There were 3 main reasons to cancel the church mission trip to the former Communist Romania. My son was in the hospital with a lump on his neck and doctors trying to figure out if it was leukemia. One of the most severe snowstorms in decades was building in far eastern Europe. And, terrorists had detonated a bomb in the parking garage of the World Trade Center resulting in a warning from the State Department for Americans to not travel in Eastern European countries.
If seeing my little 3 year old son with an IV in his arm wasn’t enough stress, the Master Sergeant who had worked 20 years in weather forecasting for the Air Force was urging us to cancel our plans. He said the buildup of this snowstorm was looking to be the worst he had ever seen. Knowing we had plans to stay in Vienna, Austria overnight he assured us that we would be stuck there and not be able to continue the second half of our journey into Romania. I discussed the issues with my other two team members and we all felt that it was in God’s timing that we still make the trip.
One of the highlights of the trip was meeting a young minister named Cornell Yova. He was driving me to a church an hour or so away so I could preach. The snow storm had arrived and the roads were very treacherous and beginning to glaze over. Normally, I would have been quite nervous with clenched hands. However, Cornell began to share an amazing testimony with me and I felt like I was on Mount Sinai with Moses sharing his testimony.
As I recall, Cornell and his wife were serving at the Second Baptist Church in Oradea, Romania on the pastoral staff. Periodically, the Communist Securitate would apprehend them and pull them in for questioning. One of the times, he asked if he could go to the restroom and they allowed him to go alone. As he walked down the hall, he encountered a security guard that he had gone to high school with. The man asked him what he was doing and wanted to know in what room he was being interrogated. After Cornell told him, the man leaned into him and said “You must never allow yourself to be in that room again. It is the ‘Radiation Room’.”
Within weeks of that strange encounter, Cornell’s wife began to grow sick. She was diagnosed with leukemia. At a Christian gathering Cornell was introduced to two British doctors. They told him if he could get his wife to Britain they would be able to provide her state of the art medical treatment. The doctors went back and appealed to a member of parliament who in turn contacted the Queen of England. She in turn put pressure on the Romanian government through her embassy and before long Cornell and his wife received a letter from the Romanians telling them that if they would publicly renounce their Christianity they would be allowed to go to Europe.
Cornell said it took all of 1 minute for both of them to know they could not do as was being demanded.
Within the year, Cornell’s wife sunk into a coma. He sat by her bed on a near continuous basis praying and holding her hand. One day, he said she suddenly opened her eyes and they were as beautiful and clear as if she had never been sick. She looked distantly and said, “Cornell, I can see Jesus and he is standing in a field of flowers and motioning for me to come with Him.” He said she then closed her eyes and died. The flowers were so significant because she rarely was able to have flowers in Communist Romania but on the rare occasions he could get them for her, she was always thrilled.
Wow! Here I was as an American going to preach at a church with a man who had gone through so much for the sake of the gospel. I felt as if I should let him preach. And, to think I considered cancelling the trip due to inclement weather. When I returned to Germany, the weather Master Sergeant told me he had never seen a blizzard behave as this one had. He said it stopped in place for 24 hours as if a hand were holding it back. My son’s ailment turned out to be simply an infected lymph node. And, of course the attack on the World Trade Center was minor compared to what would happen there 8 years later.