Anatoly Prokopchuck (ThM, 1994) grew up the former Soviet Union in a family of evangelical believers who were persecuted by the Communist state and even imprisoned for their faith. His grandfather was arrested before World War II and sent to prison camp in Siberia where he died from hunger within several months. His father was held for 6 years and then exiled to Eastern Ukraine.
“From the early years I felt very sharply that I was second-class citizen because of the family to which I belonged. I was not welcome in my own country in spite of my abilities to study hard in school,” he said. He began to see the hypocrisy and hopelessness of the Soviet regime, void of spiritual values and any concern for truth. Through his grandfather’s example and his parents’ prayers and unceasing love, God worked in his life. “Our Lord Jesus Christ found me in my desperate condition and saved me when I was 16 years old.”
Anatoly was at the top of the high school class and received honors for outstanding achievements in chemistry. He entered technical university and graduated with the equivalent of a master's degree in Electronics and Computer Science in 1980. Although he became a Christian in 1973, he did not become a church member and get baptized until after he I graduated from the university in 1980. “I secretly was attending church even when I was in university but got baptized only after I got my degree. If anyone found out that I was a believer I could have been expelled from the university.”
After he graduated, his background and faith did not permit him to take a privileged position in high technological industry producing weapons. He was instead sent to work in the power plant industry, in which his father had become a respected specialist. He worked as a systems engineer for nine years, gaining experience in electronics, computers, system programming, and management. “Having credibility and respect, I was able to witness to my superiors in the power plant where I worked.”
He was also a preacher at the First Baptist Church of Kiev. There had been slow increases in religious freedom by Gorbachev’s “perestroika” over the years, but 1988 brought drastic change because of a celebration of 1000 years of Christianity in Kiev. For the first time churches went out on the streets to preach and to sing freely. And the next years brought even more radical changes. Authorities no longer objected to full-time ministry positions. Anatoly’s father became chairman of the board of elders of First Baptist Church of Kiev and Anatoly became technical adviser to the president of the Evangelical-Baptist Union.
In 1990 the Slavic Gospel Association sent a group of pastors from Russia and Ukraine to study in the U.S.—it is was first time in the history, and Anatoly was included in the group. Most of the pastors went to Moody Bible Institute, but because he had university education, he was sent to DTS. “For me it was tremendous gift from God even if the temperature in the summer was almost 127 degrees for several days!” He graduated in May 1994, with ThM in systematic theology and academic ministries, and was awarded the Loraine Chafer Award in systematic theology. “I wish I could find the best words to express my gratitude to DTS for the education of exceptional quality I got there. Being in this great school was formative, inspiring, and gave me the vision for everything I do now … I praise the Lord for it.”
When he finished, he hoped to return to Ukraine to teach and preach. But the Lord had even bigger plans for him. First he became academic dean in small Bible school in the suburbs of Kiev. He taught and administrated the program and schedules for 9 months. “Everything I learned at DTS helped me to be successful in this ministry and also in church preaching.”
In May 1995 the president of Ukrainian Evangelical-Baptist Union asked me if he would like to start “a real seminary.” Anatoly was the first and at that time the only person in the former USSR to have graduated from seminary. He became the founding president of Kiev Theological Seminary (KTS), which was dedicated on Oct.7, 1995, and started classes at Feb.6, 1996.
For nearly a decade the school has been the flagship of the Ukrainian Evangelical-Baptist Union, which is the largest evangelical body in continental Europe and former USSR with 150-180 new churches planted every year. KTS houses the largest theological library in the former USSR and has more than 170 students in different programs. Its graduates minister from the Vladivostok area of far-east of Russia to the western border of Byelorussia as pastors, church planters, educators, and evangelists.
In spite of his difficult background and childhood, Anatoly considers himself an exceptionally blessed person. “Everything that I only could dream about in the area of education and ministry the Lord gave me in my life and I am only 45 years old.”
“My hero was always my grandfather who died in prison camp. I never met him but somehow he was always present in my life through stories my father told me about him. I feel very often that all the blessings he did not enjoy in his life were bestowed on me.”
Anatoly and his wife, Galina, have two children—Sviatoslav (son), born in 1982, and Natalia (daughter), born in 1988. Anatoly says that his family is the best refection of the Lord’s presence in his life. “I clearly see (I hope) my deficiencies and limitations and at the same time they love me so faithfully in spite of [them].”
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