Testimony of Conversion

I was born in Bucharest on November 30th, 1991, but grew up in the nearby commune of Jilava. My younger brother and I were raised by our grandparents.

When I was six years old, my parents divorced each other and gave us to our grandparents. They provided for us and took care of our education, even though they themselves were peasants without education, and the word “wealthy” never could have applied to them in any monetary sense. They were Eastern Orthodox.

In their youth, my grandfather had attended school for only two years, and my grandmother hadn’t received any formal education. They grew up during WW2, and didn’t have many opportunities back then. I believe that’s why it was so difficult for them to raise us.

They were farmers, and as soon as I started living with them when I was six, I worked on the farm. We took four milk cows to the field and brought them back. We fed twenty pigs, and a host of chickens. In the fields alone, there were 10,000 to 15,000 plants with a constant necessity for care.

Amidst all of this work, I didn’t know anything about God. In the first year with my grandparents, some Jehovah’s Witnesses visited us and gave me a children’s bible. It was there that I saw images of Adam and Eve, the Flood, and the Tower of Babel. Nobody ever read that book to me, but I remember the Jehovah’s Witnesses telling me that the book was about God.

The book was helpful to me; it taught me how to count, and planted thoughts in my mind about the existence of God. I never progressed much with these things in the following years; our work only grew, and this meant that I had to work hard.

When I was nine, I was walking along the fence of the Jilava Penitentiary. An inmate saw me, and asked if I had a cigarette that he could purchase. I didn’t have one, but asked him how much he would give me if I did. He gave me a good price, at least in my head, and so I ran off to the store and bought several. I started a cycle of providing him with cigarettes, lighters, and even pornographic magazines that I found in the trash. It was just a way for me to make a small bit of money.

My grandparents were quite harsh on my brother and I, and our situation with schooling was awful. Nobody helped us with our homework, and we didn’t even have the time to do it in the first place. Our schoolmates used to laugh at us because we smelled bad. It was true; our grandparents didn’t allow us to heat up water to wash ourselves with, and we couldn’t bathe due to the water being frozen in the winter.

My parents, of course, knew nothing of our treatment. I didn’t see my mother for six years, and I knew next to nothing about her.

Later, I had an opportunity that had never presented itself to my grandparents; highschool. It didn’t have a good reputation, and I ended up befriending the wrong crowd of boys. We started skipping class to drink alcohol in the bar or in the park.

In the first two years of high school alone, I was on the verge of expulsion on several occasions due to bad behavior or skipping classes. If I did go to school, I wasn’t prepared for class. My textbooks, notebooks, and pencils? I didn’t know where they were.

Why worry about school when I had my friends? They accepted me for who I was, and I put them on a high pedestal. If they believed in me, I could do it, and it didn’t matter how grand or lofty a dare was.

They challenged me to become a drug dealer. Nothing was outside the realm of possibility for me.

In the 9th grade, my father actually went to work in Germany, and my greatest wish at the time was to get my driver’s license when I was 18. My father promised to buy me a Volkswagen G3, my dream car.

This dream was never realized.

When I was 16, in February of 2008, I received a phone call from my father’s friend. My father was in the hospital with a serious diagnosis. It was terminal lung cancer, and the doctors estimated that he had about three months left to live. He had been a smoker since childhood, and had smoked two to three packs every day. 

When I got this news, I fell into deep depression. It wasn’t due to losing my father; he didn’t spend much time with us, and when he did, he was an expert at beating and humiliation.

No, it wasn’t because he was dying, it was because I wouldn’t be getting my dream car.

One night, I almost went to cut my wrist, but praise the Lord, He protected me!

My grandfather and I took a vacation to Germany, and when we got off the bus, my father was waiting. When I saw him, I didn’t want to leave my seat. I don’t know if I was ashamed or afraid. When I had last seen my father, he was 173 centimeters tall, and weighed 100 kilos. Now, he weighed 38 kilos, and didn’t have any hair or teeth.

Seeing him like this was so painful; until then, I hadn’t understood what was actually going on. I guess I thought that everything was going to be fine like in the movies, but the reality was far more serious. My father was so ill, he couldn’t even speak!

While in the hospital, he had met a Romanian girl, named Marcela, who was studying in Hanover, Germany. She used to go to the hospital with the intent to help Romanian patients translate documents and prescriptions. She met my father there, and kept in touch with him. My father told her that I was coming to Hanover, and asked her to spend some time with me while he was in the hospital. 

On August 16th, 2008, I was woken up early in the morning. My father was in the ambulance, and couldn’t breathe. I was driven to the hospital. This could have been the end. He actually started to feel better, and so I was sent back home. My father asked Marcela to spend the Saturday with me, and she did, as there was no school or church to attend.

She came to my father’s house, and was kind enough to cook something. I, a rebellious and rude teenager, put my earphones in. I didn’t want to talk to her. She was a bit older than me, and I thought she would preach to me, if given the chance to.

