A ROMANIAN PASTOR SPEAKS*
The CriÂ§ul Repede Valley is between Oradea and Cluj in the west part of Romania, and within 30 kms we have twenty-five Baptist churches, but just a few ministers.
By the will of God, He called me to be a minister in 1987, and in October 1988 I was ordained. In spite of many attempts from the security police and others to keep me apart from the ministry, God called me. That is the most important and efficient thing in the life of a minister, His special calling. You cannot stop, as Jeremiah says, “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones.”
I was chosen to be a pastor in Tinaud, a church with more than two hundred members. At that time, the church was full of a bad spirit with two parties. Nobody advised and encouraged me to go there to be a pastor, but God helped us, and my wife and I together formed a team and with the Scripture, the Word of God, day by day, month by month, God worked there. Finally, this church became very strong in that valley and now we are in a situation to help in many ways other churches and ministries.
I think that God rewarded us in 1989 when for the first time, our Church was asked to take the funeral service for a very old sister who died at Hotar. Hotar is a small village, 20 kms from Tinaud. This village was primitive and was recognised in the whole valley as a village full of thieves and evil ways. My first instinct was to refuse to go, but God showed me very clearly that it was my duty to go there and to take the funeral service. We use the brass band especially on
these occasions, and when we arrived there with band and the choir there was a crowd of many people, all non-Christians, with just a few very old Christian women. We started the service, we prayed, we sang, and preached the Gospel of Christ for the first time in that village.
When I just finished my sermon, the rain began, heavy rain, but we continued the funeral service. The non-Christians there were very impressed by this sacrifice and they said, “Well, something is different with this kind of believers.” They asked, “Who are “Ah, the Baptists, the Repenters.” (In Romania our nickname for the Baptists is the Repenters.) One family asked me to come back to speak more about Christ and the Gospel. Of course I accepted, and the next Sunday, with a group of brothers and sisters from our church, we visited that house which was full of non-believers. I preached the Gospel, and the choir sang. After two weeks they invited us once again to go there and and this time we took half of our church, and there on the hillside, the brass band played, the choir sang, and the preacher preached. Very simple, very natural, and the Word of God began to work in their hearts.
Of course, there were many barriers at this time. The Greek Orthodox priest was very angry with us; he tried to stop us and to prevent other followers from that village, but nothing can stop the Gospel if the Gospel is preached for the glory of God.
God gave us freedom after the Revolution of December 1989. In the Spring of 1990, and for the first time, we met together as a church in the village of Hotar.
We met in a very old and very unhygenic building, and we started there to pray, to sing, and to preach in freedom, social freedom, and freedom in the Word of God.
That time was really special because about eighty non-believers came to listen to the Gospel. We sometimes preached outside in the courtyard, and the people began to understand the true message of Christianity.
In 1990 we thought that it would be good to have a church there. One reason why some unbelievers from the village said they could not come to our church is because we do not meet together in a church building. Indeed, that old building was used by Communists before the Revolution, so it is normal for the people to have a kind of reaction to this very sad, immoral building. In our minds arose this fine thought, to build up a new building for God there, for God’s church. We hope, by the will of God in 1992 to start to build a new church there in a village where two years ago there were not any real Christians at all. In this time, we had three baptism services and eighteen of the villagers were baptised.
To be a Baptist church, recognised officially by our Government, you have to have more than twenty one members. In August 1991,I baptised four people from Hotar so we now by the will of God have twenty two members. We can now say officially that we are a Baptist church, although it is not important that the State should recognise us, because from the first meeting, God recognised us as Christ’s church. I was very happy in March 1991 that I baptised two men in that church, one old man and one very young. All the previous members were women, some of them very old, and we prayed that God would convert a man, and now in August in the Crisul Repede River, we baptised another four, and one of them is a man.
