Memorial Service to Be Held for Key Christian Leader Who Spiritually Shaped 'New' Russia

A memorial service for longtime National Religious Broadcasters board member Dr. Alex Leonovich is planned for Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manville, N.J., on Saturday. Leonovich, who was the director of Slavic Missionary Service, "went to be with the Lord" on Wednesday after nearly seven decades of missionary, pastoral, and evangelistic work, NRB stated.

"Alex was a giant among the NRB faithful. He never lost sight of his calling and never lost his love for NRB," said NRB President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright.

SMS, an organization dedicated to reaching Slavic people for Christ, stated, "Alex not only preached with his words, but even more so with his actions. Alex would always tell you that he is ready to be with the Lord at any time, and God truly helped Alex to fulfill his ultimate desire: 'When it's time for the Lord to take me home, I want to go with my boots still on!'"

Leonovich was born in Belarus in 1922 and at 7-years-old, came to the United States with his parents and younger brother, according to NRB. After graduating from the Nyack Missionary College in Nyack, N.Y., he served as a missionary in Canada, South America, and Continental Europe.

While in South America, Leonovich directed the Russian Gospel Broadcasts from HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. Later, he went to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil, working among the thousands of Slavic settlers, including ministering in the jungles. While in Europe, he was engaged in field evangelism work among the Russian speaking displaced persons, NRB stated.

Leonovich served as a pastor of two American Russian/Ukrainian churches at the same time for four and a half years. He became involved in leadership of SMS in 1958. His peers described him as a "fiery youth missionary preacher in both Russian and English." Leonovich continued to pastor the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manville, NJ, while holding his leadership role at SMS until he resigned in 1970 to dedicate more time to the missionary organization. The ministry has reached the more than 350 million Slavic people worldwide since its inception in 1933.

NRB states that Leonovich was at the forefront of missionary broadcasting into the former Soviet Union by way of HCJB in Quito, Ecuador, and carried on extensive outreach to the Slavic speaking world both home and abroad for more than five decades as the Executive Director of SMS International. "Leonovich has been credited for playing a key role in the spiritual direction of the 'new' Russia," according to NRB.

"A new pastor friend we met in Russia whose church was bulldozed by the Russian government recalled just last week how he grew up listening to Alex Leonovich on the radio," shared Rich Bott, Chairman of the NRB Board of Directors and President of Bott Radio Network. "His mother would tune in and they would listen secretly. I imagine there are many other people faithfully serving the Lord today in Russia who share a similar story."

Leonovich served on the Board of Directors of NRB, Christian Bridge, and Radio Bible Class. Also, he was also past President of the Russian-Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Union of the United States.

"Alex and his wife were fixtures at NRB for as long as I can remember," added Bott. "Their enthusiasm for the Gospel and love for the Russian people was inspiring."

Visitation is scheduled for Friday, March 15, at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manville, N.J., from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Graveside services will take place on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Somerset. A memorial service is planned for 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, at Emmanuel Baptist Church.

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