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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The Domino Effect

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Are Plans for “The Common Good” Always Good?
Demi Pintea

It was a different world when I was born in west Romania in the town of Simleu-Silvaniei, today referred to as a small administrative center of three villages. As a young child, I was happy and thankful not to have been born in a foreign country. Being the eldest son, until the age of 9, I really enjoyed working hard in the garden and taking care of the cows, sheep, and horses.

Then things became very difficult when the Communists came and took away most of the animals. They went to everyone’s home, forcefully seized their agricultural implements and confiscated their land. People were brainwashed to give their land to them for a very small sum of money for their labor on what had been their own land. (The people received nothing for the land.)

By the time I was 10, all that was left was our garden space of about 2-3 acres. We still had this only because my father did not give the land to the collective; he gave it to another branch of the government in exchange for a job. Our farm outside of the city had been taken away. They let us keep the one-acre vineyard.

If you did not sign the paper to give up the land, they would torture you to death, literally. It was supposedly everybody’s land now, but it actually had been usurped for the collective (an exclusive branch of the Communist government). This might have seemed fine for the collective, but not for the working people.

If you had a farm, you could grow your food, but now since it all belonged to the collective, you would only get a sack of wheat, corn, and potatoes, for example—instead of the whole field that you had once owned and still worked.

What about the future?

Knowing there was always a future to plan for, my parents were told by the teachers that I had the brain of a doctor or an engineer and that they should urge me to pursue one of those two goals. Success would require faith; my mother was of the Pentecostal religion (but was not one to speak in tongues) and my father was Orthodox.

When I was 10 years old, a neighbor came and told my mother about the Sabbath from the Bible. But she resisted against it.

The idea then came to her to ask her father about all the Bible verses that might say that Sunday was the holy, church day. He was an elder in the Pentecostal church and she hoped that by Monday she would be able to tell the neighbor about any biblical change in God’s holy Sabbath.

But my grandfather explained to my mother, “Honey, there’s no such verse in the Bible.” That was a big blow to my mother’s heart. She was shocked and surprised.

“Why, then, do we go to church on Sunday?” she asked.

His answer was, “Because there’s no church here that keeps Saturday. If there were, I would go there.”

When the neighbor came back, Mom had no proof for Sunday.

Beginning in June, my mother went to no church for about 6 months. She felt upset at the Pentecostals and the Orthodox for not knowing this—and upset at the Adventists for not telling everybody.

Then, on December 24, a voice came to her and said, “You need to go to church now.”

“Who is there?” she asked.

No answer.

A few minutes later the same thing happened again. But she couldn’t see anyone. While she was preparing food for Christmas, the voice came again a third time and said, “You need to go to church. Enough of your stubbornness.” She asked, “Which church?” . . . No answer.

Time to find the truth of the matter

At this time, my mother was already acquainted with Alex Morlocan, a Seventh Day Adventist Reformer. He had not always been a churchgoer. For a while he had been a judge for the court in another city—but as a judge, he had been under a lot of stress and, as a result, had developed a severe stomach ulcer. The pain was so bad, he finally had to retire, so he went back home to our city. When he arrived home, he found that his sister had married someone from the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. They studied with him and he quickly accepted the message. His mother and sister became Reformers as well.

Knowing Alex Morlocan in the neighborhood, my mother sent me to go to his home to invite him for Christmas carols that night. I ran. When I arrived, the people there were having evening worship. The door was open, so I entered the house. They were all standing, singing.

Mother had taught me how to pray, but I wasn’t invited to do that, so I just gave them the message:

“My mother is inviting you to our home for Christmas carols.”

“Okay, we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

When I arrived back home, my mother told me quickly to switch the wine she had to grape juice, and we all sat around the table and had cakes, cookies, and juice.

“Now tell us why you invited us,” said Alex Morlocan.

“My neighbor came with the Bible and told me about the Sabbath. I want to hear what you have to say.”

So, Mom soon became a Sabbathkeeper who no longer consumed meat nor alcohol, but still cooked for my father whatever he wanted. I became a Sabbathkeeper also.

A turning point

One night when I was 17 years old, our family was holding a big Christmas party. I usually helped out with the hospitality at such gatherings and, as expected, there was a lot of wine, flesh food, and laughter in the house.

But something spoke to my heart on this occasion. Quietly slipping away from the crowd, I invited my brother to join me in the barn. There we knelt down before the Lord and together made a pledge not to drink wine or eat meat anymore, and not to go to the movies. (Before the movies, we used to drink rum and liquor and then after the movies would usually have some beer.)

Our vegetarian food was hidden from my father until the age of 20 when I eventually moved out.

During this period, I went to church with my mother. Our Adventist neighbors had relatives in the Reform and they heard that I was going to the Reform church. My wife’s uncle was in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, where they invited me to their church to learn how to play musical instruments for free.

But in that church, I noticed they were celebrating holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and the other national holidays which I didn’t like doing. In my inner heart, I was changing. Parties now began to disgust me.

At the age of 20, as it was required by law, I went into the army. At 21, I came home and began working—at least until the Securitate (the secret police agency of the Socialist Republic of Romania) came to visit me to say that if I did not start working on Sabbath, I would be fired from my job.

