95 Years Ago Voronaev Set Sail on a Pentecostal Mission to Europe
Rev. Ivan Voronaev’s last letter to Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Missouri was received by Rev. J. Roswell Flower on June 22, 1920 and was marked “He plans to return to Russia.” The letter outlined Voronaev’s six-point mission strategy:
- he was leaving with his family and some brothers from New York to Russia on July 13, 1920 on the steamboat “Madonna”
- Voronaev trusted the Lord for the finances necessary to complete the mission
- First Russian Assembly of New York was poor and unable to meet the ministry expenses
- Voronaev was unable to get in touch with Assemblies of God missionaries Johnson and Schmidt
- but planned to preach in Russia
- finally, the group had decided to purchase Russian Bibles and New Testaments in New York to take to Russia.
The group included the families of Voronaev, Zaplishny, Koltovich, along with V. Klibik and N. Kardanov from Ossetia. They could only purchase tickets for the deck, which proposed problems for the children during the cold ocean nights. According to Voronaev’s later records, the group set sail from New York on July 15, 1920 (thou Martha C. Zaplishny- Jackson recalls July 8th or 17th in various statements). The only standing proof for the exact departure date is the ship’s records with the French Fabre Line.
Madonna sailed via Marseille in France and Naples, Italy. The group’s trip to Europe included a stop in Greece before reaching Constantinople on August 10, 1920. Both Voronaev and Zaplishny’s children have pictures from visiting “several other Balkan countries,” thou not well documented and quite improbable. Consecutively, when the Zaplishny family had to flee Bulgaria in 1924, they used the same route taking a train to Cherbourg, France and then a boat to New York’s Ellis Island.
Through all these difficulties, Voronaev reached Bulgaria by the end of 1920 and Odessa in the U.S.S.R by August 12, 1921. The movements his mission started from Varna to Vladivostock were Pentecostal pioneers for this part of the Old World. By the time Voronaev was arrested in 1930, over 400 Pentecostal churches with 20,000 members strong were started by his ministry throughout Eastern Europe.
Read about the legacy of Ivan Voronaev:
- Ivan Voronaev: The Death of a Hero is a Legacy to Remember
- Arrest and Imprisonment of Rev. Ivan Voronaev (1930)
- Arrest and Imprisonment of Ekaterina Voronaev (1933)
More about the Voronaev’s children:
Ivan Voronaev in the historical archives:
- Finding Ivan Voronaev (a.k.a. John Voronaeff) at the Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley, California
- Letters from Bulgaria: Overview of Rev. Ivan Voronaev’s Correspondence