“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:18
What a privilege to share the story of Alex Deikun, who, with his wife Anna by his side for almost thirty years, dedicated his life to sharing the Word of God with the Slavic people in both Eastern and Western Europe, in the Canary Islands, and in the United States. His testimony is remarkable, and his life of service inspiring. His story is sure to encourage you.
Years ago, I had the honor of hearing Alex preach and share his testimony at my church in Little Falls, NY. When I heard his health was failing, I shared the information with my class of middle school students. They sent him a card they had made. In response, Alex sent them a beautiful letter with both his and his wife’s testimonies, words of encouragement, and a list of his favorite Bible verses. He passed away shortly after in March of 2012.
Last year, in February of 2021, I published a story about his wife, Anna. At Anna’s request, I am sharing the story of Alex’s life and their ministry together. Since the stories are so closely linked, I encourage you to read her story first by clicking on the following link: Anna Deikun, Missionary to Russian Jews: Handmaiden of the Lord.
Alex Deikun was born in 1943 during World War II to a young couple in Belarus which was, at the time, part of the Soviet Union. Before Alex was old enough to remember, his family escaped to Germany.
Alex recalls in Germany his family was neither welcomed nor accepted. He remembers hiding behind his friend’s German shepherd on the way to school and back ( Deikun, 1).
When Alex was ten, his father moved their family to the United States, with only twenty dollars in his pocket and high hopes of settling in the “Land of Opportunity.”
Settling in America did not turn out to be the dream he had hoped for; it was more like a nightmare. The Deikuns had no family or friends in America, and no organizations to help them. Furthermore, they did not speak the language.
Without knowing English, Alex’s father had difficulty finding work and could barely support his family. He began drinking, which created tension within the home. He was absent from his family for long periods of time or arguing whenever he was there. He even threatened to kill his wife and children because life was so unbearable. Such a difficult start in America, but God used this backdrop to bring Alex and other family members to Himself.
Alex quickly picked up English and did well in school. He started shining shoes and selling newspapers. But he became streetwise and, using questionable tactics, was soon making more money than his father. He began drinking at the young age of thirteen (Deikun, 1).
At the age of seventeen, despite the protests of his mother, Alex dropped out of school and took a job in a factory for a short time before enlisting in the army. He was stationed in Germany for two and a half years. At this time, he drank heavily which led to violent outbursts, and he occasionally spent the night in jail (Deikun, 1).
When he returned to New York, his younger brother encouraged him to try marijuana. He soon progressed to harder drugs. He eventually grew weary of his lifestyle of drugs and wanted a new start, so he moved to New Jersey to live with his older brother. In New Jersey, he found a good job as a machinist (Deikun, 2).
It is at this point in Alex’s life that God intervened. Fortunately, Alex had the foresight to write out his testimony, so I can share the story of his conversion with you in his own words.
I was 24 years of age, healthy and strong, had a good job, many friends, and had a great future ahead. Meanwhile, my older brother’s life was falling apart. His wife left him, he lost his driver’s license for ten years, and he was drafted into the army during the Vietnam War. I felt sorry for him even though we were not on friendly terms. One day I received a letter from him, and he shared with me that he had “seen the light.” He shared how he got victory over his bad habits (drinking, smoking, prejudices, etc.) and that he found purpose, joy, and victory in his life. Deep within me I was jealous and envied how happy he was.
One day while at home before leaving for Vietnam, he asked me to read two Scriptures in the Holy Bible. I reluctantly read, and God, the Holy Spirit, began to speak to my heart. With my mind, I resisted receiving the truth, but deep within me, I knew that what I was reading was the truth. One particular passage was Romans 7:14 – 24. The key verse that convicted me was 19 which says, “For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. And verse 24, “Wretched man that I am. Who will set me free . . .?” In the following verses I was shown the answer, “ . . . And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free . . . If therefore the son (Jesus Christ—God’s Son) shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Gospel of John 8:32,36. In my heart, hope arose that I could be free like my brother.
I responded, “Walt, if you can show me God, then I will believe!”
He answered, “Alex, can you show me 5kgs of love or 3 meters of fear? You know that love and fear exist because you have experienced them. In a spiritual sense, you can experience passing from death to life, being a slave to sin, and being victorious over habits that control you.”
It made sense. . . On my 25th birthday, I prayed to Christ to be my Savior from sin and to be King in my life. Deep within me great peace flooded my being. Great joy came into my heart, and I knew that I had made peace with God. In a week, I asked God to take away the desire to smoke, drink, drugs, prejudices, and to give me victory over habits that were destroying my life. As he promised, God miraculously did! I began to attend church services and Bible studies. I became active in church by teaching a class, singing in the choir, and serving on committees.
Alex’s conversion was the beginning of many people coming to know the Lord through his testimony. Both his parents and his other two brothers came to know the Lord, and Alex dedicated his life to God’s work.
