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The Story of How the Church of Christ in Romania Became Legal

After the Romanian revolution, I was sent to Romania. I was a professor at Lucian Blaga University in Sibiu, Romania.  My husband was a missionary sent by the Friendly Avenue church of Christ in Greensboro, North Carolina, U. S. A.  I was the one with the language talent, so I spent a lot of time translating.  We were the second missionaries from the church of Christ in Romania.  Dale and Imogene McAnulty were the first in Bucharest, the capital, but we went to Sibiu because that is where I had a job.  They were there a year before we got there.  They established a church, and we established a church.  Kyle Holt also showed up in Sibiu after we got there and established another church of Christ in Sibiu.  The two churches in Sibiu eventually merged.  We had no idea that what we were doing was illegal.

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There were all kinds of churches. We met people from the Pentecostal church, the Baptist church, the Church of the Brethren, the Catholic Church, Orthodox  Church, and the Lutheran Church.  We thought the Romanians were free to go to whatever church they wanted, but we were wrong.  We eventually learned the only legal church in Romania was the Orthodox Church.  The rest existed, but illegally. The church of Christ in Bucharest had figured it out and made legal papers to make themselves legal, but we weren’t included in those papers, only the church in Bucharest.

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Since everyone was going about their business and worshiping God according to their own beliefs, we didn’t expect what happened. We had bought an apartment in the village where we were teaching the poor children from the village. We were doing whatever we could for them.  They were the children of poor farm laborers.  In their homes, there was no running water, their mothers heated and cooked with wood, and food and clothing were hard to get. We were teaching these children Bible stories, teaching them cleanliness, teaching them to read, etc., whatever we could do to help these children, we were doing it.  We had parties for them at Christmas and Easter.  We supplied a Christmas tree and Easter baskets. We supplied clothes and toys as gifts. We gave food to their parents so they could fix them nice holiday meals.  The Romanian Christians from Sibiu were all over it.  They loved helping the children in the village!  The gifts were donations from the Romanians in Sibiu. We were all working together for these children. When we gave them gifts, they said it was the first gifts they had ever received, and the Romanian Christians had overflowing hearts of love for the children.  We thought we were doing well because we were teaching the Romanians to minister to one another.  However, there was someone watching who didn’t like what we were doing, the Orthodox priest in the village

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One day, he brought a policeman and stood outside of the apartment telling any of them that if they went inside, he would have them arrested.  We had no idea at that point that what we were doing was illegal, and we were surprised. We asked a lawyer who was attending the church of Christ in Sibiu if he could, indeed, have people arrested, and the lawyer said he could. He told us that the only church in Romania that was legal was the Orthodox church.   We asked him to see if he could do something about it.  He agreed and began to research, but he just couldn’t come up with any answers to make us legal.  We were worried that priest in the village would make more trouble and felt like we really needed to do something.

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My friend, the Math teacher, went to visit with a notary.  The notary suggested that we become a religious foundation.  No one wanted to see the good things we were doing come to an end except that one priest.  She gave her a list of things we needed to do to become a religious foundation.   In order to be a foundation, we needed officers.  The church chose Vali Buhescu, the Math teacher, as the president of the religious foundation. They chose me to be the vice president. We decided that if the church in Bucharest had thought, they could have made every church of Christ established after them legal, but they didn’t, but we were going to make that mistake.  We had it put in the papers that every church of Christ established in Romania after us would also be legal.  We had a list of ministries in Bucharest we had to visit to get their signatures on what we were doing, and then we had to visit a judge in Sibiu to finish it.

Vali and I went to Bucharest and ran from ministry to ministry getting the signatures.  We had to spend a couple of nights in the home of one of Vali’s friends because there were so many government ministries to visit. We got all the signatures with no problem.  We came back to Sibiu and got a court date to get the final approval of the judge.  If you want to know what happened in that courtroom, read my blog about “The Romanian Judge.”  It actually happened.  That judge screamed so much that I emotionally shut down and couldn’t speak.  Vali was the hero and took over and did all the talking. Up until that point, I talked to every person in the ministries, and I was shocked to freeze up that way.  We got our approval from the judge too, and we were finally legal.

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However, the priest in the village wasn’t finished.  He gathered up a group of his faithful Orthodox followers and formed a rowdy mob.  They were going to go and burn my house down.  They decided there should only be one church in Romania.  I didn’t even know they were doing it.  They got to my house, and the priest lit fire to my house.  Then, thankfully, he got an attack of conscience and put the fire out. He called the police to tell them what he had done and told them that if they didn’t stop the church and stop me, he would, and he didn’t know if he would do it legal or not.

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The police called Vali and I up.  They were perturbed by what the priest had said. They asked Vali and I to come to the police station.  We went.  The policeman told us the church must stop meeting.  I knew he couldn’t legally ask us to because of the papers we had filed, and he knew that we were legal too because I saw the papers on his desk.  I asked him, “Is it illegal for us to meet?”  His response was, “No, but he was afraid of what the Orthodox priest would do if we didn’t stop meeting.”  I told him we were going to meet.  I found my voice that I had lost in front of the judge.  Vali was amazed!

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We were legal, and I knew he couldn’t stop us legally.  When the police told the Orthodox priest that we weren’t going to stop meeting, he got angry!  He was known for his violent fits of temper.  He had yelled at a woman so bad once that she ended up in a sanatorium in the mountains from a nervous breakdown. He caused a lot of trouble.  Well, this time, he caused himself trouble.  He got angry and began screaming and had a heart attack and died.  We were shocked to hear about it!  I went to his wake.  I saw him laying in the coffin. We were all shocked and sad that he had done this to  himself. His screaming and attempts at bullying had backfired on him.

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After that, the people of the village began saying that his death was a sign from God. Even the priest’s son knocked on our door asking for a Bible study. We were legal and not only accepted, but embraced. The other Orthodox priests didn’t act as badly as this one had. We actually had friends among the Orthodox priests who liked what we were doing, but this one couldn’t control himself, and it was his own undoing. The church of Christ still meets in Sibu, and there are churches of Christ all over Romania now, and they have no idea that they have that freedom because of what happened in Sibiu.

 

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