Romanian preacher pours his heart into Missouri
By Allen Palmeri
July 26, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – One of the more visible Romanian faces in the pulpits of Missouri Baptist churches during the first two years of the Missouri-Romania partnership has been 37-year-old Elijah Soritau, the American-trained professor of pastoral theology at Emanuel University of Oradea, Romania.
“There’s no question he’s got a Romanian accent, but you never have any problem understanding him,” said David Tolliver, Cooperative Program specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). “When he preaches, he is so eloquent. He’s one of the better preachers I’ve ever been around.”
Tolliver first met Soritau in May of 2003, when the partnership was being born. He and Roy Spannagel, MBC associate executive director, were in Arad, Romania, when Tolliver felt a tap on his leg. It was Soritau, and he asked Tolliver if Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., was going to become president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Tolliver replied that he did not know. Soritau, who earned his master’s of divinity degree from Southeastern with an emphasis on preaching, said he happened to know that Patterson was going to take the job. Tolliver was impressed.
“I just found him to be somebody who’s just totally connected to what’s going on in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and what’s going on in Romania,” Tolliver said.
Soritau, who serves as the personal assistant to Emanuel University President Paul Negrut, has preached a total of six times in Missouri during the time of the partnership. Nov. 13-16, he will preach again at Kahoka Baptist Church.
“I’ve found your people to be very attentive,” said Soritau, who sat down for an interview with The Pathway during the annual meeting of the SBC in Nashville, Tenn., June 21-22.
His first opportunity to preach in Missouri was at Tolliver’s former church, Pisgah Baptist, Excelsior Springs, in September, 2003. Soritau has since preached on two other occasions at the church. He also has preached at Highview Baptist Church, Chillicothe; Springhill Baptist Church, Springfield; and Jamesport Baptist Church.
“My parents prayed that God would give them a son, and that son would become a pastor, a preacher,” Soritau said. “So my main focus is preaching.”
Whenever he prepares a message for a Missouri Baptist congregation like the one in Kahoka, he considers how little his listeners really do know about true persecution. Soritau served in the Romanian military under a Communist dictator before the dictator was killed in 1989.
“I will probably take some major doctrines and discuss them,” he said. “Probably some of the messages will be challenging the American believers to stand fast. You are viewing a different kind of persecution. You are not persecuted by the Communists, but you are persecuted by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and Hollywood. It’s a peer pressure that’s really very hard to cope with. Hollywood is trying to give a direction to the country, and even to churches. So what I’m probably going to talk about is how to live in the world but not as the world.”
Soritau is a firm believer in the work of the SBC.
“This huge machine which is the Southern Baptist Convention creates a platform to have a voice,” he said. “What’s really happening is, Americans overseas go in and help a country, and the people welcome the American help, but then they bite back. The exact same thing happens to the Southern Baptist Convention. Whenever a moral crisis or an issue comes up, the Southern Baptists as a machine go in, fight against it, and then you have all of these small denominations and independent churches that bite back at Southern Baptists. I think that Southern Baptists are the majority voice.”
He has been living in Fort Worth, Texas, with his American wife while their daughter undergoes treatment for cancer. While his family is under duress due to the severity of the medical treatments, one of the benefits of this season is that Soritau can watch a total of eight televised sermons on Sunday from some of the finer Bible teachers in America.
“I take notes every sermon,” he said. “I just love preaching.”