I was born in Romania and grew up during the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the communist leader of Romania from 1967 until his overthrow in 1989.
My father was a pastor but had to work as a driver to support us all. The communist state often threatened him. He had to meet with officials after church each Sunday for questioning, and if he did not comply my family were under threat of being kidnapped.
Outside of the state-sanctioned church services, we would hold other gatherings in secret. They were never announced and the venue changed all the time. I have memories of playing music very loudly and putting our mattresses against the windows in our flat so nobody could see what we were doing.
It was a very difficult time to be a Christian.
My father worked very hard in immensely difficult circumstances to provide for us. We are a big family, I was the seventh of ten children. I often joke that I am the biblical perfect number! At first we lived in a small village but moved to the city of Galați in south-eastern Romania so we could have a better education. We all lived in a wonderful home, with a garden and a vineyard that we would all tend. We shared many happy times there until Ceaușescu demolished all the homes in our area and forced us to live in apartment blocks. Suddenly our life changed, and my father continued to work just as hard for us all to survive in a small apartment of just four rooms. My five sisters shared one bedroom and I had to sleep on the kitchen sofa.
We were penalised for moving into the city so our rations were reduced. I would often hear my mother on her knees praying for daily bread, and she really meant it. Although my father worked very hard as a driver we all had to live on very little.
In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, followed by the collapse of communism in Romania. Nicolae Ceaușescu was executed and the underground church was no longer persecuted. We experienced a great revival. I can remember baptism services three times a year of up to 70 people a time. We were free to travel and to share the gospel. But these blessings came with further problems that still impact us today.
Our church currently has 260 members, but we have lost a further 200 who have migrated for work in the United Kingdom and western Europe in recent years.
This problem is not unique to the church. Many families have left to find better paid employment and several children have been placed in our care. However, these difficulties have led to many opportunities. We have set up homework clubs and choirs and help every child Skype their parents who are working away. Many have come to faith as a result of us ministering to, and meeting the needs of, these broken families.
As a church we still suffer from serious opposition. The lies that Ceaușescu spread for many decades are still culturally embedded and it is very hard to get into the schools and teach the Bible. So we set up a company called Pro Veritas that I manage. Pro Veritas assists schools by running courses on drug abuse and human trafficking. The city in which we live, Galați, is strategically important for the human trafficking business as it is located in south-eastern Romania between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Through this we are able to voice our Christian values and we share the gospel.
We also face great opposition from the Eastern Orthodox Church. This is the state church who see all evangelicals as the antichrist because they think we are influenced by Americans and western Europeans.
I have known members of the Eastern Orthodox Church church to barricade evangelical churches in small villages and even act violently towards their members. I am sure it is quite an experience to have a fight with a priest. But we thank God that since the fall of communism, we now we have the support of the police. Despite these threats, by God’s grace we have planted ten churches in the villages around Galați and the Lord continues to bless us.
Please continue to pray for Romania as we do for Wales. I was first introduced to Wales shortly after communism fell. I was a teenager singing in our church choir and a bus arrived outside with much needed donations of clothes and food. The goods had all arrived from Cardiff and those on board said that God had told them to come to us. We are so grateful to our Welsh brothers and sisters in Christ and remain very close to many churches in your country.