She finished cooking, and invited me to eat. She was gracious enough to ask if she could pray for the meal, and I consented. 

She prayed for the meal, for my father, and finally for me. I was irritated, and felt that I didn’t need anyone’s mercy.

After our meal, I saw her to the train station. She started talking with me, and told  me that she understood where I was coming from. She said that I had a right to be sad and rebellious. She told me that it was no surprise I behaved as I was since no one had ever loved me before. Like me, she said, the Son of God had been unloved and alone as well. I asked her why this was, and her answer was short, but so sweet:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

She asked me if I thought God loved me, to which I replied, “I don’t know.”

“How then,” she said, “could God love someone who beat, mocked, and crucified His child?”

I then realized that I was God’s enemy. It was so hard; I was terrified, and understood myself to be God’s enemy. I asked her what I should do.

She said that I had asked the best question of my life, and that the Bible actually had an answer in Romans 10:9.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I said that it was too simple.

I thought that I had to do something extraordinary to make peace with God, but she insisted that this way was sufficient. I prayed with her there on the spot, and when I went home, I was filled with divine happiness. I was no longer God’s enemy!

I started to ask myself what a repenter should do. I figured that he would pray, and so I started, even though I had never done it before.

I then went to bed, and the following day, I started scanning the Internet for anything I could find. I didn’t have a Bible, and I figured that this was the best option available to me. I found a sermon, and listened to it several times over. I couldn’t believe that there were people who could speak so highly of God, and I was shocked to hear the beautiful things that the Bible contained. 

My father would end up dying a month later, on October 18th, 2008.

I returned to Romania in September, and actually found a Baptist Church in Jilava. I started attending this church, and was baptized on May 10th, 2009. I became a different person, and my schoolmates as well as my teachers didn’t recognize me anymore. I told everyone about God. I read the Bible, and I prayed at every opportunity. Some of my teachers cried when they saw the great change that had taken place in me.

My grandparents, however, were filled with rage.

Apparently, some mocked my grandfather for my conversion, and he beat me. I told him that I would never give up on God, and that I would keep attending the church.

He tried to murder me.

He took an ax and went to split me in half, but I dodged and came away with a scratch. He then dropped the weapon and beat me with a chain.

I was bruised and covered with my own blood, but I went to church. When I came home, my clothes were in a box by the gate, which was locked. I called the cops, and my grandparents were forced to let me in.

They still refused to give me food and firewood.

It was tough, but the Lord was with me.

I had no fire, but I didn’t feel cold. As I was reading the Scripture, I had tears of joy and amazement in my eyes due to what I was reading.

They warmed my heart.

My biological father had passed away, but my Heavenly Father never stopped loving me, protecting me, and caring for me.

He was, continues, and always will be more precious to me than even 10 earthly fathers.

Call to Ministry

God went on to call me to the ministry, and he worked several miracles that gave me clear signs of His will. I was a saved and blessed man. A minister of the Kingdom through His grace and goodness. My future without Christ had been looking dark, and I don’t know where I would be without him. Perhaps I would have been imprisoned in Jilava Penitentiary, or maybe I wouldn’t be alive.

God, in His goodness, according to the sovereign plan of His will, saved me through repentance and faith in Jesus. Praise Christ, the Lord!

When I was in the 12th grade, my mother remarried a man in Austria, and he wanted to help me in any way he could. He asked me about my passions, and what I was good at. I told him that I liked cars, and that I was a good mechanic. He advised me to go to Austria after high school, and that he would help me find a job in the car service or in a factory.

God had other plans.

Brothers and sisters in the church started to urge me to pray so as to understand what the Lord wanted me to do after high school. I prayed. In the meantime, the Lord blessed me with a new place to stay; a friend’s parents took pity on me when they learned that I had no food or firewood. 

I started being more serious about my relationship with God, and I prayed while fasting on a regular basis. In the spring of 2019, when I was 18, I started visiting other small churches around Bucharest along with some believers from our church. 

We visited churches that didn’t have pastors. One such church was located in the village of Mihai Vodă. Before the church service bagan, some members were trying to organize themselves, but I noticed that something was missing. A voice told me that I had to be the pastor that day. I was startled, and looked around, but there didn’t seem to be anyone talking to me. 

The following month, we visited a church with a similar situation in Otopeni. It didn’t have a pastor, and while they were trying to organize the service, again, I heard the same voice whisper to me.

“You need to be their pastor.”

Again, I looked around for anyone talking to me. No one was there. I understood that the Lord was talking to me, but I didn’t tell anyone about this.

When I returned to Jilava, I asked my pastor what it meant to be a theology student, and how I should know God better.

I used to pray this prayer to the exact word:

“Lord, I want to know you better!”

