Emanuel was born and raised in Romania and was converted out of an Orthodox background through the influence of his believing grandparents and aunts. After his conversion, he quickly sensed a calling from the Lord for missions and had a strong burden to preach the Gospel to those around him. He later went to Italy for work, which the Lord providentially used to lead him to become the pastor of a church plant in Florence [Italian: Firenze], Italy, where he is now serving.
TESTIMONY OF CONVERSION
I was born into an Orthodox family in Romania, and I have five siblings. My father’s grandparents were Brethren, and they used to take me to church with them when I was a child. After the Revolution in 1989, a missionary named Timotei came to our town and planted a Baptist church. The church first gathered in my aunt’s house, and my grandparents and Christian aunts invited me to the meetings. By that time, I was older and better able to understand things. That was my first encounter with a Baptist church, and what appealed to me most were the songs that were sung there.
One day, Pastor Timotei asked me when I was going to turn to God. I had been attending the church for a while, so my answer was, “Anytime!” I expected him to be happy to hear this answer, but he was disappointed and left me alone to think more about my response. The Holy Spirit pierced my heart and helped me understand that the right answer ought to be, “Right now!” When I understood the response that God was requiring of me, I knelt down and received the Lord into my heart. I was baptized in the fall of 1992, and I am happy that the Lord gave me His grace that I did not deserve.
Shortly after my conversion, my cousin and I desired to go to Sudan as missionaries. However, instead of Sudan, the Lord sent us to a small village in a rural part of Sibiu, Romania, called Marsa. My cousin and I spent two weeks there, sharing the Gospel with the people. I was only sixteen years old.
After graduating from high school, I wanted to go to the Baptist Theological Institute, but the pastor did not give me the recommendation that I needed. He did not believe that I was mature enough for ministry. Because of this, I went to a different college; but I had to quit after one year, because my family could not support me financially. My mother died when she was thirty-five years old, and my father was a widower with six children to raise by himself. Because I could not continue my education, I went to work in Italy and began attending a Baptist church in Rome. At first, I was only involved in the ministry of the choir, but I often was asked to lead the prayer time during the worship service.
About nine years ago, Brother Radu Gheorghe was sent as a missionary by Holy Trinity Baptist Church in Bucharest, Romania, to plant a Romanian church in the outskirts of Rome, where many Romanians were living. He shared his vision with me and my wife, and we formed a group of young people that had the same desire to plant this new church. The church was planted, and I was one of the founding members, so I was part of the committee from the very beginning.
CALL TO MINISTRY
My calling to the ministry began with my first thought of going as a missionary to Sudan. It was clear that this sense of calling was from the Lord because over the years I began to have a greater and greater urgency to serve the Lord by sharing the Gospel with the people around me. Together with the church in Rome, we used to go every Sunday morning to a subway station to share the Gospel with the Romanians that gathered there. The Lord worked in a wonderful way through that church plant, and the church grew to a hundred members quite soon.
The pastor of the church in Firenze (where I now serve) had to go back to Romania and asked Brother Radu to take over the ministry in Firenze. The church plant in Rome decided that each Sunday one of the members of the committee would visit Firenze to minister to the church, and this is how I got to know the Romanian Christians in Firenze. The Lord gave me a love for my brothers there, and I saw their needs and the great potential they had for ministry.
Meanwhile, Pastor Radu invited a different brother to come as a pastor to Firenze. He accepted and pastored this church for one year, but the church could not support him financially. When the wife of this pastor became sick, they moved back to Romania. But, before doing so, he asked Pastor Radu to recommend a man that he could put in charge of the church in Firenze. Pastor Radu recommended me, so I started going to Firenze twice a month as a missionary. My wife and I asked the Lord for His guidance, and He spoke through the first four chapters of the book of Ezekiel. It was then, after eight months, that I understood that God’s will for us was to move to Firenze to better serve the church.
At the beginning, the church had about twenty-five members; but the Lord blessed us in a wonderful way, and eighteen persons turned to God in the first year. God has continued to bless us, and now the church has approximately sixty members. Also, eight brothers from our church decided to plant a new church in Scandicci, not far from Firenze.
Our church is devoted to seeing spiritual growth among the believers and also to seeing people equipped for ministry. I taught a homiletics course with some of the young people in our church, and about eight of them are now attending a two-year Bible college here in Italy. Our purpose is to keep growing and to be a blessing to those around us. We want to help others and to expect nothing in return. We believe we can do this with the strength that God supplies.
The church is involved in missionary activities both in our town and in the surrounding area of Dicomano and Viareggio. Marian Iordan (a missionary in our church) and I have often gone to Viareggio (about 100 km away from Firenze), where there is a community of Romani (Gypsy) people. The Lord has laid it on my heart to do evangelism not only among the Romani, but also among Italians. In other words, I want to plant an international church – with the worship service in Italian – based on the biblical principles and values that I have learned in Romania and Italy. I realize that the Lord has called us to Italy to be a testimony for this people. Italy has about sixty million inhabitants, and the Italian Baptist Union consists of only about ten thousand believers. We must do something about that! It is a great blessing that in Firenze we can talk to Muslims, Buddhists, and others without fear of getting arrested.
I know that this vision that the Lord has given me of an international church plant is not going to be easy. But our young people can be of great help, as they speak Italian very well. We also want to continue the ministry among Romanians and the Romani people. The ministry among the Romani people is more difficult because they are often forced to move from one place to the next.