Moortown Baptist Church, 204 King Lane, Leeds LS17 6AA. Map Tel: (0113) 2693750 A member of the YBA. A registered charity No 1128960. Terms of use

“The Life and Times Of Mrs G” by Paul Hicks

21 January 2011

If I am ever arrested and charged with being a “charismatic”, I’m not sure that there will be sufficient evidence to convict me, but the one awkward episode that might just sway the jury will be the “gift of faith” that led to the birth of “Mrs G”.

I first visited Romania in 1972 as an extraordinarily hairy youth and a relatively new believer. Having not long read “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew, it never occurred to me that, within a couple of years, I might be doing exactly the same thing myself. But I had signed up for Jesus’ offer of “life to the full” (John 10:10) and He seemed most anxious to keep that promise to me!

“It goes beyond reason and sense but I love this frustrating, backward but proud little country with an irrational intensity that verges on insanity!”

So I saw at first-hand what it meant to be a Christian believer under an atheistic regime. From that initial experience of the amazing depth of love and courage demonstrated by my new brothers and sisters in Romania, I felt the beginnings of what has become a life-long attachment of the heart. It goes beyond reason and sense but I love this frustrating, backward but proud little country with an irrational intensity that verges on insanity! Family Dan Returning to England was like stumbling back through the wardrobe from Narnia. Reality settled in and I conformed with it, to the extent of joining the West Yorkshire Police in 1977. As a result, it became practically impossible for me to travel to communist countries, although I continued to write regularly to those I had met during my short visit.

In 1990, everything changed. The door was ajar, if not entirely open, and I gladly charged through it. Jean and I accepted an invitation from our closest friends in Cluj-Napoca and flew out to Bucharest in March of that year. We saw the bullet holes in the wall of the main TV station then motored up to Cluj itself and saw the tattered banner on the rooftop that still read: “Down with communism! God is with us!1”.

We visited the church where, only four months previously, the congregation had been busily constructing a new building, concealing the fact that it had an extensive basement area with facilities for Sunday School and other meetings, all developed in flagrant contradiction of the planning permission that they had been given. The building was overlooked by large tower blocks where it was known that several “police spies” were living. Manastur 1 The believers acknowledged that discovery would have meant arrest and trial for some but were united in their belief that God had called them to do this so what else could they do?

Once again, I was overwhelmed with the sense that here were people who were prepared to take God at His word and to suffer the consequences if necessary. Here were people who prayed and believed that God would answer their prayers. These fellow believers had barely a tenth of what I enjoyed but brought God into their whole lives, looking to Him patiently for things that I simply took for granted. I became convinced that this ought to be shared with those at home.

So began my increasing conviction of faith that God wanted to establish a closer link between my brothers and sisters in Romania and those back home in Yorkshire. It grew to ridiculous proportions! Although I knew that it wouldn’t happen overnight, I became firmly convinced that our task was to set up some sort of twinning arrangement between our two churches. On the face of it, it looked rather one-sided. The Romanians had next to nothing in material terms whilst the British believers were inundated with wealth. But, in my heart of hearts, I thought that, spiritually speaking, the reverse might be the case.

So, aflame with faith and constrained by conviction, I returned to Leeds and asked for an opportunity to speak to the church. As it happened, we were helped enormously by the fact that media reports were just beginning to emerge from Romania of the scandalous condition of their orphanages. Manastur 3 Many people were being moved to respond and so our task was relatively easy. To my shame, though, I was privately surprised and rather downcast at some of the people at Moortown Baptist who began to respond to our call. As a whole, the congregation was in favour of the move but those who were particularly enthusiastic were not those with whom I felt that I had a natural affinity.

In particular, one member who was especially keen to establish the Moortown Romanian Support Group (MrsG) with us was someone with theological views that were diametrically opposed to mine and about whom I had often returned fuming from church meetings! How fitting that I, perhaps more than anyone else in the group that became “Mrs G”, should learn so much about God’s desire to build a community of believers; a family of brothers and sisters. Over the years, I saw a completely different side to this particular person and grew to love him dearly as a brother in Christ.

Indeed, that has been the real value of Mrs G for me. Not only have I developed a whole network of close friends in Cluj and the tiny village of Stejeris (about which I wish had more time and space to talk), but I have found some of my closest friendships through all of our time at MBC. Yes, we have provided a phenomenal amount of help to many people in Romania, both in the church and beyond its walls. Yes, we have helped orphanages, schools and a whole village in its need for clean water. Yes, many people from MBC have had the opportunity to enjoy (if that’s the right word) the whole Romanian Experience; praying desperately that the remaining drops of fuel in the tank will last until the next filling station appears, seeing the tears in an old lady’s eyes at receiving her very own copy of the Bible, welling up with one’s own tears at the sound of a proper Baptist choir! But through it all, we grew closer as friends.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell of book sales, Sixties and Seventies nights, painted eggs, queues at the border, nights in bus shelters, water pipes, broken clutch cables and secret policemen. Mrs G has been a big part of my life but I was smitten from the first. I had no choice. What impresses me far more is the enormous generosity and commitment that Mrs G has sparked in so many others, some of whom have never even travelled to Romania. Mrs G was conceived and born in faith. Her short life has been all about faith, inspiring it in others, young and old. My prayer is that she will continue to inspire such faith in yet more people as we look to the future.

Paul Hicks, Lochearnhead, Jan 2011.

1 Jos communismul! Cu noi este Dumnezeu!

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