Sentenced to Siberia

Basil Malof (born William Fetler—he changed his name because Fetler had been forced on his grandfather by German occupiers) was a successful Protestant evangelist in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), and publisher of the first religious journal in Latvia, Kristigais Vestnesis (Christian Herald). Converted at fifteen, he was baptized at night because the Orthodox Church persecuted evangelicals. Eager to win souls, he became a preacher at sixteen. Eventually he trained at Spurgeon College in England. He returned to Russia to evangelize. His success was so great that while still in his twenties he built a house of worship that could seat 2,000. Jealous leaders of the Orthodox Church stirred up the government to arrest him.

On 22 November 1914 he was taken to a filthy police station and informed he was exiled to Siberia. He was told to share a cot with a lice-infested criminal. However, while his church people prayed, the government granted him three days to set his affairs in order. Two days later authorities commuted his sentence to banishment to the West. Altogether, Malof was in prison only a few hours, but the prospect during those hours was bleak: loss of wife and child and a lifetime of imprisonment.

During his banishment, Malof organized efforts to convert East Europeans held as prisoners of war in the West. Through this successful ministry thousands were saved and equipped with Bibles to return and spread the gospel in their homeland.

After Czar Nicholas II was deposed, Malof returned to work in Russia and Latvia, and was still evangelizing when the Soviets overran his native Latvia in 1940. In 1944, he revived the Russian Bible Society. He died in 1956.