40 years ago today my parents said “I do”.
I try to imagine what it would have been like that day for my mom. You’re marrying the love of your life. Others like to chime in and advise that you’re also marrying the family. But I think what was also true on that day was that she was marrying into the ministry.
And 40 years ago, Romania was a communist regime, an uninvited guest at that wedding, figuratively screaming, “I object!” to all of it.
Marrying a man who was to become not only a reputable medical doctor but an infamous lay preacher, a most lethal combination in the eyes of the Securitate, the communist regime’s secret police. You couldn’t possibly be an intelligent, dignified professional and believe in God at the same time, let alone evangelize others about God.
But she had a taste of what she was going to get herself into. Her first day of first grade her teacher asked her to stand in front of the whole class. The teacher began to tell the rest of the students that if they wanted to accomplish anything in life they should not go to church like she did. She cried to her mother that day wondering what she did wrong. But she, like other Christians, were the antithesis of communist ideology, especially in school. She was expelled from the Communist Youth Party her senior year of high school because of her refusal to deny her faith (after forced participated since age 14, suddenly they cared). After graduating high school, employers were told not to hire her. Her family was evicted from their first home. Her father was denied employment on the grounds of, well, they couldn’t really say.
Romania was under communist rule for 42 years. Forty-two years of an ideology that would not tolerate religion (occasionally it would feign a tolerance to some denominations) or those who practiced it. And especially not those who helped spread it. There was Atheism and no other gods before it. Of course, they never flat-out outlawed religion. Nooooo, they were tolerant on paper. But they were unbelievably sneaky and subversive in reality, using their Securitate to do the dirty work. And the Securitate had their network of informants. Neighbors, friends, family, church members even had to inform the whereabouts and whatabouts of certain people. Paranoia was thick in the air.
As my father’s good reputation as a medical doctor grew in the area, he became a force to be reckoned with. Not only was he respected among the community, but he took that platform and preached the gospel at whatever occasion he could. Weddings, funerals, at churches that were not already bulldozer-ed down. (The next town over, Stei, the church members resisted by holding hands in front of their church while the bulldozer waited day after day--eventually the church was leveled.) In Beius, the Romanian Baptist church’s front door was locked and sealed on grounds that they were not authorized to gather there. So they just used the side door to get in. He particularly preached at village churches--those were largely left alone. The logic? Older people will die out, so will religion. The focus was on young and growing churches in towns.
Forget about the “honeymoon” period of a marriage. There were interrogations, searches without warrants on any given day (most of them in the middle of night), wire-tappings, Buna Mary was even sentenced to prison for 6 months for “stealing” from the furniture factory where she worked. The judge had better sense than that and dropped the charges. When I asked my dad why they went after Buna and not you, he said that their tactic was to breakdown the family, not the targeted individual. Tear apart what is most dear to them, then the person would renounce their faith. How utterly sick and twisted.
When I hear about my family’s history, I understand the immense sacrifice they made for their faith, for their ministry. It’s the stuff out of the movies, the U.S.S.R. ones. I get nervous just going through security at the airport. What about risking your life, your family’s life for your beliefs? Having the secret police constantly on your trail not knowing exactly what they will do; having people you thought were your friends ratting you out to them?
I call myself a freedom baby because I was born after the fall of communism. In that same sense, I know that it did not cost me much to be a Christian now in Romania. My father to this very day, 40 years later, goes to the same village churches he preached at during communism. I go along with him too sometimes. And when I look at the elderly in the those churches, I don’t think these churches are dying like I used to. No, those were the people who were and are the most alive in their faith because of the prices they had to pay.
REMM is a ministry that was and still is alive because of the prices it had to pay--a 40 year-history that can never be taken away, but one that can only be refined with each year of faith and ministry.
The mission of REMM, before it even became a ministry, when it was just a vision, a hope, a prayer in the darkness of communism remains alive still today. The times have changed, and luckily there are no more secret police patrolling the streets (or I would not be writing this right now from Beius, I’d be in America thank you very much), and by God's grace the ministry of REMM has expanded to help some many different kinds of people with different kinds of needs. But the root of it all, the heart of it, has always been the gospel and how the gospel changes everything, no matter the circumstances.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of two incredible heroes who did not give up on their faith when it was the easiest and safest just to keep quiet. Because of their faith in God and not in fear of the circumstances, REMM is where it is today, and there is no telling where it could be in the next 40 years.
In celebrating this major milestone, join me in donating to REMM $40 for 40 years of ministry work and many, many more years ahead.
Happy anniversary, mom and dad!