Former vice president takes over from long-time leader Dr. Robert Provost
as pioneering ministry continues vital work in former Soviet Union
LOVES PARK, Ill. – Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) (http://www.sga.org) is welcoming back a former member of its team to take on the leadership of the organization’s pioneering work in the former Soviet Union from long-time president Dr. Robert W. Provost.
Michael Johnson, who served as vice president of advancement at the interdenominational ministry from 1996 to 2004, assumed his new role May 1, heading SGA’s support of evangelism and church planting efforts across Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and surrounding countries, along with the Russian-speaking population in Israel. Dr. Provost has been named president emeritus in honor of his service and will become an advisor to his successor.
Founded in 1934 by the late Rev. Peter Deyneka, who came to the United States from Belarus, SGA helped covertly distribute millions of Bibles and Christian books under the Iron Curtain before the collapse of communism and beamed the Gospel via shortwave radio. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, its ministry has broadened to include pastor training and financial aid, compassion projects and support of children and youth ministries.
Michael Johnson said that despite the greater openness to the Gospel since 1989, there remains great need across the former Soviet countries, populated by roughly 300 million, with many parts still with little or no Christian presence and challenges for those working there.
“I am utterly humbled that God has called me to this role,” he said, paying tribute to the near-23 years Dr. Provost led SGA. “And I feel privileged to even carry the bags of those we support and serve, based on what they have gone through and their incredible faithfulness to God’s Word through a very difficult time.”
Dr. Provost recruited Michael to SGA in 1996 after the pair met when Dr. Provost visited a supporting church in New York City, where he was an advertising executive. During his eight years with the ministry, he helped develop its orphan and children’s Christmas outreach programs, among other initiatives.
Michael returned to the business world for family reasons, most recently as senior vice president of Naperville, Ill.-based nonprofit fundraising specialists, Douglas Shaw and Associates. With their children grown and graduated, Michael and his wife, Erin, began last year to feel God’s leading back into ministry service.
“It is a great joy to be part of such an important ministry again,” Michael said. “Bob has done a remarkable job in establishing a very sound ministry strategy on which I hope we can continue to build. Much has been achieved for God’s glory in the former Soviet Union, but great needs remain with many people yet to hear the good news of Christ.”
SGA board chairman Warner Tillman also expressed thankfulness for God’s direction in the transition. “For Michael and SGA, this is truly coming full circle for the glory of Christ,” he said. “Through his ministry and business experiences, our Lord has been equipping and preparing Michael to return to SGA for such a time and place as this. We know Michael desires to build on the solid biblical and ministry foundation laid by our founder, Peter Deyneka, and strengthened even further by Bob Provost.”
Welcoming his successor, Dr. Provost said: “It has been my joyful privilege to serve Christ in the Russian-speaking world these past 23 years. Now I am rejoicing in the SGA board decision for Michael Johnson to lead the ministry forward. He has spent much time in Russia and loves the Russian brotherhood of humble, proven pastors. He is committed to SGA’s historical biblical convictions, loves to serve faithful American pastors and their churches, and wants to see the Gospel penetrate the vast unreached regions of Russia, her neighboring states and Israel.”
SGA’s multi-faceted ministry entered a new phase late last year with the launch of the Reach Russia Now project, supporting evangelism and church planting efforts in the far eastern part of the country—a remote area the size of the United States whose population of around 3-4 million is largely unreached.
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Slavic Gospel Association (www.sga.org) is a multi-faceted, interdenominational mission to the roughly 300 million people of the former Soviet Union. Supporting national pastors and church-planting efforts, SGA provides theological training, financial assistance, and evangelistic and discipleship resources. Compassionate care programs include help for widows and orphans. Founded in 1934 by the late Rev. Peter Deyneka, SGA is one of the longest-established ministries for the region.