"You, there, you need to be born again!" To Peter Deyneka, it seemed that evangelist Paul Radar was pointing directly at him. As the sermon went on, he felt smaller and smaller. He wondered who had tipped off this preacher to know all about his sins.
Born in Russia and raised in the Orthodox church, Peter had never heard the gospel. That fact did not change until his family mortgaged their farm to send him to America. There was so much he did not know! He took his own food aboard ship, not realizing that his meals were included in the fare. The sailors played on his ignorance, promising him that if he washed dishes, they would see he got something fresh to eat.
In the United States, he could not find work and was close to panic. If the moneylender back home was not paid soon, with heavy interest, his parents would lose their farm. The eighteen year old boy hurried to Chicago, hoping for a job. He found one in a lumber yard that paid $6.90 a week. In the fast-growing city he also found immigrants who had joined the International Workers of the World. "There is no God," they said. "We’re going to make the world better by ourselves!" These atheists convinced Peter they were right.
But one Sunday, Peter heard five Russians singing a hymn. The music stirred him and he listened from a distance. For the first time in his life, he heard that by faith in Christ he could have peace with God. Next Sunday the singers were back. Peter left, shaking his head. Surely they were the only five men in the world who believed such nonsense!
In Russia, Peter had feared the priests. When he attended a Billy Sunday revival service (because Billy was a baseball player) Peter was surprised at the affection Christians had for him. This made him think more favorably of Christianity. A Russian couple in Chicago invited Peter to live with them, hoping to teach him about Christ. He was happy to eat their delicious borscht (beet soup with sour cream) and speak Russian with them, but he hid in his room when other Christians came to visit.
A desire to hear eloquent English brought him to the Moody Memorial Church. Peter was astonished to find hundreds of Christians of all ages there. He had expected to see only a few old women. The music moved him. As Paul Radar spoke, a voice inside Peter said, "You are a lost sinner." But he was too suspicious to go up front when teams prayed with those who sought salvation. Instead, he bought a Jesus Saves button and wore it so that he could mimic the crowd and avoid being put on the spot by the church members.
His evasive tactics ended on this Sunday evening, January 18, 1920. Twenty-two year old Peter heard Paul Radar invite all who wanted to accept Christ as their personal savior to come forward. Peter whispered to a friend, "You ought to go forward and get saved." "I'll go if you’ll go with me," said the friend. The two walked down, but Peter hurried ahead. Christian workers opened their Bibles and explained the way to heaven. Peter wept and prayed. That night he put away his wild dances, smoking, and cursing.
His landlord saw that he was smiling and accused him of being drunk. "No, I’m not drunk. I'm saved." Peter could not sleep that night for joy. The next morning he was still smiling. "Peter, You’re still drunk," said the man. "No," said Peter. "I'm a new person."
Over the next several decades he proved it. Peter Deyneka became known as Peter Dynamite for his bold and powerful presentation of the gospel. He visited Russia, where thousands hung on his messages. He was one of the founders of the Russian Gospel Association (later called the Slavic Gospel Association), which brought the Bible to East European immigrants on every inhabited continent. He also used short wave radio stations to broadcast the gospel to millions who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
- "Deyneka, Peter." Anderson, Gerald H. Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Macmillan Reference USA; London: Simon & Schuster and Prentice Hall International, 1998.
- Rohrer, Norman B. and Deyneka, Peter, jr. Peter Dynamite. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1975.