Even in Freedom, Our Only Hope Is in God
July 3, 2008 - Petru is a pastor in Timisoara's First Baptist Church and has been preparing with others for this week's Franklin Graham Festival of Hope for the past three years.
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interview by Ann Marie Chilton
As he reflects on the historical events of Romania's last 20 years, Petru sees a parallel between Billy Graham's visit in 1985 and the Romanian Revolution that followed four years later and overthrew the communist government. He also sees the deep spiritual need that remains Eastern Europe today.
Petru tells his story:
"Billy Graham’s visit was of course a spiritual event, but it had political implications. We were there in the square, there were big speakers there, and we were expecting to hear him.
In the beginning we could hear some things that were happening in the cathedral, and in a few minutes the sound was cut off and we couldn’t hear anything, so we were very angry.
There was a potential of upheaval, but we were evangelical Christians, so we led the people in worshipping God. We sang Christian hymns and we prayed together. Everything was transformed.
Also, on a long term it had political implications. Until then, freedom was an impossible thought. But we understood that if Billy Graham could come to Romania … something could happen in the future, so we received a lot of hope. That expectation started to grow.
#PULLQUOTE2#The second event, the revolution [in 1989], was a political event that had spiritual implications. The revolution started in the Hungarian Reformed church. It was surrounded by the members of that church, to not allow the secret police to remove their pastor.
Our [church joined] with the people of the United Reformed Church. All the people united, singing. They stood in solidarity.
God worked. … There in the square all the people shouted with loud voice: 'Praise God! God is with us! Down Ceausescu! Down Communism!' It was a fantastic atmosphere. I have never experienced something like that.
… We were a group of young people involved in the Evangelical Student Movement, which was an underground movement. We had 200 students involved in discipleship. This was a secret. We asked ourselves and prayed to God, 'What should we do during the revolution? We are Christians, evangelicals. We don’t kill, but we can do something.'
So we understood that our place was to be there in the square to pray for the people and to help them get closer to God. We prepared sandwiches for the people in the square, and in the bags we introduced Bible verses.
The Only Hope is God
During the revolution, the Spirit of God was present there. People realized at that time that their only hope is in God. For this reason, when were confronted there with the danger, people started to shout, 'There is a God. God is with us!' realizing that only God can help us.
… Workers from factories and different institutions mobilized and came into the square from villages. Some people were killed on the steps of the cathedral. Young men shouting 'Down Ceausescu! Down Communism!' were killed there.
Even two young ladies from our church were killed: One was killed on the street leading to the square, and the second was wounded and taken to the hospital. But all those that were wounded were killed in the hospital by the secret police and then transported with a truck to Bucharest and burned in a crematorium. So [there was] no evidence.
#PULLQUOTE1#Even though it was dangerous, everybody had this assurance that only God can save us and deliver us. Unfortunately, most of the people forgot that. Their hope was when we have freedom, everything will be better; but they forgot that even in freedom our only hope has to be in God.
I think with the coming of brother Franklin Graham here in Timisoara, our people will have a second chance this time, not to only experience political or social freedom, but to experience true freedom that comes from inside when Jesus Christ comes and lives in your heart.
Recently, Romania was accepted into the European Union. Most of the people in Romania thought, 'Oh, if we get into the European Union, we’ll have a better life, everything will be better.' Some things are better. We can travel freely all over Europe, but on the other side, things got worse.
A Lost Hope
"People are very disappointed. Instead of having a better life now, the salaries are the same, the prices are higher, so people are extremely disappointed and most of them have lost hope.
We have millions of people abroad working in order to survive and send money to their families. It is a tragedy because many parents left their homes, left their children either with the grandparents or with relatives. In Romania I heard that there is a very high percentage of young teenagers committing suicide because they do not have their parents with them.
[Our church] was involved in the beginning of the Festival with prayer, mobilizing people, choir, counselors -- everything possible, wholeheartedly.
This is what I like about the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I like this emphasis, that a lot of work has to be done before the evangelistic meetings and after the meetings. We have to integrate the new believers into churches. If we don’t integrate them, God's kingdom will not be extended.
Romania needs hope and needs the Gospel desperately."