By Elvis Dumitru
I am a pastor because my grandfather, a lifelong Orthodox believer, endorsed the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
As my grandfather was growing old, he spoke to my father in their home in Ratesti, a small village in Romania. “If you ever want to belong to the only true Christian church, you have to go to the Seventh-day Adventist Church”, said my grandfather, Gherase Dumitru.
Those words planted a seed that led my father, Aurelian, to seek out the Adventist Church and be baptized in Communist-era Romania. As a result, I grew up in an Adventist home, and my brother and I are both Adventist pastors.
But how did my grandfather know about Adventists?
The story goes back to the early 1960s in Ratesti, located about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Romania’s capital, Bucharest. Only eight or so Adventists lived in the village, and the authorities ordered their arrest amid a crackdown on religion. A driver was called to transport the Adventists to jail by horse and cart.
As the cart shook and swayed on a bumpy dirt road, the prisoners began to sing hymns in the back. The driver listened, surprised, at the beautiful words about Jesus and His love. He thought, “How can these Adventists sing with such joy when they are going to jail?”
About a week later, the driver was called to take the village’s Orthodox priest to his church. The cart struck a pothole en route to the church, and the priest angrily unleashed a torrent of blasphemies.
The driver listened in shock. He thought, “Why is the priest cursing his God for a pothole as he goes to church? And why did those Adventists sing such beautiful songs of praise to Jesus as they went to jail?”
The two incidents left a deep impression on the driver, and he determined to learn more about the Adventists. After a while, he was baptized into the Adventist Church. The driver was a good friend of my grandfather.
Ratesti remains a small village today but has a strong Adventist presence, with about 40 church members.
We often think that people are not interested in what we are doing, but people are always watching. A cart of Adventist prisoners didn’t know that a driver was listening in awe to their songs of praise – and that their faithfulness would shape two generations of Adventists in my family.
Elvis Dumitru, 26, is the associate pastor of the Cuza Voda Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bucharest.