(Excerpt from Until All Have Heard, by Bill George; A centennial history of Church of God World Missions)
From humble beginnings in 1922 with nothing more than a handful of contacts, the Church of God by 2010 is represented all across Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East. The beginnings of Church of God ministries is the story of the Church reaching foreign immigrants in one country who subsequently took the goepel messag to their country of origin. It was similar to New Testament evangelism, e.g., the Ethiopian eunuch was evangelized and baptized by the evangelist Philip (Acts 8:26-39), and Onesimus, a runaway slave, was led to the Lord by Pual in Rome (Philemon 10). Church tradition points to the involvement of the Ethiopian in the earliest beginnings of the Christian Movement in Northeast Africa. It is thought that Philemon’s fugitive slave, Onesimus, eventually rose to significant church leadership in Ephesus.
Over a 30-year period, European immigrants made a significant impact in the founding of Church of God ministries in five European countries:
· 1922: Paul Budean, a Romanian Church of God minister in the United States, sent a letter home to Romania, with a follow-up visit in 1924.
· 1925: Back home in Yugoslavia after having been converted through the Church of God in the United States, Walent Adam began to spread the Pentecostal faith.
· 1936: After their conversion in the Church of God in Maryland, Herman and Lydia Lauster returned to Germany.
· 1937: After uniting with a Spanish-speaking Church of God congregation in New York City, Custodio Apolo returned to his native Spain.
· 1951: O.A. Lyseight immigrated to England, the mother of the British Commonwealth, from his homeland in Jamaica and began the work of the Church of God in Britain.
Romania, an Oregon-size nation in southeastern Europe, is home to 22.5 million residents. Formerly a socialist republic and Warsaw Pact country, since 2007 it has been a member of the European Union. While the income level among its citizens is among the lower tier in the EU, its economic reforms are transforming it into an upper-middle income nation and have enhanced its potential for human development.
It was the good news of the Pentecostal message in the form of a Romanian language booklet printed in the United States that became the catalyst for the beginnings of the Pentecostal Movement in Romania. The booklet had been mailed to Gheorghe (George) Bradin and his wife, Sida, devout Romanian Baptist believers. The tract, Adevarul Biblic(The Biblical Truth), described the Pentecostal revival with the accompanying signs of divine healing and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Its testimony of healing was timely for Bradin’s wife, since she lay ill with tuberculosis. After prayer, she was divinely raised up. Bradin wrote the Church of God Publishing House, distributors of the booklet, for more information.
His letter was answered in the early days of September 1922 by Pavel (Paul) Budean, a Romanian Church of God minister active in Romanian immigrant congregations in Detroit, Michigan, and in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Some believe Budean had originally sent the doctrinal booklet.
Within days of receiving Budean's letter, the Bradins opened the first Pentecostal church in Romania in their home in the village of Paulis (near Arad) on Sunday, September 10, 1922. Subsequently they engaged in ongoing correspondence with Budean. By the end of the year the church had some 30 members and a small choir. Bradin met strong resistance from an Orthodox priest who published warnings across the region about the new "sect" devoted to healing. God turned the supposed obstruction into blessing. When people received the unintended advertisement, they flooded Bradin with requests for help. The following year (1923) the second local church was organized, and George Bradin was named president of a fledgling Pentecostal association. At his side was Stoi Dumitru, the secretary‑treasurer.
At the same time Paul Budean was making plans back in the United States for an exploratory trip to Romania, which materialized in 1924. Budean’s birthdate was January 13, 1886, in Comlaus, Arad, Romania (the same year Richard Spurling had begun the Christian Union, forerunner of the Church of God). Budean attended school in Hungary. He had been a Baptist minister in Romania, but after immigrating to the United States associated with the Assemblies of God. Shortly afterwards, Budean joined the Church of God.He became a credentialed Church of God minister in Detroit, Michigan, and was ordained in 1923.
Budean testified of a call to missions received in 1921. He visited Romania in 1924 and subsequently maintained steady correspondence with George Bradin, who was considered by World Missions to be the overseer of the work there.
In 1944 Budean asked for information on becoming a missionary candidate to Romania. He was sent an application by M.P. Cross, executive missions secretary.Budean's application of April 4, 1944, exhibits a clear calling as a missionary to Romania. His cover letter expressed a broad desire to extend the Church of God across the entire Balkan area―Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Greece.
In October 1944, Budean prepared additional Romanian literature and began to gather and pack clothing for the poor in his homeland. His desire to help the poor, as well as his move to Romania, were frustrated by the realities associated with World War II and the changes of government in Romania.
After World War II
Over the next six years Budean worked tirelessly at a distance for the benefit of the persecuted church in Romania. He was assisted in this ministry by three successive leaders in World Missions: M.P. Cross, J. Stewart Brinsfield and J.H. Walker Sr.The following sequence of events captures the setbacks and victories of those six years.
Supplies―literature and clothing―were channeled to Romania through Herman Lauster in Germany. Money sent by Church of God World Missions was sent to Bradin through the Red Cross. Bradin wrote from Romania about the hardships of the aftermath of the war. Also, he inquired about permission to reprint the Church of God Evangelin Romanian.
About this time Budean applied for a passport and visa. In May 1945, M.P. Cross wrote to Budean expressing his desire that Budean would soon be able to return to his people to spread the glorious message of the gospel and the government and teachings of the Church of God. A letter was sent to Budean from the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on July 16, 1945, however, explaining that because of military travel restrictions and transportation difficulties, it was not possible to issue a visa for him to go to Romania.
