Operation World, the fine prayer catalogue for every nation on planet earth, is right when it asserts that there is more opposition to the churches in Romania from the Orthodox Church than there is from the state.
Last Sunday I was taken to preach in a small town in the north of Romania called Solona. There is now a church plant there, an established, growing work in this rural community. I had the privilege of appointing a new leader whilst I was with them, and afterwards, heard the amazing true story of their inception.
A group of believers from a nearby town had been making regular evangelistic forays into Solona, they had seen some early converts and were looking to step up their mission. One Sunday, they travelled together in a convoy of 3 or 4 cars to visit the town after their own Sunday meeting was over. About half a mile outside of Solona a man could be seen in the road walking towards them.
Pulling over as the stranger waved them down, this group of believers were not surprised to hear that the local Orthodox Priest was stirring up trouble. Knowing that they were coming to the town, and aware that a number of converts had already left the dead Orthodox faith, the Priest decided to take matters into his own hands.
Using church funds he purchased a large amount of the local moonshine and offered it in copious amounts to a group of 40 or so of the bored young men of the town. As the alcohol took effect, the Priest was able to provoke them into an angry mob about these outsiders who were coming in to disturb the peace. They were waiting on the main road into the town, armed with clubs and farm tools, ready to stop the cars and attack the believers as they entered.
Fortunately, one man was brave enough to walk on ahead of them and warn the believers. Having heard this report, they prayed briefly, and decided not to risk confrontation or damage. They agreed that God was well able to defend His honour, and turned back praying that If He wanted them in Solona, He would open the door.
As they turned to go, a terrific hail storm began to buffet then. Leaving the fringes of the town, they left the storm behind and thought no more of it. The following week, they began to hear the most amazing report from Solona.
The hail had been so strong and heavy in the town that it had damaged homes and gardens. Remember, in this community, each home is almost self sustaining, growing much of their own food. Gardens and crops were ruined. The town was in turmoil. However, it soon became apparent that the homes of the new believers had not been touched by the hail storm - somehow, it had simply missed them. In this small town, they were the only ones to have escaped the deluge.
Quickly making the link between their hostility to the Christians, and the subsequent storm, those who had been worst affected went immediately to the Orthodox Church and ran the angry Priest out of town. There was no doubt in their minds that this Old Testament style judgement had been a direct response to their allegiance to the Priest and his jealous, territorial spirit. Totally humbled, they approached the small group of believers in the town, asked their forgiveness, and requested that they invite the team of evangelists back again!
The errant Priest has now been replaced, and whilst his successor is against the believers, he will not do anything to directly oppose them - he doesn't dare! Now, three years on, a fine church has been planted, and the town of Solona is wide open to the gospel.