It was a crisis, so I had to find a new job far away. Yet with God’s help, within a short time I was making more money than the president of the company. But during this period, pressure was also put on me several times to become a member of the Communist party by attending their meetings—which I had to refuse every time, explaining that those who were Communist party members were frequently late to work in the morning, late from lunch break and returned with alcohol on their breath, and they would leave a mess in the locker room. Therefore, I asked, “Are these the habits you want me to learn at those meetings?” So, they would give me peace again for a while.

Then, at the age of 22, I was baptized—and at 23, I married my wife, Margaret, the daughter of Alex Morlocan, the one who had come to share with me the history of the Sabbath.

My wife and I have had many wonderful experiences together—and some challenging ones. Worshiping with the believers on the Sabbath day and helping to print and deliver the Sabbath Bible Lessonsș to souls who cherished the truth was not easy in Romania in the 1970’s under the oppressive Ceaușescu regime. Besides the confiscation of Bibles and hymn books, and the offerings, it put one’s liberty and even life at risk. On numerous occasions we found ourselves in grave danger because of our faith.

Search and seizure

One time we were caught singing songs for Sabbath school in the living room of a fellow believer. This was on the second floor of a 3-story building, and someone had left the main doors of the hallway unlocked and, the secret police with guns in their hands barged into the apartment where we were worshiping and demanded of us, “Hands up! Don’t move!” They then collected the ID’s from everybody, then the Bibles, hymn books, and Sabbath school lessons, and then wrote down our names and took us all to the police station. There they wrote up a report of whom they had found and everything that was there and took each one of us to our homes, one by one, for a search. There they would confiscate all of our religious books at home and fine 1,000 lei (Romanian currency) to every individual.

Meanwhile, on the 3rd floor of that apartment building, there was a couple with two young children sick at home, so that family had not come to the meeting. Although they had not been there, the police went to search their apartment anyway. The officers burst into their home and asked why they weren’t in the church meeting. The reason had been because their children were sick that day, so they weren’t fined. But their religious books were confiscated.

The police then asked this family, “Why aren’t you working today?”

“Because we own our own business. We work 6 days and keep the Sabbath day holy.”

“What kind of business?”

“We are photographers.”

“Do you have a business license?”

“Yes, we do.”

“Can I see it?”

“Sure, here it is,” handing the license to the officer.

The officer kept it and said, “You’ll not see this anymore.”

“Why? What have we done wrong? You can’t just take our license away!”

The police said nothing; they just walked out and left the family without their business license.

Now, as my wife and I were waiting at the police station to be taken home for our search, the sister who had lost the business license came to the police station with a crying baby in her arms, appealing to the officers:

“Please give us our license back because we have to go to the field tomorrow to deliver the photographs we made last week so that we can have money to feed our children.”

While the officers were distracted, I quietly managed to whisper to her, “Helen, come here.”

The officer who was busy making other reports didn’t hear me, so I was able to quietly give Helen the key to our apartment.

“Get two suitcases from the garage and remove all the religious books from the bookshelves and take them away,” I whispered.

So she did. She forgot about her license for now, her income, and her hungry children, taking the key. She hurried off to hide away the books in the suitcases but couldn’t carry the suitcases with the baby in her arms.

The landlord saw what was happening. So, our sister asked if she could leave the suitcases somewhere since she couldn’t carry them with the baby in her arms.

The landlord cried, “No! I don’t know who you are and what you’re doing and I don’t want to be part of it, so I’m going to call the police on you!”

So, Helen was obliged to carry the suitcases and the baby out to the hills, where she quietly waited, sitting on the suitcases under the shade of a tree.

When we arrived back at our apartment with the secret police, the landlord began to excitedly tell us the story about the suitcases, but I quietly signaled to her to be silent, so she suddenly stopped talking. The secret police did their search and were able to find an old Bible lesson from 1925—so they still fined both me and my wife 1000 lei each.

The police officers had also noticed that the landlord had abruptly stopped telling her story about the suitcases for no apparent reason, so they decided to find out why. The next day, on Sunday morning, as I was able to see out the window from my workplace, the officers stealthily came on foot to the landlord’s house and quietly tapped on her window to have a talk with her. Later, that evening, the landlord came and gave us 2 weeks to move out of our apartment.

So, we moved out, but the church meeting still continued as before on the next Sabbath. Even without Bibles, hymn books, or lesson books, we all worshipped the Lord together from memory. But by God’s grace, since my books in the two suitcases had been spared, we were soon able to use those. If we had ever been caught with those beautiful, brand new books, we would have been tortured.

Any such system of controlling people and oppressing their religious faith is definitely not of God. We were visited by secret police officers many times afterwards until, by the Lord’s providence, we moved away, eventually emigrating to the United States.

Conclusion

Despite all these trials, the word of the Lord mightily prevailed in our behalf during those years and I can testify of our God that He indeed sustains and protects His people that trust in Him—whatever the circumstances—and I can declare wholeheartedly with the psalmist: “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:7–9). Amen!