Rev. Andrea Ferrari and his church in Milan, Italy, are working with believers in Bucharest, Romania, who long to establish a Reformed church. One young Romanian couple, Mihai and Lidia Corcea, plan to move to the United States this summer so that Mihai may study at Westminster Seminary California (WSC).
Mihai has been accepted to WSC and it is hoped that grants and donations will cover his tuition costs. In order to secure a student visa from the US government, however, he must show that he will have $32,000 of annual support for living expenses. One church has already committed to more than a third of that annual expense, but the remainder still needs to be raised.
“Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA, will provide Mihai with $12,000 a year during his studies as an M.Div. student,” reports Rev. Michael Brown. “This, however, is not sufficient to cover the cost of living for Mihai and his wife. They will need more than this to survive during his three years of study.”
Rev. Brown relates that he had the privilege of spending a few days last October with Mihai in Milan. “Mihai is an exceptionally bright young man deeply devoted to the Reformed faith. He leads a core group of young Romanian Reformed believers in a weekly Bible study. He is also a gifted translator, who has translated a sizable amount of Reformed material from English into the Romanian language.”
Mihai was raised in a family that left Eastern Orthodoxy to become Baptists. During his teen years and early adulthood, he was confused about church history and Christian doctrine. He began reading Calvinistic books and started to understand Reformed doctrines regarding salvation and the church.
“Six years ago I visited a Reformed congregation in the Netherlands and spent one week with a Dutch Reformed family,” he writes. “I found their theology, piety and practice to be quite different from my Arminian/Fundamentalist background. Throughout the years that followed, the memory of the Dutch Reformed I have met remained a reference point with regard to how I envisioned that a church should be.”
Although the Reformation spread in the sixteenth century to Eastern Europe, including Transylvania, which is now part of Romania, Reformed Romanians were gradually rejected by many communities that had been assimilated by Hungarians during political and ethnic conflicts.
According to Mihai, the last Romanian Reformed church disappeared during the 19th century. Today 97% of Bucharest’s two million people identify themselves as Eastern Orthodox. After translating and publishing Reformed articles online, Mihai came into contact with other Reformed believers and their core group was formed. Mihai was encouraged to attend seminary after these believers became members of Rev. Ferrari’s Milan congregation, Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia, in July of 2012.
“We wish to establish a confessional Reformed church in Bucharest that can be a sound Protestant alternative to the Eastern Orthodox or Evangelical communities,” writes Mihai. “Our greatest dream is that our children will not have to go through the same confusion we experienced regarding the Christian faith. We believe that having our children catechized and raised in a Reformed congregation is the greatest gift we can give them. We pray that God will use His Word and His Church to the blessing of future generations of Romanian people.”
Rev. Ferrari requests Christian Renewal readers to pray for Romania, Italy, and all of Europe. He writes, “It is important for readers to understand that Europe is a mission field!”
Churches or individuals wishing to contribute to Mihai’s support should contact Rev. Michael Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or Christ United Reformed Church’s treasurer, deacon Bob Gordon, at email@example.com.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 11 of the April 10, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.