From August 30, 2013 to September 2, 2013, the annual Romanian Pentecostal Convention from North America was held at Happy Valley Romanian church (led by Pastor Cornel Avram) in Phoenix, Arizona. The last time the convention was hosted in Phoenix was in 2006. Overall, the convention has been running for a straight forty-five years. Each year the convention is assigned a certain topic, or tema, from which the pastors are to draw their sermons from. This year the topic was “descopera pasiunea slujirii” or in English “discovering your passion for serving”. Romanians from Romania, Canada and around the United States gathered in an approximate attendance of 3,500-4,000 for all three days of the convention. Credo TV, a relatively new Christian Romanian network, was in charge of filming, transmitting the service online (which is featured on their website at www.credo.tv) and reproducing the convention into DVDs.
The first, or Friday night, opened up with worship through a few old Romanian hymns. After performances by the men’s choir from Happy Valley and a few local church groups, Pastor Vasile Cinpean, from the church Philadelphia in Portland, Oregon took to the podium. His message was based off Moses the “Faithful Servant”. (Disclaimer: although I will try to stay true to the topics the pastor’s presented from here on out, I need to summarize their words which may lead to a softening of their message. In addition, their messages were mostly in Romanian, so the translation might not be exactly what they said but as close as I could get it.) A few important points from Pastor Cinpean’s message are:
--“We need to know God as Moses knew Him. Also, we have to have a burning passion to serve Him even when serving Him gets difficult.”
--“We need to know God’s people and go where His people are. In our case, we have to serve, teach and learn from or with fellow Christians.”
--“We need to know God’s plans and follow them. We are blessed people since we are children of God, so therefore we must influence the world and spread the Gospel.”
Taking the stand after Pastor Cinpean was Pastor Florin Cimpean from Philadelphia church in Chicago, Illinois. His message was the following:
--“We should feel passionate about serving God because his word is supreme. No other book compares to the Bible. It touches every topic ranging from poetry to morality and economics to prophecy.”
--“We should feel excited to read God’s word because of its sufficiency for building, healing, and saving people and souls.”
--“Only God’s word can change hearts.”
Saturday night opened up with some more Romanian worship hymns and led to a handful of English worships songs later in the service. Particularly adorable was the children’s choir, grupul “Licuricii”, from First Romanian Pentecostal Church in Seattle, Washington. The first message Saturday night was from Pastor Marian Condrat, who serves at the church Elim in Tacoma, Washington. Some pointers from his message, based on the example of Tabitha in the Bible, were:
--“God does big things with little people, and big things with what seems like nothing.”
--“Real servants [of Christ] find a way to do everything they can instead of trying to find excuses to why they won’t do something.”
--“A real servant says little but does more and knows to serve in a pure and loving heart. They have to serve people, not just blacks, or whites or Republicans…they serve all people because Christ served all people.”
After his message followed more worship, prayer and featured causes to gather money for. Then Pastor Leonard Semenea from First Romanian Pentecostal Church in Seattle, Washington took to the podium. His was the only English sermon, which was quite a relief for us teens, but just as the ones before him had a strong message, so was his. His used the example of Paul who wrote a good portion of the New Testament letters.
--“What does it mean to be separated for the gospel of God? First, we have to know we were created with God’s own hands and into His own image. Second, we have to know that we are all fallen people even after we are saved. Just because we are saved does not mean we won’t mess up, but that we have Christ there to get us back on track. Third, we must understand that we can be rescued beings. We have to give our ugliness to Christ.”
--“Once saved, we are transformed and we must live our lives differently from the world around us.”
--“We are eternal persons. We can either follow Christ’s footsteps and walk in His holiness, or we can chose to live the life we want and follow the devil.”
--“We must also know that Christ died for the sinners who repent to Him, not for all who live as they want and refuse Him and His mercy.”
Sunday morning opened up with worship by Bethel church from Stanton, CA. Pastor Lazar Gog from the church Emanuel in Anaheim, California shared the first message:
--“What is love? Love is Christ.”
--“What does it mean to love Christ? It means to walk with Him and His laws, to serve Him through our words, thoughts and actions, and it means to listen to how he disciplines and corrects you.”
--“We have to have the character of Christ when we serve with love.”
--“What does it mean to serve through love? Well, it does not mean manipulating, candy coating or preaching what is popular. It does mean preaching the truth and presenting Christ no matter how hard it is.”
After Lazar Gog, Pastor Nelu Moldovan from the church Speranta in Oradea, Romania, stepped up to deliver his message. It was centered on our Lord, Jesus Christ and about how faithful he was to the One who sent him.
