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First Missions
Romania & Moldova
Revised January 4, 2019

Romania & Moldova

Moldova is attached to the work in Romania, since they share a common language. There is one Moldovan sister worker in Romania (Virginia).

The workers probably did not go to Romania before WW2.  Since the communist regime in Romania was somewhat more open than other countries, workers began to venture there in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The first workers were able to visit as tourists and to be hosted in the homes of Romanians. Around 1973 a new Romanian law restricted foreigners from doing this, except for first grade relationships.

From that time on, some of the workers were able to register as students in the universities and get permission to stay that way.  Some of the early ones who were admitted as students were Richard Davis (deceased), Loran Skaw (now in Poland) and Daniel Sherick (now in Ukraine).  All three men were from Iowa.  There were others from Ireland (Jean Robinson, Ruth Kevelighan and Janet Hogg). Jim Wood from California was in Romania for a brief time as a tourist visitor, and also in Morocco, Austria and Turkey between 1968-71. The communist government fell in December 1989.

John and Maria Hartig (siblings) were among the early workers there.  The Hartigs were German settlers in Romania from several generations back. After WW2, many Germans were deported from Romania, even though they were people whose ancestors had left Germany several generations ago and settled in Romania.  John and Maria were born in Romania, though they were always German-speaking, and not Romanian-speaking.  The Hartig family ended up as refugees in Austria, where they first met workers and professed.  They emigrated to Colorado, where they got in touch with workers. Both John and Maria started in the work in the U.S. and then eventually returned to Europe where they labored for many years in Austria, before returning to Colorado. While Maria Hartig's application for a student visa was refused, she and her brother John were still able to visit Romania as tourists for awhile. During one of Maria's visits, her purse was stolen, leaving her without her passport and money. A Romanian friend hosted Maria (against the law) and helped her to obtain papers she needed to leave the country. After that she was no longer allowed to visit as often.

When the workers first went to Romania, there were very few (three men) who accepted their teaching.  Around 1980, some younger folks responded, and little by little, several small churches were formed.  A few young people offered for the work and accompanied the workers, even before communism fell.  

The foreign workers attended universities year after year, in order to be allowed to live in Romania, which was Richard Davis' idea. Some deliberately stretched out their studies, getting their degree as slowly as possible so they wouldn't lose their student status and have to leave.  Some may have deliberately failed some classes so they could repeat them, while others went ahead and earned advanced degrees in different fields.

The natives who had offered for the work had to hold registered jobs. By the time Communism fell, there was already a well-established group of friends and four foreign workers there (Glen Watkins, Frank Renteria, Sharon Accola, Sharon Worden). They even had several "camps" (never called "conventions"), where up to 50 friends would go to remote areas in the mountains on "camping trips" and hold a series of meetings for 3-4 days with two (occasionally one or three) foreign workers present.  The Secret Police began searching the campgrounds, and harassed one of the workers to the point of making him leave the country.  After that, there were several weeks in the summer during which much smaller camp meetings were held at the same campsite, with friends rotating in and out.  After the 1989 revolution, with the fall of Ceusescu's Communist regime, there has been liberty to meet openly. There are now two conventions in a rented facility near Sibiu, with less than 100 attending each one.

During the Commmunist years the workers were under Bert Todhunter's guidance from Austria, though they were not listed on the Austrian list.  Glen Watkins from Indiana (who labored in Italy) assumed the position of the first overseer of Romania. While Glen was the overseer, there were workers in Romania from the U.S., Canada and Ireland, but most of the workers were natives.  Quite a few native Romanians have gone in the work and a number of them were sent to work in other European countries, including Poland, Armenia, Spain, UK, Germany, Russia, Hungary and perhaps some other countries. Several of the Romanian friends emigrated to the States also.  One Romanian young man and a Romanian sister were in the work in the U.S. for a few years.  It seems that interest and growth continued at quite a pace there until Glen left the country in 2002.  Romania and more recently, Ukraine were definitely areas of Europe that had the most continued growth in numbers in the fellowship.

