Stoyan was born and raised in the home of a Russian pastor in the 1940’s. As communism began to take hold of the country, persecution became a part of everyday life for Russian churches and believers. When Stoyan was 12 years old his protestant pastor father was thrown in prison where he stayed for over a decade. Stoyan began theological study and wanted to become a pastor like his father. His plans were delayed time and time again when his study would be raided by police who would destroy all of his notes and sermons.
In 1966 Stoyan acquired two illegal Bibles that were written in his native tongue. This gave him the idea to start an underground center for smuggled materials in his home. Over the next two decades, he translated over twenty Christian books. He organized an underground publishing network. No one knew of his work to reach Russians with the gospel until Stoyan was interviewed by a man named Nik Ripken in 1998. The details of his work and the methods used by his organization to print and distribute thousands of books through Eastern Europe still remained a secret until that time.
He was suspected by the secret police of doing this work but was never caught with his books and Bibles in his possession. Still the authorities threw him in prison. One time, he received a last minute warning that the police were waiting for him at his house. He left his wife in the woods overnight with a carload of books so that he could arrive home innocently empty-handed. Another time, a police officer actually sat on a stack of bibles wrapped in brown paper while he directed a squad of his men on a futile, hours-long search of Stoyan’s house.
At the end of Stoyan’s interview with Nik Ripken about these details Stoyan told Nik, “I thank God and I take great joy in knowing that I was suffering in prison in my country, so that you, Nik, could be free to share Jesus in yours.” Nik looked at Stoyan and said, “Oh no! You are not going to do that! You are not going to put that on me. That is a debt so large that I can never repay you!” Stoyan replied, “Son, that’s the debt of the cross. Don’t steal my joy. I took great joy that I was suffering in my country, so that you could be free to witness in your country. Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution. That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
May we not give up in freedom what Stoyan and others have refused to surrender under the worst forms of persecution.