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Priest’s opposition heightens Bible interest among villagers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)??An Orthodox priest’s effort to drive a volunteer mission team from his Romanian village may not have had the effect he wanted.
An American?Romanian team of Baptists was attempting to distribute the Gospel of John ?? known as “the yellow book” to Romanians because of its color ?? to villagers in a field in Rusi, Dobrovat, in northeast Romania when the Sept. 21 confrontation occurred.
The priest’s crowd threatened and shoved against an 11?member team from Faulkner County Baptist Association in Arkansas and an equal number of Romanian Baptists, who left the village when they sensed the possibility of violence. One local Romanian Baptist was beaten by the crowd afterward. The severity of his injuries is unknown.
Ted Lindwall, a retired Southern Baptist missionary to Guatemala and volunteer with Church Starts International in Romania, said as the team handed out the gospel and were preparing for a Bible?reading rally, “the village priest brought a crowd of some 40 supporters who shouted at the Baptists and threatened them if they did not leave immediately.”
“The Baptists assured the priest that they were not there to speak badly about him or his church, but only to distribute the Bible,” Lindwall said.
Despite the size of the mob, other villagers “were strongly divided as to whether they should support the priest,” reported Lindwall, who characterized Romanians as “very hospitable by nature and their culture.”
“The priest’s actions caused great embarrassment to many in the village who failed to see that Bible distribution was a threat to the people,” he added. “The fact that only some 40 people came to support the priest, out of a total population of several thousand, gives some indication of the true sentiments of the village.”
Faulkner County director of missions Lee Lawson returned to the site of the incident the next day to encourage the little Baptist congregation there.
“He found them in good spirits,” said Bill Davis, CSI president, who noted “the man who was beaten said that he would go to speak to the priest and testify to him.”
“In spite of the opposition by the priest and his crowd, we are finding that the overwhelming majority of Romanians receive us with great respect and interest,” Davis said. “It is like the days of the Acts of the Apostles all over again.”
In fact, Lindwall added, the priest’s actions “more than anything else he could have done have created great curiosity in the village about the yellow book and the message it contains.”
The Arkansas team was participating with CSI in a Sept. 17?30 crusade as part of a multi?year partnership ministry between the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the European Baptist Convention. Church Starts International is a volunteer organization based in Henrietta, Texas, which works through the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and the Romanian Baptist Union. The group is credited with starting 80 churches in three years in the former communist country.

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  • Russell N. Dilday