Eyewitnesses to God’s providential hand
By Allen Palmeri
November 4, 2003
|ORADEA, Romania – At center Joseph Simon, former president, Hungarian Baptist Convention in Romania, and Roy Spannagel (right), MBC associate executive director, join Romanian and Hungarian Baptists in the laying on of hands during an ordination service. The service, held at a Hungarian Baptist church near Oradea, Romania, began at 9 a.m. and lasted well past 1 p.m. This was held in connection with the MBC’s ongoing partnership with Romania where 30 Missouri Baptists traveled to the European nation Sept. 22-30. Pathway photo.|
Missouri pastors see Romanian country pastors working hard to plant Baptist churches
JEFFERSON CITY – The country folk of Romania have a strong work ethic that enables them to provide for their families by living off the land as well as plant churches, according to a Missouri Baptist pastor who visited several Romanian villages on a mission trip Sept. 22-30.
Mike Quinn, pastor, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church , Hartsburg, traveled to obscure Romanian villages named Halmagiu, Aciuta, Virfurile, Basarabasa and Banesti. The people are poor in material goods but rich in faith, Quinn said.
“Everything I saw over there kind of looks like what we’d see in our old movies, from the 1920s or 1930s," Quinn said.
“Their service to the Lord is very sincere. They’re dedicated. They work very, very hard. We were with three pastors. They pastor 12 churches and they’re starting three more."
Quinn served alongside pastors who typically preach at 8 a.m., 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on any given Sunday.
“They’ll get in their car and they’ll drive as fast as they can," he said. “To ride with them is scary."
Quinn’s father grew up in Hartsburg, a village of a couple hundred people midway between Columbia and Jefferson City . Ashland , with a population around 1,000, is the nearest “big" city. The places that Mike and his wife, Becky, visited in Romania were similar to Hartsburg and Ashland.
“The people have to work hard just to make a living," Quinn said. “Most of them have their own milk cow. They make their own butter. They have their pigs. They have their chickens. They go out in the morning and gather eggs and have that for breakfast. It’s kind of like when my parents grew up, what my dad did on the farm.
“They cured all of their own meat. They butchered all of their own hogs."
The Quinns ate cabbage rolls with ground-up meat inside, pork, a type of smoked meat and a lot of potatoes. One night they had fish, a carp-like specimen that was purchased at the local market.
“They’re very poor," Quinn said. “They have a hard time buying anything, but I never saw anybody hungry. I’m sure they probably are, but I never saw that. Most of them grow their own food."
Cattle and sheep graze the open range. Sometimes a shepherd works the flock. Otherwise two dogs do.
“They (the dogs) just kind of keep an eye on (the sheep), keep ‘em off the highway," Quinn said. “There are no fences over there. I asked one of the pastors if they ever worry about somebody stealing a cow, and he said, ‘No, they don’t do that here.’"
Waiting at times until 8 p.m. so churchgoers could finish their chores, Quinn preached a total of seven times. One day, while helping to preach a funeral, of all things, he learned how Romanians fill up on worship.
“The funeral lasted two hours and they had a lot of special music," he said. “The brass band played four or five specials at the house. Then when we went to the cemetery, they probably played three or four more songs at the gravesite.
“One of the churches had about 12 mandolins and one guitar player. They played those and they worshipped. Every worship service probably lasted at least two hours. They don’t get in any hurry."
Communist rule from 1948-1989 has set back the Romanian economy to the point where it reminded Quinn of his concept of rural America during World War II. Instead of baling hay, as American farmers do, the Romanians still stack their hay around a pole in the center. In such a simple culture, church becomes all the more important.
“Church is your social activity," Quinn said. “They don’t go to a lot of movies over there because they can’t afford it. In church, they come together and talk about their week, just to get together with other people. Church is where they come together and find out all the news."
Quinn and Bobby Lewis, a deacon at New Salem Baptist Church, Ashland, who also toured Romania with the Missouri Baptist delegation in September, are working out the details of a partnership with the three Romanian Baptist pastors who are serving 12 churches and planting three more. Quinn said Missouri Baptists can learn a lot from these men.
“If we can help them with buying materials and labor, they can put up a building pretty quick," he said. “I think we can learn how to do that from them.
“We’re going to commit to helping them with certain projects. They’ve started these three church buildings that are not completed, so I thought we could help them complete those. I’d also like to go back next summer and do some Vacation Bible School , have an evangelistic meeting at night and maybe get a work crew to go help on the buildings."
Those interested in participating in the Missouri Baptist Convention/Romanian Baptist Partnership can call Linda Stockton, Partnership Missions Assistant, at (573) 635-7931, ext. 621.