Following God’s call on his life, Alex went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago the following year. In the summer of 1972, he went with a group of fellow students to the Munich Olympic games to share Christ. It was during this time he felt led to smuggle Bibles behind the iron curtain into Eastern Europe (Deikun, 2).
On his first missionary trip into Eastern Europe, his car was rammed by a train in Poland, and Alex was severely injured. He spent five months in hospitals and received total hip and elbow replacements. These injuries would plague him for the rest of his life, but Alex resolved not to allow them to hinder his ministry.
After recovering, he returned to Moody Bible Institute and graduated in 1975, and then attended the Slavic Institute of Studies, a ministry of the Slavic Gospel Association.
In 1977, Alex went to the Canary Islands to distribute Christian literature to Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, and Polish fishermen. In a handwritten note Alex left behind, he gives us a glimpse into his ministry behind the Iron Curtain: “From Canary Islands, I made research trips into Eastern Europe for Slavic Gospel Association as an interpreter gathering information on how the Western church can better equip, provide material and spiritual help to the persecuted church in Communist countries.”
It was dangerous work. He was followed by Russian secret agents because they thought he was spreading anti-Soviet propaganda. They would secretly take photos of him while he was traveling on the ships and would publish articles about him in the Soviet Union.
After two years in the Canary Islands, Alex relocated to Italy and joined a team working among the Russian Jews who were emigrating from the former Soviet Union to the United States, Canada, and Australia. He also ministered to Shiite Muslims and to refugee believers from Albania and Romania.
Alex was encouraged by their hunger for the Word of God. “Some hugged and cried after receiving their first Bible,” Alex wrote in a letter to my middle school students. “Many never saw a Bible and were willing to give a month’s wages for a Bible.”
In 1981, Anna moved from Finland to Italy and joined the team. She and Alex shared a common background of smuggling Bibles behind the iron curtain and a deep burden to minister to Russians. Since the mission had a strong “no dating” policy, it was unlikely for the two of them to get together. But their team leader, Rev. Joel, and his wife saw what a perfect pair they were and played matchmaker.
On the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem during a ministry trip to Israel, to Anna’s surprise, Alex proposed. She said, “Yes!” and they were married three months later in Rome.
“And then we dated for almost thirty years!” Anna said during a recent visit to my church.
Alex and Anna continued their ministry in Italy until 1985 when emigration laws were changed. Instead of being sent first to ltaly, the Jews were being flown directly from the former Soviet Union to Israel. At this time, Alex felt called to work among the 300,000 to 400,000 Russian Jews who had settled in New York City. There was no established evangelical church among the Russian community, so Alex and Anna felt like they were pioneers. They were willing to work in any way they were needed, focusing mostly on evangelism and discipleship. God blessed their efforts and gave them the joy of leading many to faith in Jesus and in seeing home study groups grow into churches.
As time went on, Anna and Alex discovered how Anna’s nursing background had equipped her to be Alex’s wife. He continued to need surgeries and suffered from chronic pain. Anna was able to care for him at home instead of putting him in a rehab facility during his periods of recovery. As his health deteriorated in the last five years of his life, she was grateful to be able to keep him at home and care for him herself.
“Alex was humble and never took credit for himself. His aim was to glorify God and to honor Him to the end,” Anna said in a recent phone conversation.
It has been almost ten years since Alex went home to be with the Lord. Anna continues ministering to the Russian Jews in New York City in the same humble spirit as Alex. Because of Covid, she travels less to visit her ladies in their homes and relies more on phone calls and zoom. She also continues to distribute Russian Bibles and Christian literature.
“I ask you to continue to pray the Lord of the harvest that He would send more workers,” Anna said. “In our city, many Russian-speaking people are very open to hear the good news.”
In closing, I share more words from Alex’s handwritten testimony:
God’s love for me encouraged me to show my love for my Savior Jesus Christ by telling others and allowing the power of God’s Holy Spirit to live through me. God has allowed me to taste of His goodness, His mercy and to help the Slavic people in many different ways. In Eastern Europe, Europe and here in America. I thank the Lord for the wonderful privilege he has given me to serve Him. God has truly been faithful to His promise “But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” Gospel of Matthew 6:33.
For more information about Anna’s ministry, visit the Slavic Missionary Service website.
Resources: Personal notes and letters written by Alex and Anna Deikun, personal phone interviews, and conversations with Anna Deikun.
Deikun, Alex, and Jerry B. Jenkins. “You Think You Can Whip Me, You Show Me!” FreeWay, Vol 1, No. 4, 4 Nov. 1973, pp. 1-3.
*Background image by Macbeatz from Pixabay
If you were blessed by this story, you might enjoy these other missionary stories by Nancy:
Jonathan and Roseann Johnson: Retired Missionaries to Ecuador
Willard Appell, Teen Missionary