Monday, April 07, 2014

Home at last

Viorel Cebotari was born in a village in Moldova. When he was two, his father committed suicide, leaving his mother to bring him up alone. She had trouble. As a teenager, Viorel was constantly in bother with the police, and frequently in and out of prison for drinking, stealing and fighting.

He married four times - and each time his wife left him. At 25, he attempted suicide by drinking poison. He was taken to hospital, and recovered.

He never thought about God until he found himself in prison after seriously injuring a man in a bar-room brawl. His cellmate, seeming to believe there might be a God, asked him questions. Viorel's mother was a teacher, and there were always books around at home, but they all said there was no God, and that we all evolved from monkeys.

Sick of living, Viorel did a deal with the God he didn't know. "If you really exist," he said, "get me out of this prison and I'll serve you."

He got out of the prison, but went back to his old ways. God reminded him of his promise, but he thought he would have to live in a monastery, and he didn't know where there were any monasteries. 

He would have to get his hands on a Bible, he thought. "I really thought it would be written in there which monastery I should go to and where I would find it."

He found a Bible and started to read. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." It felt like an electric current flowing through his body. Immediately, he knew this book was like no other book.

He read on. He found a woman taken in adultery. Jesus forgave her. He found a woman who had had five husbands. Jesus accepted her. He saw the thief on the cross. His own relatives didn't want anything to do with him, but Jesus accepted them. For the first time in ages he felt hope.

He took the Bible with him everywhere he went, and would read it even when he was drunk. He realised now that what he was doing was wrong, but he couldn't stop. "How is it possible to know all this and be unable to live it?" he said.

Finally, he broke down and wept. When he stopped trying to be good in his own strength, God met him.

He looked for a church in his own village, and found four old ladies meeting in a private home. They didn't know how to talk to him, but they accepted him.

They gave out food parcels, firewood and school supplies. They started a day centre for vulnerable children. The villagers had a prejudice against evangelical believers, and they knew Viorel's record.

The grandmother and the mother of two children in the day centre were converted. Some of the parents, most of them alcoholics, now come regularly to church.

After watching him carefully, they have decided that Viorel and his friends are not a sect who want to steal and sell their children, but are truly people of God.

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