Bringing Grace to the Airwaves of Romania
It’s clear to Ben and Anda Mogos—the pastor and executive director, respectively, of Insight for Living Romania—that their country is ripe with opportunity to share the grace of Jesus. Spring 2016 is an especially exciting time, because after three years of translating and one year of recording, Ben and Anda are launching the first broadcast series in Romanian: Character Counts. A poignant starting point for the ministry, this series offers practical guidance on reflecting godly character in day-to-day life—guidance the people of Romania desperately need.
Romania’s recent history can be measured by the rise and fall of communism, beginning in 1945 and crumbling after the Revolution of 1989. Ben and Anda—natives of Romania who were born during the communist era—know the stark differences between life during and after communism.
Anda lived in the capital city of Bucharest as the daughter of an officer of the communist army. She remembers spending hours waiting in line just to get a loaf of bread because Romania’s government so severely rationed food. Ben, in contrast, grew up in a small town in Arad County, Transylvania (yes, of Dracula fame), where his family grew their own food. Country life shielded Ben from some of the communist regime, but his family still faced significant challenges. The sixth generation of Christians in his family, Ben recalls, “I remember my dad showing The Jesus Film in our village at midnight to avoid arrest for evangelizing.”
In all parts of Romania, Christians who refused to cooperate with communists were under constant scrutiny, barred from evangelizing, and forbidden to baptize new believers. Church planting was illegal as was the accumulation of religious literature. Christians’ personal libraries were monitored, their books counted. Those who were baptized were refused promotions at work or acceptance into good schools. The government even planted spies within Romanian churches, individuals who posed as believers in order to take attendance and monitor sermons. Pastors were detained. Jailed. Some spent years in prison and labor camps, where they were sometimes worked literally to death.
Romania has changed drastically, though one can still find communism’s vestiges in architecture, politics, and people. Freedom brought many things from the West—businesses and restaurants, as well as night clubs, legalized abortions, immense shopping malls, and a wide variety of luxury cars. Materialism and consumerism without regard for morality have become a way of life.
In 1989, Romania also attained freedom of press and more than just one TV station . . . with more than just two hours of daily programming. The airwaves were thrown open. People were thirsty for what was formerly forbidden, namely, spiritual things. Media exploded with religious information, but not with the truth of Scripture.
Recently, eastern religions have impacted Romanian culture. In 1990, one or two mosques stood in Romania; now there are 17 in Bucharest alone. There have never been many evangelicals in Romania, however. Of Bucharest’s 3 million people—only .5 percent are evangelical, and most of those live by legalism. “Sadly,” Ben says, “Evangelicals in Romania have become known for what they are not allowed to do. They are called ‘Repenters’—an epithet pointing out their legalism.”
More than 90 percent of Romanians classify themselves as Romanian Orthodox. Although they hold to the Nicene and Apostolic creeds, the Romanian Orthodox Church emphasizes the sale of candles, holy relics, and pilgrimages as means of salvation or steps toward it. In fact, the majority of Romanians believe salvation can come only through the orthodox church. Traditions, superstitions, and folk beliefs have a greater preeminence than Scripture, Christ, and the gospel.
This—a culture full of consumerism, materialism, empty spirituality, and legalism—is where Insight for Living Romania’s broadcast will air and clearly proclaim the great news of God’s saving grace.
These are exciting times, indeed.