Stefan Gae is HeartCry’s oldest missionary in Eastern Europe and a seasoned minister of the Gospel. Known for his devotion and discipline, he has demonstrated unwavering loyalty to Christ and His people in his labors for the kingdom of God. His life of integrity has been a worthy example to many believers in Eastern Europe.
Brother Stefan was born in Sibiu, Romania, on September 23, 1932. In 1959, he married Paraschiva, and the Lord gave them five children. Today, they are the joyful grandparents of thirteen grandchildren. Brother Stefan has devoted himself to preaching and teaching the Word of God for over 50 years. He is the author of ten textbooks for Bible teachers and is the founder of the Baptist Sunday School Teachers Association and the College for Sunday School Teachers, which has over 600 graduates. Stefan and Paraschiva live in Sibiu. They are members of Bethany Baptist Church, where he has served as an elder for over 30 years. Brother Stefan would appreciate your prayers for his wife who suffers from multiple health problems, including degenerative chronic rheumatism.
I was born in an Evangelical Christian family. From the time I was a little boy, I was taken to the church. My family was made up of twelve children from two different mothers. In 1936, when I was three years old, my mother died and left behind seven children. Because of this my father had to remarry.
In order to provide a better living for us, my father sold our property in the village where we lived and moved us all to Galati. In 1940, the Second World War began. Because of all the explosions and attacks, my father decided to move us back to Oltenia. I finally finished high school in 1952, and in the same year, I went off to college in Bucharest. Since I was from a poor family with twelve children, the government granted me studies in the USSR. I studied there until 1957, when I graduated as an electrical engineer from a college in Saint Petersburg.
Coming back to Romania, I was sent to Brasov, and then to Sibiu, where I live now. In Sibiu, I worked as a teacher at the Technical High School and as an engineer at the factory of electric networks. It was in Sibiu that I met Paraschiva, who later became my wife in 1959. After I met her, I discovered that she was a believer and that she was attending the Baptist church. In time, I knew that the Lord was also calling me to Him through her. I began to attend the church’s services, and God spoke to me. Although my conversion took place over fifty years ago, I can still remember the words of the preacher. He was Brother Jean Staneshi, a pastor and ex-professor at the Baptist Seminary in Bucharest. Teaching from Ezekiel 18:32, he cried out, “Turn around from the way of sin!” I remember sitting on the last bench and crying. God had touched me and moved me to repentance. I received the Lord into my life that day. Then, on February 11, 1959, I was baptized in Brasov. As many other young men born into Christian families, my repentance was not something that happened quickly, but something slow and sure.
A few years after my repentance, God started to allow sufferings in my life. Because I was a Christian and would not involve myself in the politics of the Communist Party, I was often fired or forced to move from one job to another. I was persecuted, despised, and marginalized by the Communists. But God, who is faithful to all His promises, worked deep in my heart and life. I totally gave myself up for Him, and a life of holiness became the most important thing of all. Prayer also became essential for me, and I utilized every opportunity available to stand before God.
For me, the Lord’s call to the ministry was something quiet. First, I saw it only dimly. Then, it began to take shape and become specific. I had a great desire to teach others, and I was conscious of having the gift of teaching. It was this gift that led me even to teach engineering in secular schools. However, God took me out of the state educational system where I worked for four years (1959-1962), and He put me in another education system – His! He began to teach me what is biblical and spiritual.
From 1959 to 1982, I was a member of The Hope Church in Sibiu, but from 1982 until now, I have been a member of Bethany Baptist Church in Sibiu. From 1967 through 1973, I worked with the youth. But in October of 1974, the Lord’s calling on my life finally took shape. One Sunday, I went to the German Evangelical church in Sibiu to get some materials for the young people. While there, I attended a Sunday school class for children that was very well-organized. While I was listening to the way that the Word was being taught, God put it in my heart to become involved in children’s ministry. I came back to our church and told the pastor what I had seen. I also told him that I thought that it would be very good if our church also began such a ministry. He replied: “We will do anything for the Gospel!”
From that moment until today, I have worked with children and with the teachers of children. I extended the ministry to other churches across the country. The call in the ministry and the ministry itself are complementary: the call determines the ministry, and the ministry confirms the call.
I have now taught hundreds and hundreds of children and young people. Many of them received the Lord Jesus in their hearts, were baptized, and have become strong members in their churches. Many of them have married and raised children that are blessed by the Lord.
In 1990, after the Revolution, we founded the Baptist Sunday School Teachers Association of Romania. In the same year, we founded the College for Sunday School Teachers, which became part of the Baptist Theological Institute in Bucharest. Until now, about 600 students have graduated from this school for teachers. In addition to this, we also train teachers through conferences and camps in the larger cities of Romania.
In all that we have done, there were persecutions, especially before the revolution in 1989. On February 17, 1984, I was detained and searched at my work place by the political police. Then I was taken home in one of their old vans, and they turned my whole house upside down. They found more than 600 teaching materials and religious books. On each of the books, my wife and I were obliged to write: “Found on me, on the 17th of February 1984.” Then we were taken to the security headquarters to be investigated. Finally, at 6:00 PM, we were released. I was accused of illegally obtaining and disseminating Christian literature from outside the country. The sentence for this crime should have been two years and three months in prison, but they did not condemn me. The military attorney told us that he would not forward my case to the tribunal and that it would be closed. As it turned out, they revoked the decision to condemn me because the matter had been communicated to Germany through Radio Free Europe. The Romanian government did not want a “black spot” on their image, and they did not want to hurt their relations with the USA.
I have no criteria whereby to justify my call in the ministry except its fruit. It is very hard for me to write about all these things because I do not want to be seen as a man who has done some great thing. Personally, I have the conviction that I am an unrighteous servant who has not accomplished any work. It has been God’s grace working through me!