Puerto, Evelyn. Beyond the Rapids – One Family’s Triumph Over Religious Persecution in Communist Ukraine. Enumclaw: Pleasant Word Publishing, 2010. 330. $19.99. Purchase at Amazon in print or Kindle for much less.
Evelyn served as a missionary in Russia for seven years after leaving a health care planning career. During that time, she traveled a number of times into the Ukraine where she met the Brynza family, about which this book is written. You can learn more at the website, Beyond The Rapids.
From the website:
Spanning the years from the Great Terror of the 1930s to the time when believing in Christ is no longer a crime, this close-knit Ukrainian family quietly persisted through the years, trusting God for everything. The Brynzas’ children, forced to choose between God and the communist system, wrestled with temptations of ambition, popularity, love, and wealth. But God heard the faithful prayers of Alexei and Valentina, and the Brynza family was able to not only survive, but to thrive. Their son-in-law, Igor Yaremchuk, adds his own testimony of coming to Christ with the help of miracles and atheistic propaganda.
Also from the website, concerning the Brynzas:
Alexei Brynza served as a Baptist pastor in the Khortitsa Baptist Church near the city of Zaporozhe from 1975 to 1990. In 1975, he was named senior pastor for the Zaporozhe region, overseeing over 30 churches.
He and his wife, Valentina, had four children, Yakov, Viktor, Lena, and Veniamin. In spite of pressure from school government officials, they brought their children up in the church, even during the years it was illegal to do so.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Alexei Brynza was asked to be the first president of a new seminary to train Baptist and Evangelical Christian pastors and Christian education workers, to be located in Irpin, and suburb of Kiev. He served in that role from 1990 to 2008, resigning only a few months before his death. His son-in-law, Igor Yaremchuk, now serves as president of the Irpin Biblical Seminary.
All four of the Brynza children came to know Jesus as their savior. Beyond the Rapids tells of their struggles and triumphs, and how these faithful parents were able to defeat the efforts of the government to prevent them from passing on their faith to their children. All of Alexei and Valentina’s children are currently serving in ministry.
This works reads more like an interview of the Brynza family detailing the horrors of religious persecution. The book opens with the grandfather being lead out to the firing line for being a Baptist and refusing to fight in the military. In other words, this quick paced biography hits the ground in a dead sprint and rarely gives the reader a chance to relax. What the reader quickly finds is that there is much more to this family’s faith than one would think. Forged in trials and persecution, the Brynza family does not want to make there story about their family. Rather they want their story to tell His story of grace and mercy even in times of trouble.
While this work is about a specific family from a specific country, the author, friends with the Brynza family, opens the eyes of the American reader to the reality of religious persecution in the world today. If just one person becomes more aware of this reality of religious persecution and seeks to do something about it (prayer, missions, etc.) then the author and the publisher’s investment will have been far worth it.
I am sure there are some reviewers that might take to task some of the beliefs of the family, but that is not the point of this book. You can read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and remain unfazed by what he shares because it happened so long ago. For those who do not believe that religious persecution takes place today, read Beyond the Rapids and you will see that we are more than fortunate (for a time, anyway) than most every other country. I thoroughly enjoyed this biography and believe you will as well.