Romania Bucharest Mission Celebrates 20th Anniversary
By Kim Woodbury, Church News contributor
Twenty years is a short period in the long history of the country of Romania, but for Romanian Latter-day Saints, two decades is enough time to completely change their lives. On July 12, some of those members joined about 300 returned missionaries in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Romania Bucharest Mission. A similar gathering occurred on July 13 in Romania.
The Romania Bucharest Mission was formed in July 1993 with John R. Morrey as the first mission president. Prior to that time, Romania was part of the Vienna East and Hungary Budapest Missions. In 1997 the mission boundaries expanded to include the country of Moldova and in 2012 the name of the mission was changed to the Romania Moldova Mission.
All but one of the mission presidents who have presided over Romania attended the anniversary devotional. President Morrey shared some miraculous events from the early days of the Church there, including the last-minute arrival of visas for the first group of Romanian Latter-day Saints traveling to the temple in Freiberg, Germany.
Former mission president Elder Robert F. Orton, an emeritus member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, recalled that from 1996 to 1999, 11 new cities and the country of Moldova were opened to missionary work. “Miracle after miracle occurred and it was obvious that the Lord was in charge,” he said.
There are currently 3,000 members and three districts of the Church in Romania, said President J. Scott Lundberg, who served from 2008 to 2011.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recorded a special video message for the anniversary event. Elder Nelson recalled dedicating Romania for the preaching of the gospel in February 1990 and testified of the hand of the Lord in opening the doors of that country to the missionaries.
“The history of the Church in Romania and Moldova is still being written,” Elder Nelson said. “Missionaries have brought the light of the Lord to the people, particularly those who suffered the ravages of communism and the wicked reign of a ruthless dictator. These converts have been so very faithful in embracing the gospel.”
Chris Jessop, one of the first four proselyting missionaries in Romania, recalled arriving in Bucharest in December 1990, less than one year after the revolution that overthrew communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Former missionaries to the Romania Bucharest Mission and members celebrate the 20th anniversary at a devotional in the Assembly Hall. Photo by McKennah Cannon.
“Romania seemed dark, cold and gray. Bullet holes still riddled many of the buildings in downtown Bucharest. However, we quickly learned that behind the pre-fabricated concrete lived people who were warm, loving and humble who were ready to be taught the gospel.” Brother Jessop said.
One such person was Madalina Icleanu Sanders. Sister Sanders told how a business associate of her mother’s gave her an English copy of the Book of Mormon in 1974, a brave thing to do during the dark days of communism. When the first missionaries arrived at the Icleanu home in 1992, they were surprised to find that same copy of the Book of Mormon on the bookshelf. The entire family joined the Church a month later.
Sister Sanders thanked the returned missionaries in the audience and others who sacrificed to establish the Church in Romania.
“You young men and young women were truly brave to come to Romania and thus transform our lives bit by bit,” she said.
On July 13, Church members and missionaries in Romania gathered for a similar anniversary celebration, which was broadcast to congregations around the country. Ned C. Hill, the current mission president, commended the members for their faith and commitment.
“You are pioneers in an amazing way,” President Hill said. “My ancestors came across the plains in handcarts and yet many of you may have done more difficult things to join the Church and be faithful in the Church here in Romania, and I salute you for all you have done.”
Vasile Doru, the president of the Romania Bucharest District, shared the biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands and said, “Through the dedication of the Romanian land, this stone, this kingdom came in 1990 to the land of our ancestors, our Romanian land, which is sacred and holy to us.”
President Doru also encouraged the Romanian Latter-day Saints to “to remain in our country and to bless His kingdom, His nation, our nation through acts of light.”