Tragedy into Triumph!
Gerald Ziemer, Romania
In Feb 2001, Our little Church had grown to about 10 adults, 40 teens, and many children. During Sunday morning prayer time at church, a lady named Luminita requested prayer for a family in town whose son had drowned the night before in the lake formed by a river that runs through Fundulea. I immediately recognized the name of Gigi Utica. Gigi was a young man who had come to our youth meetings a year earlier and had prayed with one of our young men (Felix) to receive Christ as his Savior.
The year prior he had come to the youth meeting after marrying (eloping) with a young lady (Simona) who had regularly attended. After they had eloped, we approached Simona to ask of her decision, and she said that she would bring her new "husband" to church and we had to save him. I told her that we could not save him, but knew who could and to bring him. They attended infrequently over the next few months, and I often saw them on visits I made to the market in Bucharest where they sold their vegetables.
When Gigi went missing, we decided to go encourage Simona to seek the Lord, and to comfort her. We met Gigi's family and asked them if there was anything we could do to help. His father, Marin, looked at me and said they had not found his body yet. I was able to hire a diver to come and look for Gigi's body for three days (very cold here in February in Romania), with no success. On Thursday, Gigi's father, a welder by trade, had made a large multipronged hook out of rebar, and began to drag the lake. He fastened onto Gigi's leg and pulled his body to shore.
After taking the body to the morgue, it was returned to the home, as is customary here in Romania. Most towns have no funeral homes and the body is kept in the home until the burial. With the funeral planned for Sunday, we decided to postpone our church service and attend the funeral first, since we had just become acquainted with the family that week. Upon arrival at the home, I asked to speak with the family and was directed to a room in the home where they were gathered. The Orthodox priest was in the other room going through his rituals for Gigi's body. I talked with the family, and prayed with them. At the end of my prayer someone in the room said "amen", and I turned to see who it was. It would be uncommon for an orthodox person to know to say amen at the end of a prayer. As I turned around Gigi's uncle Nicu told me, "Preacher, I have decided I am going to repent!" "Repenter" is the name given to evangelicals here in Romania to differentiate from the Orthodox who would call themselves Christians.
Nicu barely got the words out of his mouth before his wife, Roxana, began yelling at him from the other side of the room. "Don't tell that man you are going to repent— you can't do it, you're too bad! You smoke, you drink, you...." She listed them all out. Here I was at a funeral—trying to hold the peace. I told them that God calls us all to repentance and they were more than welcome to come to church to find out more about the Lord.
The following week, about 15 minutes after the service began, Nicu walked in with about 15 relatives. His group nearly doubled our attendance!) Nicu has truly met the Lord and his life has been changed!
Roxana, however, would take a little longer to acknowledge the grace of God in her husband. For a month after his conversion, she gave him a hard time about going to church and repenting. They have a little bench near the gate outside their fenced-in courtyard, and she would often sit out there and talk with folks as they passed down the street. When she would see Nicu coming, she would now begin yelling to the neighbors about her husband—"the repenter." In reality, she was witnessing to the neighbors about the change in her husband's life—she just did not know it.
Nicu and Roxana had 5 children at that time and four were high school age. (Vali was already married. Gina, Marius, Marioara, and Nina were still at home.) The children began coming along with their dad to church. They eventually accepted Christ.
Nearly a month passed before Nicu's testimony made an impact in Roxana's life. One Saturday night, close to Easter, she asked if he was going to church the next day. She said that she wanted to come too. She came and received Christ as her savior. The whole family soon followed in baptism, and faithfully serve at the church.