The whole village is moved and shocked by our presence there. In the beginning the Greek Orthodox priest was very angry against us, but now, he is not so angry, and more people from the village have seen the comparison between the life this priest offers and the life our believers live. I tell them all the time at this church that the model is more important than the message. They have to live as Christ, as real Christians, that is the secret in that village. So you see every thing was in a sense supernatural. We did not plan to go there and God provided everything for us to start this new church.
In July, we had a very special meeting, with eight pastors and more than forty ministers from all over these valley churches meeting for the first time together. About fourteen churches have no pastors at all so I said to all these pastors from our Association that we must do something quickly for this valley. Now the plan is to have a minimum of three pastors within a year to take care of these churches. Two will be part-time pastors, but one is ready to be a full-pastor. His name is George, and he is one of my elders at the church in Tinaud. When I explained to the church in Hotar that I could not continue to be their pastor as I have too many other commitments in my ministry, they all unanimously asked for George to be their pastor. We hope that during this winter George will be ordained and will work full time to help that church to grow up. Of course Tinaud church and myself will help them through any difficulties, but please pray for George and the church in Hotar.
This kind of background will help you to understand that God is always the same. Many times, since we have started this work in Hotar, I have felt in my heart to be like the Apostles who evangelised Palestine and Greece for the first time. It is not easy, you know, to proclaim the Gospel in very simple words and ideas for very ordinary people; they do not know many things. They know that God is in heaven, that they are on earth and they are sinners, but where is Christ? I have to present Christ to them and it was for me a purification of my doctrine, to see what is essential in the doctrines of Christianity and what is not essential.
Some of you have visited Hotar church and you agree that there is something supernatural, something Divine there. I could not explain what the secret is; it is a mystery, the mystery of God’s race. I think it is our responsibility to do something for that church, so maybe we can have some plans and purposes there, but God has
His plan and we have to discover it. I believe that God will continue to work there, that God will help us to build up a new church, and God will use George as a good pastor among the people.
You may have heard of Richard Wunnbrand who is a very old
man. He stayed in prison in Romania for fourteen years and suffered a lot for Christ. He visited our church last year, and it was a
real privilege for us to listen to him. When he saw me he said, “Are you the pastor of this church in Tinaud?” I said, “Yes.” “Oh, you are very young”. “Yes”, I replied, “and also very happy”. He said, ‘Are you a good pastor? ” I said, “Well, I hope so, yes”. “Well, it is a sin to be a good pastor,” he replied. I was amazed at this. He said, “You have to be an excellent pastor”. He explained what it means to be an excellent pastor, and what a big difference there is between an excellent pastor and a good pastor. That is my prayer for all of us who are pastors, to be excellent pastors, to excel, to glorify our God more than anything, that is the real pathway.
I think that the ministry is only just beginning in that valley because we have now a minimum of six churches without pastors and without buildings. Hotar is only one of them, but there are others, so that can be a plan or perspective for you to help us.
We hope that God will help us all to remain holy and humble in this ministry, and we hope that you will help us with prayers and with other things. It is not a coincidence that you came there, and you were concerned with our valley and with our churches. Nothing just happens in this world, God is sovereign and God sent you and we received you; we work together, so we have to be faithful. That is the secret of any kind of ministry, faithfulness. God help us in this. Amen.
Emil Bartos, Pastor, Baptist Church Tinaud, Romania
* This talk by Emil Bartos from Oradea, Romania was given to a meeting in
Crowborough in early September 1991.
From Emil’s previous visits, and from journeys we have made to Romania, the Lord
has put into our hearts a love and concern for the churches and people there.
A trust has been formed called The Crisul Trust with the purpose of helping and
supporting the pastors and churches in the villages of the Crisul Repede Valley.
(Pronounced Chrish-ul Reh-peh-duh).
We have already started this work and have sent funds to purchase the land to build a
new church in Hotar, and committed ourselves in faith to support a pastor there.
We now plan to provide a car for the pastor and to start building the new church for
the glory of our God.
We are very grateful to the Lord for the generosity of his people and we commit this
work to a wider audience for your prayers and practical support.
The Trustees of the Crisul Trust