Church Planter - Bucharest, Romania
Ninel was raised in an atheistic context in Southeast Romania, and after years blatant rejection of Christ he was graciously brought to salvation in 2003. Immediately following his conversion Ninel became an active evangelist, and he now serves in Romania as a church planter. In addition to evangelism and preaching, he also devotes himself to translating sound literature into Romanian to provide for free online.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born in 1974 in Southeast Romania, in a family with very little religious interests. My parents were active members and leaders of the Communist Party at the local level, and thus they were forbidden from attending any public religious meetings. Along with my siblings (one brother and two sisters), I was raised with the atheist mindset. While under the roof of my parents, I never remember myself or any other member of the family praying or reading the Bible (we did not even have a Bible). My father was an alcoholic for most of his life and thus during my childhood, life was very difficult for all in the family. Oftentimes I had to sleep in the garden or in the barn, fearing that dad would beat or kill me. Strife and dirty speech were the rule.
Because of these family problems and abuse, I became an extreme introvert, had no friends, hated alcohol and scandals, and concentrated on myself and on how to survive and get out of the family as soon as possible, though on the outside I did not show any sign of rebellion. The occasion to leave came when I was turning 14 when I got admitted at a military high school in Breaza, Romania. Soon after admission to the high school, I realized I did not like military life, but I had no choice but to stay there for the rest of my high school years.
My introvert personality grew during the high school years, so my free time was spent mostly at the high school library, reading books of any kind, but particularly books against religion (mostly Christianity). Most of those books had Russian authors, as Romania was still under Communism by that time. In April 1992 (I was then 17), I spent some free time in the city on a Friday and noticed a poster announcing a seminar on UFO’s the next day. I found it strange for such a small city (5,000), and went to that conference. To my surprise, I found out it wasn’t much talk about UFO’s, but a Seventh Day Adventist seminar on prophecy and the like. I became frustrated, but at the close of the seminar, a group of young people in the SDA church who organized the event approached me to talk. I mocked them as much as I could, and used every argument I learned from the atheist books I read.
One young man approached me in the end, offered me a Bible, and challenged me to read it and then come to a debate based on Scripture, not on books. I was convinced that I had all the arguments to win, so I took the challenge, and started reading the New Testament. Upon comparing what I was reading in the Bible with the way the Russian atheist authors were quoting the Bible, God gave me grace to realize that all the atheist books were nonsense and misquoting the Bible. So, in my mind, that was the first time I realized that God exists, because I thought that investing time to write books to demolish the Bible and the Christian faith by using unfair tactics was indirectly proving that the Bible is true (otherwise nobody would need to misquote the Bible). I wanted then to know more of the God of the Bible. So I continued reading the Bible, primarily the New Testament. Day after day God showed me more and more that I was a sinful wretch, mostly by means of inner life, lusts, unholy desires, selfishness, etc.
Soon I started to attend an SDA assembly in a neighboring city (Campina), and wanted sincerely to know God and learn more about Jesus. Sadly, they were preaching more about Ellen White, the Sabbath, and keeping the Mosaic Law. But in my sincere desire to please God, I tried harder and harder to keep the Law and make myself fit for salvation. In His grace, the Lord showed me inconsistencies between what I was reading in the Scriptures and what was being taught from the pulpit and during private discussions with the Adventists. The turning point came at a time when an SDA family tried to force a marriage between me and their daughter, which was very suspicious to me, as I considered myself totally unqualified for the fellowship in the church, let alone to marry one of them. I soon found myself miserable trying to keep the Law, and started questioning the sincerity of the teachings and lives of the SDA’s in general, as I noticed that none of them had kept the Law as they taught. I remember often having huge difficulties reconciling the atoning death of Christ on my behalf with the SDA’s view on the same topic.
After about one year of deep struggles, I refused to continue attending any SDA assembly and so distanced myself from them. Sadly, I did not know of any other religious group other than the Eastern Orthodox and the Adventists, both of which I considered had departed from the Scripture, as I read it. So, in my mind I began to have rebellious thoughts against God, thinking He was guilty for guiding me in a wrong direction. As a result of this, I tried to run away from the Lord, tried to pretend that nothing had happened, as if I had never read the Bible.
And my running away from God took 10 years of my life. I am deeply grateful to the Lord that He treated me with long-suffering and did not take my life during those 10 years of rebelliously rejecting His call to repent and trust the Savior. Every day of those 10 years, I felt His calling upon me in the morning, but as soon as the thought of returning to Him came to my heart, I rejected it and went about my daily work. Upon returning home, when I was putting my head on the pillow, I was weeping and weeping for rejecting Him again, each and every day. Yet still I was stubborn and rebellious. I tried to silence this daily calling from the Lord by indulging in all sorts of sinful desires and passions, only to discover that bitterness and sorrow was the sure outcome.
In the late part of this period, when I got married, I thought my marriage would save me “from God.” But it didn’t – praise Him! I did not tell my wife, nor anyone else in my family, about my daily battle with God. When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I felt like the Lord was pushing me more and more into a corner. My inward struggles were now accompanied by tensions with my wife, due to lack of communication and care on my part. One day, during my morning fight with the calling from the Lord, I told Him that I was exhausted and could not fight with Him any longer. I decided to repent and submit my life to Him. I was afraid to tell my wife, as I did not know how she would react and I feared she would want us to get separated or even divorced. But I could not resist God, and upon returning from my workplace, I asked her to give me that night to confess everything, ask forgiveness for every wrong I did to her and let her know I am unable to live without God. So we had a wonderful night, we both confessed sins to each other and to the Lord. I was surprised that the Lord opened her heart to the Word.
