The small electric pump usually has an easier life serving the couple living in the house above the church room, but on Sunday, August 23, 2020, over 20 people had arrived on the freshly cut front lawn for a very special occasion.
Filling a baptism tank from the house’s well in the rural Romanian village of Micesti was a slow business. It took over a thousand liters of water to fill the old galvanized steel tank, and pumping too quickly could have drained the well dry at the end of the summer.
It was the baptism of Dada, a young woman who took a step on the road to become the newest member of ‘Way of Faith’ UMC in Romania. The day was extra-special as it was the first time that so many members of the small church community were able to meet and worship together since the Covid-19 restrictions had begun in March. So, while the small church room inside the house could have accommodated them at a squeeze; a tent was set up as sun shelter outside so that the worship could take place in the open air. The shade was certainly welcome as it was a warm day; rising to 25 degrees before all the guests had arrived and the service finally got started!
The story of Dada, just 16 years old, can give us a glimpse into what this small Methodist community in Transylvania has come to stand for. She and her sister were abandoned by their mother at a very early age. Poverty in rural Romania can be harsh, and as Romania joined the EU, their mother, like so many other young adults, left for Western Europe in search of work and a better future. Their father struggled to cope with this situation, poverty and drinking left him unable to care for the two young girls and they looked set on a path to the orphanage until help came in the form of a local Christian couple in the village. Lucian and Dana stepped in to provide the loving and secure home that was needed, a way out of the poor village housing and access to a school in the city. For the last ten years, Dada and her sister have grown into adulthood, supported by this adoptive family and the church to which they belong.
The service was led by Pastor Rares Calugar, the first Romanian United Methodist pastor and now superintendent of the UMC in Romania. His own story is a miracle in itself, beginning with preaching from the back of a hay-cart to workers in the fields to shepherding this rural church. Other members of the UMC in Romania are bringing hope through a number of non-profit NGOs working in Cluj-Napoca and beyond: «ALFA GRUP» and «RAZA» provide support and fellowship for orphans leaving care, «Transylvania Seeds» helps to integrate Roma orphans into the wider community through football coaching, «Asociatia Oameni Buni» coordinates self help and support for cancer survivors – and in Sibiu, the United Methodist Pastor Cristian Istrate and his wife Ligia have taken over the running of a village orphanage at risk of closure.
Through these and other fields of outreach, this small church is doing all it can to fulfil God’s mission: offering Christ’s unconditional love and hope, welcoming believers from all religious backgrounds and none. Their pastors are sought out to bless marriages for couples coming from mixed divergent ethnic or religious communities and even their main meeting room in Cluj-Napoca is shared with both Evangelical Orthodox and Messianic Jewish communities. In a small village in Romania, this baptism and the church to which the believers belong are a shining light in dark times.
Source: Duncan and Ros Smith / Photo: Duncan Smith