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Norman Hiley’s Romanian Experience

9 February 2011

This began when I first moved to Leeds when I retired and began attending the Moortown Baptist Church in 1993. This coincided with a visit by a Romanian Baptist Pastor who I was asked to give hospitality to. This meeting with Pastor Gigi Cosman of the Mananstur Baptist Church in the city of Cluj began a friendship which has developed and deepened over that last 20 years.

In those years I have made many visits to Romania to share with our linked churches there something of our love for Christ. I have learned more from these Romanian churches than they have learned from me and to see the crowd coming out of the church is like the crowd leaving Elland Road football stadium..

The church began just after WW1 and was under oppression from the Communist rulers after WW2 – yet as the high rise apartment blocks were built around the church so there was a need to have a larger church for all who wanted to worship despite the opposition. They were not allowed any more building land so they pulled the small church down and built a new one which is a beautiful building with 2 balconies to seat up to 1000 people.

This was built by the church members, and is a tribute to their love and dedication to the Christian faith. It has been my privilege to preach there on many occasions to a congregation of up to 1000 each Sunday.

Travel to Romania at the beginning was a real adventure.

We went 1500 miles overland stopping at 2 B &B’s on the way. This always was a hazard as we were carrying practical aid and money for the churches and the delays at the Romanian border always took several hours before we were allowed into the country. It was as bad coming out as we were usually carrying Romanian craft goods to sell here at home to raise more funds to meet their needs.

Later it was easier by air to Amsterdam and Budapest in Hungary, and after a one night stay take the train next day for a 7 hour journey into Romania. This entailed a full search of the train by soldiers at the border before we were allowed to go further

Going today is much easier as we can fly directly from Luton to the city of Cluj in 2-3 hours.

I first went to Romania when as leader of a House Group we were asked to support a student at the Christian High School. I went to meet the family which I found consisted of Mum and Dad (who spoke no English) and 7 children aged from 30 down to 12 years all of whom spoke good English.

Our Student was called Emilia (EMI) and I well remember my first meal in her home. Only 4 people sat at a small table, Mum and Dad, plus me and my son Paul. Everyone else stood around and watched us eat the meal provided which was my all time favourite – boiled Cabbage. I hate cabbage and wondered if I could manage to eat it all when I realised that this was all the food they had and I was eating their meal.

Last October I visited Emi who is now 32 years old – and is married with 3 lovely daughters.

My links with Pastor Cosman have strengthened over the years, and his children regard me as ‘Bunicul Norman’ (Grand-dad Norman). We have much in common in our faith and also in our experience is life as we have both lost a son falling to their deaths in the mountains.

The friendships formed in this link to Romania are precious to me and no longer do I regard my Romanian believers as being foreign: they are part of my extended Christian family and I thank God for pointing me to Romania to be blessed in such a way.

Next month at the end of March, 15 Romanian believers will be coming to Moortown to celebrate the 20 years we have been linked with them, and I look forward to having Pastor Gigi staying with me again  and this time bringing his wife, Adriana, who speaks no English -so I will get an opportunity to practise my Romanian-speaking on her.

Don’t miss the opportunity of meeting these lovely friends in the faith, and be prepared to be blessed by them

Norman Hiley ( Treasurer of the MBC Romanian Support Group)

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