Then we sought to attend a church. It was funny how the Lord used a Gospel radio broadcast which I called to ask a question on marriage, and because we really wanted the answer, we ended up meeting personally with the brother from the radio program, who then became our pastor. He graciously introduced us to the local family of faith and began teaching us the doctrines of grace in a systematic manner.
I still have fights, but now sin, the world, the flesh, and the evil one are the enemies, while the Lord is on my side, being my Savior, my Surety, my victory, my all in all.
Call to the Ministry
My call to ministry has been clarified over a long period of time, and by means of getting involved in a variety of ministries in the local church or under the local church, as well as by prayer, studying the Word of God, reading biographies and books on the call to ministry, and asking and getting advice from elders, pastors, family members, and other Christians.
Immediately after my conversion in 2003, I was mentored directly by my pastor, who encouraged me to pray and seek God’s leading on how to get involved in church life on a continual basis. At first, my wife and I served as ushers, welcoming newcomers who came to the church. At the same time, I was active in public outreach with the church, which was organized for about two years every Sunday afternoon. These two years (2003-2004) were when the Lord solidified my call to serve as evangelist in the local church, but upon advice from my pastor I agreed to postpone taking that role officially until I grew more in the knowledge of the Scripture. In the meantime I served as a deacon taking care of bookkeeping, but I continued to be involved in public evangelism, and from time to time during Wednesday church meetings for Bible study my pastor asked me to teach on some texts, particularly from 1 and 2 Samuel.
Although for me preaching was an exhilarating experience, something that I was more than excited to do, I felt that the responsibility was way too much for me, and felt totally unworthy for that office. I was not even dreaming that I would someday be called to preach. In spite of this, my pastor told me that I should seek the Lord’s guidance in this area, but he taught me to stay humble and let some years pass until grew more in His knowledge, to pray and invest time in reading good books and commentaries, and to learn how to study the Scripture and how to prepare and deliver a sermon.
With my first pastor leaving Romania for the United States in autumn 2004, and another pastor stepping in, the need for workers in the local church increased greatly, so I offered to serve in whatever way possible and acceptable from the elders’ point of view. Therefore, I continued to serve as a deacon until late 2006 and to serve in public evangelism. From time to time, I served also with short expositions during church worship time.
Starting in 2006, as I concentrated more on the public evangelism ministry of the local church, the Lord made clear to me the need for solid, biblical resources for pastors, teachers, and believers in Romania because it was very difficult to find books and other resources by Reformed authors. After some time of seeking God’s guidance in prayer and consulting with like-minded brothers, I decided to dedicate some of my free time to translate reformed resources into Romanian, and post them for free download in e-book format on a dedicated website (www.coresi.org). Basically, we started with the 1689 Second London Confession of Faith (1689 LBCF), which was the first reformed confession of faith ever to be made available to the Romanian Evangelical community, all the others being Arminian to various degrees.
In April 2008, I made the decision to leave my permanent job as a corporate business development manager in a multinational corporation and serve a pool of clients with engineering services as a freelance engineer. This decision was motivated by a strong desire to devote more time toward the translation and publishing ministry, and toward public evangelism. The Lord has blessed this area of ministry with much influence in Romania and Romanian communities abroad. Coresi Missionary Society has become the single major source of free reformed e-books and Gospel tracts in the Romanian language.
Authors that have been translated include Matthew Mead, John Flavel, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Vincent, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Baxter, A.W. Pink, Charles Leiter, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, James W. Alexander, Thomas Brooks, Joel Beeke, Erroll Hulse, Matthew Henry, J.C. Ryle, Thomas Boston, Albert Martin, Emilio Ramos, Jeremy Walker, Ichabod Spencer, and others. Since 2013 we have been blessed to have a partnership with Chapel Library, who has graciously granted us the rights to translate their books and booklets. By mid 2016, I translated and posted for free download over 110 books and booklets, about half of them being translated during the last three years in the context of diminishing demand for my engineering services on the market.
In 2011 my family and I were led to join a house gathering in a suburb of Bucharest. There I served by leading the Wednesday Bible studies for about three years and by preaching alternatively when the pastor was not available or at his request. During that time, I conducted an 18 month study of the 1689 LBCF, which the Lord used to produce much change in many of those who attended. I also preached expositionally through the whole Epistle to the Ephesians, and through the first 90 Psalms.
During this time, I started to seriously consider a call to full-time ministry, to look at the biblical qualifications for that, and to ask the Lord’s guidance in prayer. This call to ministry became clearer when one of the brothers in the house gathering (and a trusted elder), who was involved in a church plant project in Northwest Romania, asked me to consider moving to that area to lead the church plant, as he could not remain there permanently.
I visited the area, preached there, and started to pray. In August 2014, upon visiting that area again, I was invited to preach in a church located in a neighboring village, and after the service, one of their elders also asked me if I would consider moving there and pastoring their church. After about three weeks of prayer and seeking guidance from the Lord and from trusted brothers, I decided to let them know that I needed to continue learning more about the local church, but within me the call to ministry has remained as fresh as ever.
Now that we have moved to Bucharest, my vision is to help lead the church plant, where I would get involved with public evangelism and preaching. Also, I see a tremendous need for solid Christian literature in Romanian, and therefore my vision is to continue the existing (now 10 years old) translation and e-publishing ministry, providing Romanian readers with free sound, Calvinistic literature on a variety of topics.