (july 4, 2004)