— There they sat, the people he loved most in the world, staring at him with no
idea who he was or why he knocked on the door and wanted to come into their
It’s hard to blame them for not recognizing him. Ten years
had gone by since they last saw or heard from him. Ten years ago he sent a
friend racing to his home to give his family his Bible and to warn the family
that they must hide the Bible and any other books or literature that talked
about God. They had to act quickly because soldiers were on the way.
The soldiers did come and they found everything — except the
Bible. That Bible is the very one he bought at age 20 and used as he preached
the gospel among villages in Ukraine.
The police eventually put an end to his village preaching
and sentenced him to 10 years in a Serbian prison. This was during the time
was part of the former Soviet Union and such preaching
was not allowed.
While in prison he became physically weak and unable to
work. One day he found himself on death row, literally in a line of men about
to meet death. He cried out, “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you can save
me!” He’s not sure exactly how it happened, or how it was even possible that it
could happen, but as he walked in that line of men he felt someone grab his
hand and pull him out of line.
The man was a doctor who took care of him and hid him for
one month until he was ready to work again. God saved him and brought him out
of that prison alive.
None of the letters he wrote from prison ever made it back
home. His family assumed he was dead. He looked around the room and there was his wife, his two
sons, his daughter born shortly after he went to prison, and his mother. “Don’t
you recognize me?” he asked again. The lump in his throat now prevented him
from saying much else, and he told them who he was.
“She shouted, ‘Children, your father is here,’” Alexander
said as he told the story to the team from North Carolina
gathered around the lunch table.
Alexander couldn’t hide his excitement as he told the story
of how God saved his grandfather’s life and reunited him with his family: the
daughter his grandfather had never met — Alexander’s mother. The Bible his grandfather so desperately wanted to keep safe
— it’s now 110 years old and Alexander held it in his hands as he told his
Alexander Goncearuc is pastor of Gethsemane
in Chisinau and vice president of the Baptist Union of Moldova. His
grandfather’s story is really his story, and the story of his children and will
be the story of his grandchildren. His grandfather’s example of faith, and
God’s protective, redeeming work in his life, is making it possible for more
generations to know about God.
Using that Bible, Alexander’s grandfather taught his
children and grandchildren about God. Alexander remembers as his grandfather
got older that his hands shook as he tried to hold the Bible. The day came when
he needed help from a magnifying glass to read the print. His grandfather
eventually had to let someone else do the reading. Alexander read scripture as
his siblings listened.
“Now, I can teach,” Alexander said as he pointed to his baby
Alexander is not only bringing his family up in the ways of
God, but he is pastoring other Moldovan believers. In 1992, Alexander helped
start Gethsemane Baptist Church where he still pastors today. The church is a
plant of Bethel Baptist
Alexander served as a deacon in Bethel
before coming to Gethsemane and had no intention of
leaving Bethel. “I was
comfortable,” he said. Yet, the church leadership kept insisting, and Alexander
knew he had to be obedient.
One of Alexander’s friends knew the principal of a Russian
public elementary school who agreed to let the church meet in the school
building. Before long the Communists in that area began meeting at the school
and wanted nothing to do with the church. The Baptists and the Communists even
came and went through different entrances in the school.
Week after week Communists tore down the poster on the
building advertising information about the church and when the church met.
Finally, the church moved the poster inside a window and the
Communists left it alone. “It’s still there,” Alexander said as he pointed at
the window. On this Sunday morning Alexander took a few minutes before worship
started to share about the church.
Alexander said the congregation never backed down. They
committed to serve the school and the community. On the church’s fifth
anniversary the assistant principal, who had not wanted the church meeting at
the school, got up on stage and said he wanted the church to stay. He had seen
the difference the church made in peoples’ lives.
The worship service that morning lasted nearly three hours,
but it did not feel as though that much time had passed.
From singing to prayer to preaching, this Russian-speaking
congregation truly worshiped God.
This congregation, and its pastor, remembers the day when
such public worship was not allowed. And it seems they will not soon forget.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — This article is the first in a series
about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s new partnership with the
Baptist Union of Moldova. The Convention recently sent a team to Moldova
to kick off the partnership and to lead in conferences for pastors, women and
youth. Stories and pictures will be available soon at the BSC
website, www.ncbaptist.org, and in the Biblical Recorder.)
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