Bellingham Slavic Gospel Church was established in 1989 with naturalized members from Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
The current pastor of BSGC, Walter Ilyin, has been leading the church for almost 30 years. Ilyin graduated from Northwest Bible College with a Degree in Ministry and has been married to Vera Ilyin since 1971. They share five children and fourteen grandchildren together who are also actively involved in the church.
In 1982, Pastor Walter Ilyin began working as a department manager at K-Mart in Medford, OR—a position that led him to where he is today. Soon after settling into his role, his employer requested he move to Washington State to manage the local K-Mart in the city of Bellingham. Initially reluctant to move, Ilyin accepted it as God’s will and relocated with his family. After arriving in Bellingham in 1989, he continued to work in the same position and befriended a coworker who told him about an opportunity to work with Russian immigrants in the area. Ilyin was then introduced to several families—Sokolan, Mamotuk, Snitko, Shtunuk and Mazurets, who began gathering a small group of 20 members at Sokolan’s home for weekly prayer services and bible studies. With no official Slavic home church established yet, Ilyin invited the families to Calvary Temple, an all-English speaking church he attended with his family. Ilyin translated sermons through electronic hearing devices for his new friends and the church began seeing a significant growth of Russian and Ukrainian attendees. Shortly thereafter, the Slavic members were allotted their own service time in the same building.
Fluent in both English and Russian, Ilyin continued his efforts outside the church to translate documents, interpret at court appearances and appointments and any other concerns brought forth by the Russian community. His involvement and expertise led him to unanimously be selected as the leader of the new Slavic church in 1993. By that year, there were over 100 members in the church, fulfilling an early prophecy predicting the church would see a large growth in the congregation.
After he was officially ordained, Pastor Ilyin and the elders of the church agreed on the name Bellingham Slavic Gospel Church and members quickly came together to take on leadership roles throughout the church. Among the first deacons were Victor Trubnikov, Michael Shkurat and Leonid Datsky. The first church secretaries were Yakov Shtunuk and Vladimir Dub and the first youth leaders were Elijah Kolbert and Anatoliy Mazurets, respectively. The pastor’s musically talented eldest children Alex and Lisa Ilyin became worship leaders, with Clava Mazurets playing piano. Victor Agafonov was the music instructor who taught young members various instruments. Sunday school classes were led by Vera Ilyin, Sergey Solodyankin, Luba Trubnikov, Nadia Trubnikov and Lisa Ilyin. The first adult choir director was directed by Paul Trubnikov, followed by Tonya Datsky.
The first baptism was conducted by Pastor Ilyin and Reverend Strum at Nooksack River near Mt. Baker for three members, Alex Ilyin, Lisa Ilyin and Valentina Chimahood. From 1992 – 2016, baptisms continued to take place at Lake Padden until the church built its own pool on the new church property. Today, baptisms are held annually for an average of 15 members but continue to grow.
In 1997, moving forward with expansion plans, the church purchased land on 276 Harvest Way in Bellingham to begin construction of their very own building. The congregation continued to gather at Calvary Temple until it was sold in 1999, forcing them to briefly relocate to a Presbyterian church until completion of the project in 2003.
The project was led by contractor Sergey Savchuk from Arrow Construction with Anatoliy Mazurets and Alex Jr. Shevchenko hired on as full-time project managers. With the help of many other members that volunteered their time and skills, the church was able to successfully complete the project in a timely manner with minimal financing.
The Slavic Gospel Church foundation is built on Pentecostal beliefs and refers to both the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God. All missionary trips, camps, small groups, church projects and other activities are distributed amongst leaders and the committees. The Word of God is evangelized worldwide by the church’s live ministry and missionaries. BSGC continuously supports various rehabilitation centers, missionary organizations, orphanages, inmate outreach programs and other community outreach programs both financially and through prayer.