The friends endured much while they were under the power and controlling rules of Glen Watkins, Romania's first (self-proclaimed) overseer. After Glen was asked to leave the work in Romania due to abuse of power and control, he married. John Johnston from Ireland became overseer after Glen. The majority of the native brother workers also left the work or were asked to leave.  Many of the foreign workers left the work in Romania in distress. Some left the country and joined the Ukraine staff or returned to the work in their home countries. Several Romanian friends left the country and several also left the fellowship. Romania suffered much under the abusive dictatorship during the Communist rule.

When did the workers first arrive? Probably some time after WW2 ended. Richard Davis was the very first worker known to visit Romania in 1964. He went to Romania from Holland with a tourist visa, touring a few cities. During his first visit he learned there were German-speaking churches in Sibiu. Also, Roy Price (from NZ, laboring in Austria/Germany) visited Romania on his way to Turkey. Maria Hartig and Ruth Christian (from Australia) arrived in 1965. They met a young Romanian Christian at the hotel in Sibiu. Later, they returned and stayed in the homes of Romanians, making contact first with several German-speaking citizens like the Hatzack family in Sibiu. Jim Wood arrived in 1968.

Who were the first brother workers?  Some of the early ones were Richard Davis (from Iowa, deceased) and Jim Wood (from California, deceased), and John and Maria Hartig (siblings). Richard Davis was the first to apply for a student visa around 1971-72 , followed a year later by Loren Skaw.

Who were the first sister workers?   Ruth Christian (Australia) and Maria Hartig (Colorado); both had been laboring in Austria.

Who was the first to profess?  George Bocancea (deceased), Heinz Hatzack and his mother (deceased) and later his sister Helga Hatzack in Sibiu. A few years later the Hatzack family immigrated to Germany.

Who was the first native to go in the work?  Two Bocancea siblings and their cousin Vergi Handaric were the first to offer for the work and actively traveled, helping the foreign student-workers during the Communist regime. Later two younger Bocancea siblings and Bianka Sturm offered. After the 1989 revolution, Titi Bocancea, Viorel Carcu and Vergi Handaric were the first Romanians able to give up their jobs to become "unemployed" full-time workers. Bianka Strum's family immigrated to Germany, where she started in the work in 1991. Of these, only Viorel Carcu is still active in the work.

When & Where was the first meeting?  In the home of the Bocancea family in Sibiu. The first workers claimed they found "professing" people in Romania, as the Bocancea family had already quit attending a church and held a small meeting in their apartment. Under Ceaucescu's regime, they weren't allowed to have formal meetings. They gathered as a family in their apartment or outdoors outside the city limits. Heinz Hatzack often came for visits. Years later after others started showing interest, they would occasionally visit with other families and friends in the woods or by a river and have fellowship that way.

When & Where was the first baptism?  In 1969 (very secretly)

When & Where was the first convention? In the summer of 1979 some impromptu "camp meetings" were organized by Bocancea family, some of their cousins, and a family friend (Viorel Carcu) during a long hiking trip in the mountains with a visiting foreign worker. Next year the first "4-day camp" was held with two workers present and a baptism of four (very secretly performed away from the camp). After the 1989 revolution, an official "convention place" in Stupini, near Brasov, was built on the property of one of the friends. Small groups of friends were assigned to attend each of the 3 to 4 so-called "conventions."

Where is the convention currently held?   Now that there is liberty to meet openly, there are two conventions in a rented facility at Gura Sadului near Sibiu on consecutive weeks, with less than 100 attending each one.

Who have the Overseers been?  During those early years, the Workers came under Bert Todhunter's  guidance from Austria, though they weren't listed on the Austrian list.  Glen Watkins from Indiana became the first actual overseer of Romania. When Glen left the work and married, John Johnston from Ireland became the overseer.

From Wikipedia: Communist Romania  was the period in Romanian history (1947-1989) when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the leading role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions. Officially, the country was called the  Romanian People's Republic  from 1947 to 1965, and the  Socialist Republic of Romania  from 1965 to 1989. The communist government fell in December 1989.

See also Wikipedia: Nicolae Ceausescu, Romanian Communist Dictator .  Ceausescu's government was overthrown in a December 1989 revolution, and he and his wife were executed following a televised and hastily organized two-hour court session.

TTT Editor's Note: In the absence of a written account, the above information has been compiled by the TTT Editor from various sources. Corrections or additions are most welcome; as well as other historical accounts for this country Email TTT

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