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American Slavic Apostles to the Bulgarians - Part 2

     In 1919 Olga began to desire the warmth of a family life again. She started praying for God’s guidance in choosing a husband, and God gave her a literal vision of her future spouse. At the same time a bachelor in Stamford, Connecticut also was seeking the Lord for a wife, and God showed him the face of the young woman he would marry. That young bachelor was Dionissy Zaplishny.[1]

     Zaplishny was a native of Ukraine born in Pogachovka, near Kiev on October 3, 1888. From early childhood, Dionissy felt drawn to serve God, and with boyish curiosity followed the rituals performed by the village Orthodox priest.[2] He immigrated to the United States in 1914. An avid student of the Bible, Dionissy enrolled in a Baptist Bible School.[3] At first he was unsympathetic to those speaking in tongues, but not long after he heard the Pentecostal message, he was baptized with the Spirit.

     In 1918 Dionissy established a Pentecostal church in Stamford, Connecticut.[4] At this church, two God-inspired dreams would become a reality—Olga’s and Dionissy’s. Some of Zaplishny’s congregants had heard of the Bulgarian woman-preacher working among the Slavs in New York City. They urged him to have her preach at his church.[5] In 1920 Olga received an invitation to speak at his church in Stamford, Connecticut.[6] Zaplishny went to meet her at the train station. As she came off the train, both recognized each other from the visions God had given them.

     Shortly after meeting they married at Glad Tidings Tabernacle in New York where Pastor Robert Brown officiated. At their wedding reception a prophecy came forth that the Lord had prepared a missionary work for them in Manchuria.[7] A few months earlier, in 1919,[8] at a cottage prayer meeting, Voronaev also had received a prophetic message calling him to return to his motherland, Russia.[9] In response to the activity of the Holy Spirit drawing believers to the mission field, several families committed to embark on the missionary journey to Russia: Ivan Voronaev, Dionissy Zaplishny, V. R. Koltovich, V. Klikibik and N. Kardanov. Voronaev contacted the Foreign Missions Department of the Assemblies of God, and received an approval for the overseas trip.[10] In a subsequent contact, through a letter to J. Roswell Flower dated June 22, 1920, Voronaev outlined his strategy to return to Russia and said that he was not leaving alone, but with his family and “some brothers.”[11] Three months later, on July 17, 1920,[12] the group sailed on the steamship Madonna.[13]  The missionaries were detained in Istanbul, lacking correct travel documents to enter Russia. While in Turkey, the Lord clearly directed the Zaplishnys to go to Bulgaria.[14] They obeyed and continued their trip to Burgas, Bulgaria.[15]

     At the time the Zaplishnys arrived in Bulgaria, the Pentecostal message had not yet reached the southeastern parts of the European continent.[16] Immediately upon arrival, the Zaplishnys began witnessing to their family and friends, telling them about the baptism with the Holy Spirit. People began converting to the Pentecostal faith and desiring the Gift.[17] The Congregational church in Burgas warmly accepted the American Slavs and allowed Dionissy Zaplishny to preach his first Pentecostal sermon from the Congregational church’s pulpit.[18]

     Synan observes that the latter rain fell in Europe at the same time as in the United States. He continues his analysis by pointing out that European Pentecostalism began among the same types of people as in the United States.[19] That point of view certainly merits support as the Bulgarian Pentecostal event unfolded among the existing evangelical movement.

     Shortly after the Zaplishnys’ coming, a nucleus of Pentecostal believers began to form in Burgas.[20] The Zaplishnys rented a home in Burgas which became the meeting place of the first Pentecostal church in Bulgaria. Later, that church became one of the largest Pentecostal churches in the country, and many prominent national and international Pentecostal leaders came from the ranks of its congregation.

     Dionissy and Olga Zaplishny worked relentlessly to strengthen the church. This humble couple did not want any praise to go to them. Olga often said that all the praise belonged to God,[21] and they would not deter people from focusing their gratitude on the Giver of all good things. The attitude of not wanting any praise or attention directed to them, coupled with the fact that Dionissy Zaplishny had not yet received official credentialing, might be the reason why the Zaplishnys did not write letters to the Foreign Missions Department of the Assemblies of God describing their missionary work. The couple relied entirely on the empowering work of the Holy Spirit and gave exclusive glory to Him, as the Pentecostal faith went forth. Olga was strongly led by the Holy Spirit; she fasted four days a week, as Wednesdays were one of the days she fasted, starting from 1914 until her death at the age of 94.[22]   The small salary the church was able to pay the Zaplishnys went first to cover tithes, then feed the family, and the rest was donated to the poor and the disadvantaged.[23]


[1]Jackson, 2.


[3]Smolchuck, 19.


[5]Jackson, 2.

[6]Smolchuck, 19.

[7]Jackson, 2.

[8]Dony K. Donev, “Ivan Voronaev: Slavic Pentecostal Pioneer and Martyr,” Assemblies of God Heritage, vol. 30 (2010): 53.

[9]Vinson Synan, In the Latter Days (Fairfax: Xulon Press, 2001), 66.

[10]Donev, 53.

[11]John E. Varonaeff, letter to J. Roswell Flower, June 22, 1920. FPHC.

[12]Jackson, 2.

[13]Jackson, 2.

[14]Smolchuck, 20.



[17]Smolchuck, 20.


[19]Synan, In the Latter Days, 55

[20]Jackson, 2.

[21]Jackson, telephone interview.


[23]Sabev, 11.


Copyright © 2008-2015 Svetlana Papazov, D.Min.

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