News Articles

Romanian seminarian’s prayers, faithfulness reap eternal reward

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Through the crackle of an international phone call, Claudia Veres could hear her Romanian relatives arguing.
“Tell her!” shouted one.
“No, wait till she comes home,” said another.
“Give me the phone.” Her uncle’s clear voice drowned the turmoil. “Are you sitting?” he asked. His sternness caused Veres’ heart to flutter.
“Your mom and dad … ” he started to say.
What could it be? she frantically asked herself. Were they hurt? Sick? In trouble?
Claudia Veres, a master of divinity student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., had called home because she was lonely. For two long years she has lived in the United States, and culture shock still lingers.
She likes America and Southern Seminary. Everyone has treated her like family, she said. But, still, they aren’t family.
She misses her parents and relatives. And she worries deeply about them, too, because when she left they were antagonistic toward Christianity. While such sentiments were common under communism, she had prayed daily that God would save her parents. By the grace of God, Veres had grown up in a Christian context even with non-Christian parents. Her Christian aunt helped her mother to rear her, and this aunt directed Veres to Christianity.
At an early age, she attended church, sang hymns and prayed — specifically for her parents, but God never seemed to answer.
“Do not mention God’s name in this house,” her mother would often order.
Though Veres would try to convince her mother of God’s existence, her mother would scoff. She could not reconcile God and evil. She would point to communism — the oppression, the poverty, the violence. “If there is a God, why does he allows this pain?” her mother would ask.
Veres and her mother were best friends in almost every way, but religion made them enemies.
Communism was an enemy too. Veres, like many Romanians, remembered the words of Stalin, who said, “By the year 2000, we will show the face of the last Christian on the TV.”
Fear of the government forced Veres to attend church secretly. Her mom allowed her — but not without threats. Veres’ father worked for the Romanian army, and they considered anybody who had connections with Christians to be traitors.
“If something happens to your dad, and he loses his job, you will have to provide for the whole family,” Veres’ mom warned her.
Veres did not have the strength — especially under communism — to stand up and say, “I’m a Christian. I’m a Baptist.”
Then came revolution. In two weeks, God destroyed a corrupt and oppressive government believed unshakeable by the people. The weeks were both tragic and triumphant. Many Romanians died — martyred for freedom and for Christianity.
As Veres saw the young people slaughtered in the streets, she began to question her own faith. Revolution posed the question: “Are you willing to die for Christ?”
For years, Veres had gone to church and had done good deeds, believing God would have mercy on her in the end. But, she did not have assurance. So at age 17, Veres quit her fence-sitting. She gave her life to Christ.
Even then, she feared sharing her good news with family. Many Christians were thrown out of the house — or worse — for such a revelation. But, God gave her courage to say, “Mom, I want to be a Christian, and I want to be baptized.”
Her mother’s reply floored Veres: “Well, you better stick with it.”
From that point, Veres began to notice a change in her mother.
After conversion, Veres believed God called her to share the gospel with hurting Romanian people. She attended a new school, Emmanuel Bible Institute, which was supported by a small-town church in the United States.
A group from that church — the First Baptist Church of Eastman, Ga. — came on a mission trip and needed translators. Veres volunteered. The next year they offered to take her to the States.
The church’s senior pastor, Southern Seminary trustee Jerry Peele, informed an excited Veres that the church had voted to receive her as an exchange student.
For two years while in Georgia, Veres presented Romanian needs and talked about Emmanuel Bible Institute in different churches. Though she longed to go home, she also believed God was leading her to stay — and to further her education so she could teach.
Peele recommended Southern as “the best school to go to.” Even though she did not have the money, Peele assured her scholarships would come. They did — from Southern and from the church.
Even at seminary, she still struggled. “God, why did you bring me here?” she recalled asking. “What is the purpose? Why did you take me from my non-Christian family to bring me here to this country to minister to foreigners that I don’t even know.”
Last winter, Veres’ questions were interrupted by a holiday trip to Romania. While there, her mother became very sick. Returning to the States and leaving a sick mother behind troubled Veres.
She pleaded with her mother. “Mom, I want to be in heaven with you,” Veres said through her tears. They cried together, but her mother didn’t say anything. Still, Veres could tell God was working in her mother’s heart and even in her father’s.
Back at Southern, Veres continued to worry and pray for her parents.
Depressed, lonely and full of questions, she made that phone call to her relatives a few weeks ago. There was excitement and heated arguments about whether to tell her “the news.” All these things made Veres even more worried.
What is going on? Are my parents OK? she wondered feverishly.
Her uncle had grabbed the phone and said, “You’re mom and dad … “
Fearing the worst, Veres listened closely.
” … got baptized two weeks ago.”
“God always takes me by surprise,” said Veres after the news. “Our God is an awesome God.”

    About the Author

  • Bryan Cribb