Studying theology in secret – Part II
Editor’s note: The following story is the second in a three-part series about the challenges of training pastors under the Iron Curtain in Romania.
Because our training program called Biblical Education by Extension (B.E.E) was organized and taught by foreign teachers and the Romanian communist regime was xenophobic, we had to keep the program secret.
Our "assistant principal" Doru Popa (future pastor and leader) was responsible to go to the train station, at a pre-scheduled date and hour. There, he had to identify the teacher who was supposed to wait around the ticket selling area. We never knew where the teachers came from. The agreement was that they were supposed to carry a typical Romanian bag (a “rafia”) and a postcard in their hands. It sounds simple now, but it was risky since everything seemed suspicious then.
To confuse the secret police, the teachers would buy their train ticket for a more distant city than their real destination; if the cashier reported them as suspicious and the police wanted to wait at the destination on the ticket, the teachers were already off the train.
To keep our network secret, we created a system with several levels. After the first year, a student would become a "teacher" for the second generation of students; then, the second generation would teach the third one, and so on. While only the first generation met the foreign teachers, the other generations also received the books, and this increased the risks.
The secret was getting harder and harder to keep with each new generation of students. Therefore, we had to select trustworthy students, as the Bible teaches us in 2 Tim 2:2. Even with all these precautions, we still had moments where our organization was almost found out.
One time during summer vacation we were holding conferences, the Militia came to the mother of the pastor Sorin A wanting to find out what meeting was held at her home. The poor lady had no clue what happened the day before at her house. I didn't tell my parents either about B.E.E.
The secret police did not intervene against us until November 17th, 1987, when the Militia interrupted our meeting. To downplay the significance of this incident, the Secret Police did not show up, but sent the regular Militia to investigate. In addition, the Militia did not indicate in their report the presence of foreign teachers. “Why didn't the Secret Police (“Securitate” in Romanian) intervene in full force to stop the seminary?”- I asked myself. I didn't know how much they knew about us.
At that point, our study system (B.E.E) was widespread in the country and the incident clarified that they were watching us, and that we had to be more careful. It was also possible that we had a mole amongst us, and we were betrayed. It was only the good hand of the Lord that stopped them for the moment.
During those days, there was one of the extremely rare political riots against the Romanian regime. The Romanian dictator Ceausescu was afraid to increase the tensions in the county at that moment. Therefore, the order was to kick all the foreigners out of the country (our teachers included) and to simply warn us not to engage in this kind of “illegal” activities anymore. We were lucky this time, although we knew that they would come back after us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doru Radu is one of the elders at Golgotha Romanian Baptist Church in Warren, Michigan. Radu immigrated from the communist Romania and likes to write stories about the good hand of our Lord who protected us during the 45 years of communist persecution.