HISTORY OF SMS
SMS has seen history unfold and SMS has made history. The world has changed in many ways since the inception of SMS in 1933, but the heart and soul of SMS remains the same: Christlike compassion for Slavic people in spiritual and physical need. SMS continues with its vision - to train, equip and reach Slavic people for Christ.
SMS under the Direction of Dr. Ivan Neprash 1933 - 1958
The birth of this vision came to a young Christian, Ivan Neprash, born in Ukraine in 1883. He studied to be a teacher and was particularly interested in the sciences. He was a pronounced atheist. While teaching in a Mennonite private school he met some believers with whom he had countless debates over the question of God's existence. However, in 1907, through the study of science, particularly astronomy- and by beginning to read the Bible, he accepted Christ as Saviour. After serving the Lord as a Christian leader and then as a Pastor in Ukraine, Mr. & Mrs. Neprash migrated to the United States. They arrived in Philadelphia on the 20th of January, 1918. Burdened to continue to reach the people from the land of his birth with the message of the gospel, the work of Russian Missionary Service was organized by Ivan Neprash on May 23, 1933. At age 74 he kept going strong, enthusiastic to spread the news of God's love to the Slavic people. Mr. Neprash often said he was living on borrowed time. He directed the organization with a passion until his sudden death on his way home from a speaking engagement in New York City the morning of April 13, 1957.
SMS under the direction of Dr. Alex Leonovich 1958 – 2013
With the passing of Ivan Neprash, the work of the Russian Missionary Service was temporarily terminated. After much prayer a new committee of the organization was formed, and Alex Leonovich was asked to serve as Executive Secretary of the newly organized Slavic Missionary Service.
Alex Leonovich was born in Belarus in 1922, and came to the United States with his parents and young brother Nick in 1929. After graduation from the Nyack Missionary College in Nyack, NY, he served as a missionary working in Canada, South America and Continental Europe. He, too, was burdened to reach the people from his motherland. While in South America, he directed the Russian Gospel Broadcasts from HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. From there he went into the jungles of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil, laboring among the thousands of Slavic settlers in those countries. While in Europe, he was engaged in field evangelism work among the Russian speaking displaced persons.
For four and a half years before taking on the leadership of Slavic Missionary Service, he served as a pastor of two American Russian/Ukrainian churches simultaneously. He was marked as a "fiery youth missionary preacher in both Russian and English" by his peers. After taking on the responsibility of SMS he continued to pastor the Emmanuel Baptist church in Manville, NJ until he resigned in 1970 to devote more time Slavic Missionary Service.