The pastor told me that I had to go to college for four years, that it was difficult, but that it was a good experience. He also told me that he was happy I had asked him this question. He had apparently been praying for me, and believed that the Lord wanted me to be in ministry.

Before going forward with my bachelor’s degree, I prayed and asked God for a sign. Even if others confirmed my call to ministry, I wanted something clearer, and a bit more personal.

I had to pass three exams to be accepted into the program.

I prayed with clearness; if the Lord allowed me to pass two exams in the summer, and the third exam in the Fall, he wanted me to study Theology.

If, however, I passed all three exams, I would take this as a sign that he didn’t want me to go into ministry; if I passed my exams, I would go on to study in Austria.

On Sunday, the day before the exam, I dreamed that I passed my Romanian language and Math exams. I even saw my results in the dream. I didn’t see the results of my third exam; Biology.

I took the three exams on Monday, and my Romanian and Math results were exact to the numbers I had dreamed of: 6.30 for the Romanian exam, and 6.10 for Math.

I had failed my Biology exam.

I had passed two classes in the summer, and would have to pass my Biology class in the fall. 

I cried with joy; the Lord had given me a clear answer. I was admitted to the Baptist Theological Institute in Bucharest.

My classes at the Baptist Institute were quite hard for me. My father wasn’t a pastor, let alone alive. All my schoolmates had these backgrounds; someone at their back to help them. I only had the Lord. I took up a job at a poor car service. I worked in the mud, rain, and cold, but I was doing it with joy, as the Lord had commanded.

In my third year in seminary, I started struggling with burn out. I wanted to quit school. I wanted to stop being so poor. I wanted a wife, opportunities, and a wardrobe with clean clothes that would all be mine. I took on a full-time job as a driver, and just like my time in high school before my conversion, I started skipping classes.

My pastor, Viorel Șerban, grew upset with me because of the decisions I made. After working for several months, issues cropped up in my work, and I lost my job. God was closing doors, but still, I refused to finish what I had started.

I was so stubborn.

In 2013, I went to work in Austria so as to save up some money, get married, and then come back to serve the Lord.

Things didn’t go so well.

I worked odd days in one place or another; my employers would like me in the beginning, but would fire me after a few days. I became depressed.

After a series of failures that followed, one after the other, I grew angry at God.

One day I was working in an orchard. I was alone, and cried out to God. I knelt down, and started weeping with the deepest bitterness of my heart.

“Why are you angry with me? What have I done wrong? Leave me alone! Don’t press me like this anymore!”

Just as David writes in Psalm 32:3-5:

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

These were the words of my heart. I cried before the Lord, seeking forgiveness. The Holy Spirit convicted me that I had gone astray from Christ, and that I had rejected His plan for me when I left school.

I still didn’t want to accept His will.

The Lord would go on to speak to me, and I understood that I had to finish my theological studies.

In 2015, I wanted to return to college, but the President of the school didn’t want to accept me back. The Vice President intervened, and told me that he was going to talk to the President.

They would accept me back, but only on several conditions:

I would live on-campus.

I would be obedient, and live as an example to other students.

Finally, I would go wherever they would send me to do my theological practice.

I promised that I would.

In 2015, they sent me to a church in Calarasi to fill a need for a pastor in a Christmas service. This was a mere 120 kilometers from Bucharest, but I had never been there before. When I arrived on Christmas Day, the church service appeared to be a funeral service. There was no joy, and many women of the church were dressed in black. There were no young people, and those that were there could be classified as silver haired saints if you get my meaning.

I became depressed again, wondering how this could be possible. Things had been going so well in Bucharest itself, but this ministry, so close to Bucharest, was ignored! On the following Sunday, I returned to Calarasi to spend more time with the believers.

After that, one of the members of the church invited me to visit the church twice a month, and to preach there so as to become more accustomed to the area and people. My teachers consented, and I started going to Calarasi even more than initially thought.

I fell in love with the church in Calarasi, and the Lord started putting a conviction in my heart that I should move there for service after graduation.

In my heart, I knew that this was what the Lord wanted for me, but I myself wanted to stay in Bucharest. For a long period of time, I was caught in limbo; not knowing what to do. I received an invitation from a big church in Bucharest to pastor there, and so, I decided to pray.

During this time, the Lord had answered a long withstanding prayer of mine, and I was engaged to my fiancé, Emma. I asked her to pray and fast with me, as this would affect her life as well. One Sunday morning, as I was getting ready to go to Calarasi, the Lord put something on my heart.

I needed to tell people on an active basis that, after graduation, I would be moving to Calarasi. Since then, I’ve been living the most beautiful part of my life. 

I have experienced a constant state of peace since that day.

Of course I have faced trials and hardships, but my peace is one that surpasses even these.

On July 10th, 2016 I graduated from college, and a month later, I married my wife.

Soon after, we moved to Calarasi, and I have been pastoring there ever since.

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