FRESNO – “I never dreamed that I would be in this kind of ministry,” Anthony Ahaev declares. “I did not sit at home and say that one day I hoped that I would work in the Baptist Building. This is not a job — it is a tremendous blessing!”
Tony, California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) church starting group leader, joined the convention as language church starting specialist in 1990. His primary responsibility is supervising the Convention’s team of church planting catalysts.
Tony is a gifted preacher who communicates fluently in Russian, Spanish and English.
“I believe that God wants us to be fulfilled,” Tony continued, “but I never dreamed to be what I am now. All along, I have felt that God had prepared me for this, and I am enjoying what I do.”
The Ahaev family’s worldwide journey underscores God’s unique plan for Tony’s life:
His parents were born in the former Soviet Union. In 1943, circumstances took them to Germany where they lived and worked during World War II; Tony was born in Germany in 1946. After the war, Mother Ahaev became a Christian, and they attended a Russian Baptist church.
In January 1950, the Ahaev family left Germany and immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where they continued to worship in a Russian Baptist church. The 12 years spent in Buenos Aires gave Tony a rich understanding of the Spanish culture and language.
The family’s journey continued in 1962 when they immigrated to Erie, Pennsylvania, where Tony accepted Christ the following year.
“I graduated early from high school — at the age of 20,” Tony quipped. “I was put back in school because I could not speak any English — not a word — so I was put back in the eighth grade as a 16-year-old kid.”
Tony went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana College (LC), a Southern Baptist school in Pineville, Louisiana. He pastored a church in Pineville during his last two years at LC. He continued his ministry preparation at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary where he earned a master of divinity degree.
While at Golden Gate, Tony worked under Jack Combs, his predecessor at CSBC. In 1976, Tony completed his doctoral studies at the California Graduate School of Theology in Southern California. He served as pastor of Anglo and ethnic churches in Southern California. The last church he served as pastor before joining CSBC was the Slavic Evangelical Baptist Church of Hollywood, where Tony and his wife, Victoria, are still members.
Victoria Ahaev’s godly parents and grandparents were also from the former Soviet Union. Although born in New York, Victoria has lived all her life in the Los Angeles area. She is meticulous with language and is fluent in Russian and Spanish as well as English. Tony and Victoria have two children: a married daughter with one son who owns her own business and a son who is working on his PhD in Middle Eastern languages and cultures.
“My greatest joy in ministry has been that I have the freedom to work in our Convention and have the privilege of exercising the gifts and abilities that I have without any restraints,” Tony said. “I have been given the opportunity to not only do the administrative part of ministry, but I am also free to visit churches and serve as an interim pastor. Being close to people keeps my heart warm and helps me be more effective.”
Tony has honorary doctor of divinity degrees from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Tennessee and Odessa Theological Seminary in Ukraine.
Tony’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“Southern Baptists were just beginning to minister in Pennsylvania in 1962. What fascinated me was the evangelistic spirit that Southern Baptists showed.
“It made it easy for me to choose to become a Southern Baptist, for I had never intended to be a Southern Baptist. I intended to go to college and seminary and to do God’s ministry. Then I observed that Southern Baptists seemed to dream only about church, evangelism and reaching people for Christ. ‘My goodness! These people are fanatics,’ I thought. ‘They only know one thing!’
“That evangelistic spirit made it easy for me to choose to become a Southern Baptist. I am thankful for that, and I do not want us to lose that kind of evangelistic spirit and enthusiasm here in California.
“California is not a revolving door any longer, because people have come to California and have made it their home. I see our Convention starting more and more ethnic churches, and many of our smaller Anglo churches are going through tremendous transition — total transformation. We need to reach Californians — whoever they are.”
Pray that God will equip and raise up church planters for the California harvest fields.
Pray that God will lead local congregations to partner with church planters.
Pray for Victoria’s improved health; Tony is away from home often, and Victoria tires easily resulting from a prolapsed micro-valve.
Pray that Tony will continue to do that which God has called him to do.
Pray for continued well-being for Tony’s daughter and son-in-law.
Praise God for what He has done in my life. I am always amazed at how God brought me to this point.
Praise God for what He is doing in my children’s lives.
Praise God for the good health He has given me.
Recommendation for Bible study:
Tony recommends that California Southern Baptists study and reflect on the grace of God. “God is more willing to forgive us than we are willing to forgive others,” Tony says.
Did you know?
In My Husband Wants to Be a Church Planter, So What Will That Make Me? experienced church planter wives discuss the struggles and tremendous fulfillment that come from planting a church.
To learn about church planting and to connect with resources designed to prepare you for church planting contact Tony, visit www.discoverchurchplanting.net and www.churchplantingvillage.net, or call the North American Mission Board church planting group at 888-749-7479.
Church Starting Group Leader
California Southern Baptist Convention
678 East Shaw Avenue
Fresno CA 93710
559-229-9533, ext. 239