He had been deeply involved in ministry to the Slavic world since 1979
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
THOUSAND PALMS, CA (ANS – January 31, 2017) – The world of Slavic missionary broadcasting and evangelism has lost one of its top men, with the passing of 64-year-old James (Jim) Alex Leonovich on Saturday, January 28, 2017.
He, along with his wife, Ann, resided in Thousand Palms, California.
Born on December 17, 1952 in Rome, Italy, to Russian radio missionaries living in Europe, Jim grew up speaking Russian, Italian, English, French and German.
At the time of his passing, Jim was Director of Media for Slavic Missionary Service (SMS), husband of SMS missionary Ann Leonovich, and brother of Christine Leonovich Spillar.
“His passing was quite sudden after a hospital stay of only a few days. He is now with his Savior and with his parents, Nick and Rose Leonovich, and other loved ones who have gone before him. Jim had just celebrated his 64th birthday this past December,” said an announcement posted at http://www.smsinternational.org.
“Jim was involved in ministry to the Slavic world since 1979. He evolved from being an engineer behind the scenes producing short wave radio programs aired into the Soviet Union, to being behind the pulpit preaching the Gospel in churches at home and abroad in the former Soviet Union. Jim was involved in the inception of Slavic Missionary Service’s New Life broadcasts and innovative theatrical recordings in the Russian language, which broke new ground of radio programming.”
I knew Jim quite well, and would often meet him at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Annual Convention, and I once interviewed him there for my Front Page Radio show. For a period, Jim lived and Ann on the South Coast of the UK, and he told me on one occasion that a highlight of that time was when he worked in a recording studio there, and former Beatle, Paul McCartney, who lived nearby, “would often pop in to see us.”
The SMS posting went on to say, “His joyful and upbeat spirit brightened the day of whomever he met. He always wore a smile on his face and his laughter was contagious. He dreamed big. Together, Ann and Jim had quite an impact, especially in Ukraine, where they helped set up recording studios and produced many CD’s with the youth. Through the years they also assisted several churches in Ukraine, including ministry to the handicapped, evangelism outreach and many summer camping programs.
“He finally had the opportunity to minister in the land of his father’s birth when Ann and he traveled to Gomel, Belarus, to teach ESL (English as a second language) classes. Jim had a passion for ministry and for sharing the love of God,” the story went on to say.
“Jim will be missed. His labor was not in vain as he served not only the Slavic people, but also the people in his community in California. Our deep condolences [go out] to Ann, Christine and the family. May God grant them peace and comfort in knowing that Jim is with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
When Jim was five, his family moved to Tangier, Morocco, to begin new gospel broadcasts to Russia via the Voice of Tangier, which later became Trans World Radio. As the radio ministry expanded the family moved to the south of France continuing the broadcasts to those in the Soviet Union. Growing up in radio and recording studios Jim participated in various functions at the station from children’s and youth programs to control-room engineering.
After moving to the United States, Jim pursued a career in the recording industry and music production before returning to Russian gospel radio work in 1979. Since that time he has been involved with Christian media as an engineer and producer of innovative programs beamed by shortwave radio to the Soviet Union. In 1991, Jim had the opportunity to be the first foreign engineer to operate and manage a Christian radio project from the Radio Moscow studios. This was to be a beginning of change in his broadcast focus for the future. The contacts and friendships made during that time in Moscow have proved to be invaluable in his later work.
As a media specialist, Jim was involved in establishing radio stations and recording studios in Ukraine and encouraging the growth of contemporary Christian music in the former Soviet Union. More recently partnering with a Christian group in England Jim led a successful team that produced five Christian music albums for kids and young people, four in Russian and one in Ukrainian.
Jim’s father, Nick Leonovich, 84, a senior missionary with the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), who was seriously injured when he fell down a flight of stairs during a visit to Ukraine, passed away in May of 2013. He, too, was a hero of Slavic broadcasting.
Dr. Robert W. Provost, President, Slavic Gospel Association (http://www.sga.org/), said at the time, “He was stricken near Kiev, Ukraine, while climbing stairs after the long trip from his home in California, and had been hospitalized in a coma for the past two days. He was in Ukraine to participate in the graduation ceremonies at the SGA-sponsored Irpen Biblical Seminary.
“Our hearts mourn with Nick’s wife Rose, their children, Jim and Tina, and their grandchildren. Yet at the same time, we are rejoicing exceedingly because Nick is now in the Presence of his glorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whom Nick served so faithfully for 62 years with SGA. We know that to … be absent from the body [is to] be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).”
Dr. Provost went on to say, “I trust you will join the SGA family in continuing to pray for Nick’s beloved Rose, and the Leonovich family. Nick’s passing took place while his son, Jim, is still enroute to Kiev. Nick and Rose Leonovich have served Christ at SGA with faithfulness and distinction – in Rose’s case since the late 1940s and then Nick since 1951.
“So many Russian-speakers around the world will remember their shortwave radio ministry from Monte Carlo, in more recent years their ministry in Russia, Ukraine and neighboring countries, and here in North America encouraging churches and individual believers with news of what God is doing in the lives of their beloved Ukrainian and Russian people … and so much more.”
“We have lost a true hero of the faith, but we do not sorrow as those without hope,” concluded Dr. Provost. “We rejoice in Nick’s promotion to glory from his beloved Ukraine, and look forward to fellowshipping with him there again in due time.
“Nick’s home going truly is an enormous loss to us, the SGA family, and to Christian missions, but we know that Nick is rejoicing today in the Savior’s loving presence. Thank you again for praying for Rose, Jim, Tina, and their grandchildren as they face these difficult days.”
On hearing of Jim’s death, Sergey Rakhuba, President of Mission Eurasia (https://missioneurasia.org/), issued a statement which said, “I am sincerely shocked by this heavy news of that our good friend Jim Leonovich early this morning suddenly sprinted to Eternity. We worked together with Jimmy for a long time and he will be deeply missed by many of his friends and colleagues here in US as well as in all countries of Eurasia.
“This is what Jimmy’s sister Tina wrote on behalf of his wife Annie early this morning: ‘This happened very suddenly, and it is a hard time for us all right now. We would request that you give our family some time to adjust to our great loss. After arrangements are made for a time of celebration of Jimmy’s life, we will share them with you all. On behalf of my whole family, thank you for your love and prayers.’ We are so happy that Jimmy is with the Lord tonight. We find such comfort knowing that as His child, Jimmy is now with our Heavenly Father. Rest in Peace, Brother!”
If you would like to honor Jim’s memory with a gift, Ann is requesting that donations be made to Slavic Missionary Service to fund children’s ministry in Ukraine.
Mail checks labeled “In Memory of Jim Leonovich” to: Slavic Missionary Service, Inc., PO Box 469, Annandale, NJ 08801-0469, USA.
Photo captions: 1) Jim Leonovich. 2) Sir Paul McCartney. (http://www.roskilde-festival.dk). 3) Jim at the controls with wife, Ann, looking on. 4) Jim praying for people in Ukraine. 5) An earlier picture of Jim (left) pictured with his uncle, Alex Leonovich, and his wife, Ann. 6) Dan Wooding interviewing Jim Leonovich at an NRB Convention.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. He has a weekly radio show, and two television programs all based in Southern California.
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