Romanian pastor sends heart cry to the West


Eastern Europe

L. Vogelaar, RD

Photo AFP, Genya Savilov

"We forgot in the last decades to be prepared; we forgot to be ready for the war, for the disasters. We became too lazy; we became too comfortable. Now we got a slap on our face, on our heart. This will guide us back to the Lord. Eastern Europe and our society have to return to God and should repent. The hard way."

It is one of the messages that reached Western charity organisations during the past few days. The author is the Hongarian Reformed pastor in Romania, István Visky; the quote is from a newsletter from the Canadian branch of the organisation Kom Over en Help (Come over and help). Rev. Visky describes the feelings that overwhelm him: hopelessness, fear, hatred. "It shouldn't, but this is the reality of life. In Eastern Europe, history is repeating, again and again, like it is a never-ending treadwheel spun over and over by the wind. I never felt so deep the desperate of King Solomon; I never felt this burning worry and weakness, this absolute hopelessness in the future of Eastern Europe."

Kristof, the eldest son of the pastor, is 19 years old. Therefore, he is signed up for the armed forces. "If the wear comes to Romania, do I have to kill somebody?" he asked. "I couldn't answer, I was not able to say a word, my throat was pressed like as by an iron fist. My son is a tender Christian young man with a strong love for Christ. What can I say to him?" his father writes. "That night, I was crying. Not loud, just teardrops slowly sliding down on my face to my pillow. Hours-long. I did not cry for almost 30 years. Now the time for crying came back." And the second son is almost 18 years old already too.


How will things develop? "We live just 128 km from the Ukrainian border. Yesterday a town in west Ukrain was heavily bombed by Russian cruise missiles. Less than 200 km from my bedroom. The Russian army occupied a small but very important island in the Black sea, just near the shores of Romania. We know the war will be expanded (all the time it was, all the time it is expanded in Eastern Europe). Romania will be the next country at war with Russia because of the Black sea."

"Will I have to kill people?" the son asked. What should the father reply? "Yes, kill the man in front of you; otherwise, he will kill you; otherwise, I will have a dead son in a coffin. How can I say this to my son? Me, who preaches Christ and His love?"

The Russian invasion of 80 years ago is not forgotten. "They distorted everything; they raped our mothers, wives, and daughters. They are less than 200 km from my home. Do I, myself, have to kill somebody? Or to watch how my family is destroyed? Will I be able to preach again from the pulpit ever in my life? Or to run away? To leave everything behind? To leave my flock behind? I am not ready for this, I don't have the strength. I am not Dietrich Bonhoeffer... I am just a simple Christian pastor who serves his Lord in Eastern Europe."

Rev. Visky. Photo Facebook

Rev. Visky is a pastor in Oradea. The authorities requested churches and organisations to report how much space they have for refugees. "My congregation reported space for five families. What can we do? We can hardly pay our energy bills, Romania is in an economic collapse, and we will have refugees. A lot of refugees. We will care for them, and we will give our best to give them hope and love, to give them Christ. There are expected 5 million refugees in the coming month. Now there are crossing the Romania border over 10,000 refugees every day. We are prepared; we are ready."

Visky calls people to persist "to pray strong for us, as Satan now sifts us in Eastern Europe. May our Lord have mercy on us."

The presbyterian church of Krakow in Poland is also working hard on accommodating refugees, evangelist Sashko Nezamutdinov writes. "Our church (Christ the Saviour Presbyterian Church Krakow) along with many others will be offering support to as many arrivals as possible over the coming days and weeks. We are expecting some women and children in the next few hours from our partner churches in Ukraine, and we are preparing to meet the needs of as many as possible after that. The situation for the refugees is very difficult after queueing for days at the border and having to leave their husbands and fathers behind (men aged 18-60 are not allowed to leave the country). We know that there will be a real need for accommodation (including renting flats) and support with arranging transport to other parts of Europe where they may already have family or friends. Our church members are contributing financially. To meet the full scale of this need, however, we would truly appreciate the financial support from our friends across the globe."

Peter Szabo of Budapest in Hungary reported: "This morning, we gathered together with the fellow pastors and elders to listen to the reports from our pastors and elders in Ukraine. The news in the media, quite understandably, focus on the fights in Kyiv and eastern Ukraine. But the situation in the western part of the country is rather severe, much more than reported in the news. Since most of the resources are redirected to support the regions in the war zones, there is a shortage of food and fuel in the most western part of Ukraine (Zakarpatska Oblast). The food prices have already tripled or quadrupled. Our elder in Ukraine told us that the stores have supplies for about two weeks. What happens after that, nobody knows."

No panic in Kiev

"We stand firm!" Rev. Alexander Mazepa writes. He is a minister in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and usually keeps busy with prison work. "We Ukrainians could not imagine that Russians would come to fight Ukrainians. At present the stores are empty. We are not allowed to leave the apartment or bomb shelter. We are not allowed to use bridges, and we can't get from one part of the city to another. All bridges around Kyiv are blown up to prevent Russian troops from coming to the city.

Photo AFP, Oli Scarff

But there is no panic. There is order. We all are ready to defend our country. We thank you very much for your prayers."

Explosions in Zhitomir

In the Northern city of Zhitomir, unrest broke out as well, Rev. A. Margulis reports. He is the Jewish-Christian pastor who has been working for years with the Board for Israel of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations (Gereformeerde Gemeenten). Wednesday Morning, he e-mailed: "This night, as a result of the enemy shelling of residential buildings in Zhytomyr, ten houses were caught on fire... Three houses were completely destroyed. One of the destroyed houses was Oksana's mother's house from our soup kitchen. Thank the Lord, she wasn't home at that moment.

The rescue service is still working, but it is already known that two people died, and 16 got injured. Six adults and six children were rescued from the basement.

Also, all the windows and doors of the nearby hospital were blown out. The premises of the perinatal centre were damaged, but all children and pregnant women are safe.

We are shocked by recent events. But thank God for letting us survive this night."

Scary times

The Belarusian minister Anatoly says he is grief-stricken by the separation between Christians from different countries because of the war. "The challenge to our unity is huge, and there are no simple solutions. Belarus has not recovered from the events of the last two years, and now our nation is being dragged into a war with its neighbour. This is the scariest time we have had since WWII."

Disruption of schools

The international organisation of Christian Schools ACSI organises a conference for school leaders. The conference starts Wednesday evening and takes place in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. However, not every school can join. The staff and students from at least three schools are on the run because of the war. Other schools are busy with creating emergency shelters for refugees. Even in the European office of the ACSI in Budapest, Ukrainian women and children are accommodated. The organisation calls for prayer: "It pleases the Lord when we pray for peace that leads people to know the truth and receive salvation."

This article was translated by CNE.news and published in Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on March 1, 2022.



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