By Tommy Smith, President
The next global gathering of the World Convention of Churches of Christ will be in Warsaw, Poland, from June 16-19, 2022. Along with the Polish churches, those gathered will celebrate 100 years of the Stone-Campbell movement in Poland–a history that has seen a vibrant church remain faithful to Christ through the Nazi occupation, the destruction of World War II, and the persecution and discrimination of the Soviet era. The World Convention will also recognize the “founder” of the churches of Christ in Poland, Konstantin Jaroshevich. This alumnus of Johnson Bible College (Class of 1916) returned to Poland in 1921 to evangelize his homeland. Thus ensued a career of evangelism, church planting, and effective leadership of the Polish churches from 1921-1939. After his arrest, imprisonment, and subsequent release from prison by the Gestapo, Jaroshevich returned to the United States and continued to support the Polish church until his death in 1984.
Konstantin Jaroshevich was born in Stara-Weis, Poland, in 1891, and immigrated to the United States in 1910 to escape religious persecution in his home country. He met a “street preacher” named Joseph Keevil in New York in 1911 and was converted to Christ. Eager to share his testimony with others, Jaroshevich began preaching the gospel on the streets of New York. Dr. Burnham, president of the United Christian Missionary Society, who was visiting in New York, advised the young preacher to further his education. Robert Jones recounted their conversation: “How can I?” he asked. “I cannot speak English well and I have no money.” “There is a school at Kimberlin Heights, Tennessee, where you need no money,” came the reply.
With much difficulty and constant encouragement from Ashley Johnson, Jaroshevich completed his education and was ordained to the ministry by President Johnson in 1916. He returned to New York and, after his marriage to Ksenia, moved to Chicago to establish an evangelistic work within its Polish community. More than 300 people were baptized into Christ through his efforts, and his ministry extended from Chicago to Slavic communities in Cleveland and Baltimore. In 1921, Konstantin and Ksenia returned to Poland and ministered among the poorest communities, faithfully preaching the gospel of Christ in spite of persecution and strong opposition from government leaders. He established the first church of Christ congregation in Poland, and the successes of his tireless evangelistic work began to spread from village to village.
Joined in his efforts by John Bukovich and Jerzy Sacevich, the three pioneered the work of planting New Testament churches in Poland, eventually reaching hundreds of thousands of Christians with churches in Poland, Russia, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Facing strong persecution, which included imprisonment in a Polish death camp, Jaroshevich became the founder of the Restoration Movement’s presence behind the Iron Curtain. The churches of Christ in Poland have honored him as the primary influence in their establishment and regard Jaroshevich with the highest respect. It is impossible to gauge the eternal impact of this faithful alumnus of Johnson University.