--“Jesus preferred to do the things God sent him to do as opposed to what the society around him told him to do.”
--“Jesus’ life was preordained and premeditated by God from the very beginning.”
--“Christ served God faithfully through prayer, actions, thoughts, and words.”
--“We should look at the world through Christ’s eyes and pray and share the gospel in love so that we may follow His plans and live eternity with Him.”
Sunday night opened up with more hymns and prayer. Pastor Alin Bob from Emanuel church from Sacramento, California shared the first sermon. His message was based on Christ as well and how He was the supreme sacrifice and the best example of a servant.
--“Old Testament to New Testament parallels: Our temple today is heaven, where Christ is our High Priest. Our magnificent High Priest was also the final sacrifice whose blood covered all of our sins for all time.”
--“Jesus listened to God’s plans and followed every instruction He received from the Lord. He knew he came not to be served by others, but to serve others.”
--“Now, Christ has sent out the Holy Spirit who is our comforter. If we confess our sins He, Christ, will forgive us our trespasses, redeem us and empower us in our walk with Him. We should be glad in Christ who redeemed us and keep ourselves set apart for the High Priest.”
After Alin Bob and some more worship and service, Pastor Cristian Ionescu from the church Elim in Chicago, Illinois shared his closing message based on the Holy Spirit:
--“One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to correct us [and keep us on track in our walk with Christ].”
--“The Holy Spirit transforms us into the character of Christ day by day.”
--“Worldly things will pass, along with it our pride and arrogance that cannot keep up with God’s just laws, and Christ’s unshakable kingdom will reign for eternity.”
After the spirit filled convention was over, visitors from out of state churches and those from local churches gathered in the historic Saguaro Park. There, we met new people and caught up with old friends while enjoying the delicacies members from Happy Valley brought, ranging from fruits to deserts, and main entrées. The youth gathered to play a few sports in the fields while the grownups swapped notes from the convention or just plainly caught up with old friends.
Although all the messages were very nice and refreshing, one in particular stood out. Perhaps it is because I am an American Romanian who enjoyed an English sermon, or perhaps it was because I felt the topic was a core foundation to the theme of the convention. I hate to say which sermon was my favorite since all the sermons had truth and wonderful messages to them, so instead I will share which one I thought “built the stage” for all of the sermons. The message I am talking about was Leonard Semenea’s where he reminded us all that we were created in God’s image for a great plan. Once the convention was over and I compared the notes I took, I realized the importance of this message. I believe this message was the foundational message for the convention because it reminded us who we are and what a mighty God we serve. You can’t have passion if you don’t know who you serve, and you can’t be pumped up and excited about doing the opposite of what the world teaches if you don’t realize the same Lord who created you walks with you daily and makes you into his messenger on earth.
Philadelphia Romanian Church in Portland, Oregon will host next year’s convention around the same time as this year’s convention was. Although the following are just opinions, I could not help but share the “glows and grows” of this year’s convention. First, the organization of how the services would run and the safety precautions the church took in the parking lots was a real assurance. It kept traffic flowing, avoiding jams and possible accidents. The music was fantastic, and I have no doubt about that! All groups in and out of state did amazing jobs at leading us all in to worship. And the sermons were just as amazing. Every pastor seemed to have taken a good amount of time on meditating on what they would present and practicing it since no one stuttered. But if there are two things I could suggest for next year’s convention coordinators to consider, they would be: synchronize the sermons from base on up and maybe offer one less than half of the sermons to be in English. For example, I felt pastor Leanardo Semenea’s and Lazar Gog’s sermons were base messages, meaning they carried the basic information we needed before we dove into examples of servant hood from pastor Marian Condrat and the other topics touched. Although the messages flowed just fine, it would have felt easier, for me at least, to absorb all the sermons had they been synchronized. As for the English sermons, I understand that the convention is geared towards Romanians more and us American Romanians have to remember our roots, but a few more sermons in English and a handful of classic English hymns would be very much appreciated.
Overall, the 45th “Conventia Bisericilor Penticostale Romane din Statele Unite ale Americii si Canada” was very successful. Yes, we reminisced with old friends and met amazing new people, but the best part was the connection we got with our Beloved, Christ. Through anointed speakers and blessed musicians, I believe Christ made his home there with us and gleamed in adoration towards our open hearts that welcomed him. The passion from all who served at the convention really made the services a pleasure to attend. With an honest heart, I can say I cannot wait for next year’s convention! God bless you all.
By Alina Sopt