On November 16, 1945, Budean received two letters from George Bradin with copies of the Gospel Heraldand the Evangelica, Romania's paper. He said the people were practicing foot washing and having Communion. There was liberty to worship, though the people had undergone much suffering. Bradin included a list of workers, members and churches. In Bucharest, healings and conversions were taking place. Bradin expressed the desire that a missionary be appointed to Romania from the United States.
Bradin also noted that the Romanian paper could not be printed regularly because as yet they had no subscribers. A restriction was imposed by the government that a church could be organized only where 100 heads of families were present to form the membership and that a pastor must be educated for at least four years.
On November 24, 1945, a petition was sent by Budean to the State Department asking for their intervention to end the discrimination in Romania. Bradin wrote in 1946 that during the German occupation some of the people were arrested and sentenced to 15‑25 years imprisonment. Some had even died a martyr's death for their faith in God. In his letter of March 11, 1946, Budean introduced Trandafir Sandru as editor of the Gospel Heraldand described him as an intelligent young man who also spoke some English. Sandru asked for subscriptions to the Lighted Pathwayand Evangel, Church of God magazines. He translated articles, the Declaration of Faith, and so on, into Romanian. Church of God World Missions began to send him Sunday school quarterly materials, so that at this period they were actually studying the same Sunday school lessons as the people in the States.
Sandru had written in January 1946 that he wanted Budean to bring Christian books as soon as possible. He lived in Arad, near the headquarters, at the time. On April 14, 1948, Budean reported that Bradin had written that the church had to go underground after an outbreak of persecution around February 1948. Bradin was jailed. His son was drafted, then locked up in prison for his faith. Sandru wrote not to send any more literature until further notice.
By May 21, 1948, churches were free again. Jehovah's Witnesses were partly to blame for the persecution. Permission was granted from Romania’s Secretary of the Interior, Department of Cults, for literature printing. Revival was also breaking out among Baptists.
By July 1950 Budean was able to report that an entrance visa to Romania was being granted. He carried on the work of preaching and assisting the church in the early 1950s and spread his ministry to Yugoslavia.He had been a catalyst, a promoter of the Romanian cause in the United States, and now a stronger, indigenous church was emerging.
During the confusing years of the early 1940s, various doctrinal and organizational divisions plagued the growing Pentecostal Movement in Romania, numbering some 15,000 adherents by 1944. On May 20, 1945, the Apostolic Church of God was reorganized with George Bradin as president, Olariu Mihai as vice‑president, Trandafir Sandru as general secretary and George Urlea as general treasurer. At the same time Sandru was chosen as the editor of The Gospel Herald, the new official publication of the church.
Encouraging developments were to come in the next few years, including an eventual unification of all Pentecostal groups and a presidential decree recognizing the Church (both actions coming in 1950), though not giving it the complete freedoms it desired. By 1954, however, the Communist government had begun a sustained effort to bring the growing movement under control. The church reported a membership of approximately 30,000 by 1950.
A Renewed Partnership
Contacts from the Church of God in the U.S. were limited until the late 1970s. In 1980 regular fellowship was established, with a formal joint declaration made by the leaders of the church in Romania and the Church of God in the United States. The Apostolic Church of God, as it was known, was structured governmentally in Romania somewhat differently than the Church of God in the States. Part of its administrative authority, for example, rested in the hands of regional overseers and councils rather than in a central national office. For this reason, various facets of the Romanian church have not spoken of an “amalgamation” of their church with the Church of God, but rather of a fellowship agreement.
By the end of 1991 the Church of God in Romania reported more than 260,000 members in 850 churches and 300 missions. The indigenous movement worked hard to establish a seminary and regular publishing efforts and contributed to the multiplication of scores of ethnic Romanian congregations across Western Europe, in the United States and Canada, and in Australia.
Responding to God’s call to minister to the children of Romania, the Church of God opened the Maranatha Home for Children in Hunedoara, Romania; the Deborah Home for Children in Neudorf; and the Tabitha Home for Children in Arad. These three homes provide care for the many abandoned children in Romania. The children receive food, medical care, education, and spiritual nourishment. These homes strive to raise the children in a family-style atmosphere.
The Church of God has partnered with their Romanian brethren in several significant projects, including the construction of a beautiful and serviceable campus for the national seminary in Bucharest and the dedication in 2010 of a combination medical clinic/benevolent outreach center/chaplaincy training center in Oradea, built at a cost exceeding $1.5 million. The Romanians have welcomed the financial partnership.
By 2010 the Church of God in Romania exceeds 525,000 members worshiping in 2,570 churches.Pavel Rivis-Tipei has served as overseer since 1992.
Trandafir Sandru, “The Pentecostal Work in Romania,” World Pentecost, No. 30, Fall 1991, p. 18
John F. Tipei, “Cultural Impact on Religion: A Study of the Romanian Pentecostal Church” (unpublished senior theological paper), Church of God School of Theology, 1987, p. 2.
Trandafir Sandru, Biserica lui Dumnezeu Apostolica din Romania, (Bucurest: Editura Cultului Penticostal, 1982), p. 29.
Tipei, ibid., p. 2.
“Romania,” Church of God World Missions background report, n. d.
Budean’s letter of March 20, 1944, was answered by Cross on March 28, 1944.
Series of letter exchanges from March 20, 1944 to July 17, 1950.
The final documentation available on Budean is his letter of September 16, 1956, to Paul H. Walker requesting World Missions authorization to the Yugoslavia consulate in Bucharest, Romania, for Budean to represent the Church of God in Yugoslavia.
Tipei, ibid., p.7.