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Go back to Phase Three: Our wedding takes on the U.S. Government and Bin Laden.
So, here I was, married to Lili and preparing to marry her sister, my second wife without a divorce. This was the stuff of the dreams of either Hugh Heffner or Joseph Smith. The second marriage was scheduled for June 8th in a baptisti church in Timisoara. The invitations were all sent out, the menu was in final preparations. Wednesday, we went to meet with Pastor Peter Bulica to discuss decorations.
I'll never forget that sunny day. The guard showed us in the church and we took pictures and discussed where we would put the flowers and the archway draped in white linen. It was a beautiful vision~~in our minds.
"Mr. Bulica will see you now." Awakened from our dreams, we went up a winding staircase in a square tower-like structure attached to the left side of the church building. On the second floor, we entered the office of the pastor. There we met with him and an assistant of his. We thought we were there to discuss the wedding we were planning there for the following Saturday. Strangely, the conversation diverted onto issues of religion, a topic always potentially dangerous with cult leaders and Repenters.
We had been financially supporting attendees of the church for years and had dealt with religion in our counseling prior to Petru Bulica's takeover. So, we had no reason to think that 15 minutes conversing with this man would pose any danger of finding or disclosing some deep, dark doctrinal disparity with the new guy in the frock. Through the conversation, we related that I had been baptized in water three times, with which they took no offense, but Aurellia had had the ceremony done once, by an Orthodox priest when she was young. This instantly hit a nerve with this young, idealistic pastor.
"Would you like to understand our position from Scripture?"
"That is fine. We Evangelicals don't consider this one of the essentials of faith. We can agree to disagree. Let us discuss the wedding."
After a long silence Petru Bulica said, "I'm sorry, but you can't get married here if she doesn't get rebaptized."
"What do you mean? We were appointed a counselor by your predecessor and he approved us. We have discussed it for months. If this doctrinal detail is so important, why didn't it get addressed months ago? I don't expect you to change your doctrine, but if the majority of Christians disagree with you, why can't you accept that they could be right?"
"You gave us your promise in a number of e-mails. Do you mean to say that in your church, doctrine is more important than integrity?"
"Sorry, but if she doesn't get rebaptized, she can't get married here."
Aurelia interjected, "So, if I get baptized between now and Saturday, you will host our wedding as promised?"
"Yes," replied Bulica.
I replied to her, "You don't have to do this. Somewhere, we will find a Christian church for our wedding. Get baptized again only if you think you should, not because they have deceived us. They have not been able to defend their beliefs or actions with a single Scriptural support. They are following the will of those who support them financially. The almighty dollar has out-trumped Bulica's word of honor. The decision to get baptized should be made under God's direction, not under coercion. If you think it is the right thing to do, do it. "
Although Mr. Bulica refused to honor his word, a kind assistant pastor made some phone calls and finally found a place that would allow two Christians from different professions to celebrate how God united them. Citizens of two countries formerly at war found a peaceful union. Reconciled were believers of two religions that can't reconcile their beliefs. An Evangelical and an Orthodox became an evangelizing orthodox couple. Seldom do you see a demonstration of God's grace, peace and love such as the celebration that occurred at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Timisoara, Romania on June 8, 2002. And it happened despite all the disorganization, doubts, prejudices, and greed of those that claim to be His followers. How often we humans fail to see the love of God because of the religious prejudice of self.
After the ceremony, there was little time to waste as we hopped on the train and headed to Chisinau via Bucharest. The reception between the first husband and second wife occurred in the third city and second country on June 15, 2002 in the Republican Palace in Chisinau, Moldova.
There was an abundance of food, drink, music, and merriment. A peculiar difference exists between American and European weddings. I think the European way of doing things makes a lot more sense. In America, the wedding couple (or their parents) spend way more than they can afford at a time when the can least afford it on a ceremony that will last a few hours, for which they will pay for years. In Europe, the hosts are just as generous, but the guests, most of which are better established financially, are much more generous, giving one or more month's salaries to get the new household started. So instead of an economically debilitating ceremony, it is a financially boosting one. Something else hit both Aurelia and me. The Moldovans that most missionaries would consider "lost" showed us an abundance of love that far outdid the generosity of the "found". That was another occasion that I was embarrassed by the spirituality of my fellow Evangelicals. Of course, the higher level of disorganization, lying, cheating, and stealing we had witnessed far outdid miserliness in showing us that these people had no characteristics that would justify their sense of spiritual maturity. This conviction and my denomination's abandonment of the straight and narrow served as a foundation for our abandoning the religious portion of our work and focusing on developing the mind, body, and character. But that's another story.
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