Uncivil War

Romanian immigrants are having a hard time finding refuge in their own house of God

Last spring, the Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church in west Phoenix seemed ready to implode.

Families and friends -- most of whom had fled the oppressive Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu in the 1980s for a new life in the States -- had become blood enemies. Elim's controversial pastor, Dorin Druhora, had taken to routinely calling police, once after parishioners physically tried to keep him from entering church to lead a Sunday-night service.

Tucked away in a middle-class residential neighborhood near 19th Avenue and Cactus, Elim (the word comes from the Old Testament, and means "oasis") had turned into a place where many worshipers had become as adept at citing Arizona law as the Golden Rule.

Paolo Vescia
Emanuel Farkas with his wife, Margareta, and daughter Eva at their Glendale home.
RMS Titanic , Inc.
Emanuel Farkas with his wife, Margareta, and daughter Eva at their Glendale home.

The roots of this conflict ran deep, indeed, back to Romania and the onerous world from which many of the church's parishioners had escaped.

Last year, for example, Pastor Druhora's naysayers at Elim publicly accused him of having spied against fellow Christians in the late 1980s for Romania's notorious secret police. Druhora denied the allegations, which were front-page news in Romania for a time. His detractors also accused Druhora of laundering church monies, with which he allegedly increased his Romanian property holdings.

Druhora left Phoenix in June, and moved to a church in Missouri. But his departure did little to ease the ill will between the bitter factions. Within months after he quit, a few hundred of Elim's 700 or so members started a new church, named Maranatha -- which translates into "Jesus Is Coming Soon." For now, the splinter group is worshiping at a junior high auditorium/gymnasium in west Phoenix.

In some cases, members of the same family have gone their separate ways, an almost unfathomable turn of events in a community where "church" means much more than a building where one prays.

"Church for us is not just church," explains Jacob Cotan, a Scottsdale apartment complex manager who also is an ordained minister. "It's a social, cultural and spiritual environment -- everything in one package. This country gave us a chance in life to be free. But Romanians are very stubborn, and we don't operate sometimes unless things are difficult."

Cotan is correct in that the strife at Elim does parallel that of Romania itself. Located in southeast Europe, the nation embraces family, religion, the arts and hard work. But unrelenting suspicion of each other and of authority -- much of it fomented during Ceausescu's evil reign -- still dominates the average Romanian mindset, as it does at Elim.

"We were living the lie in Romania for 40 years," says Elim's Emanuel Farkas, referring to the length of the Communist regime, which collapsed in 1989. "I think what has happened in our church goes back to history -- where those in power do anything to keep that power, including lie, cheat and steal."

Add to that what expatriate scribe Andrei Codrescu once wrote -- that Romanians are raised in a land where embellishment, fantasy and fact often blur -- and you have the ingredients for what's happened at Elim. And accusations, rumors and innuendo still rule the day at the church, even with Pastor Druhora's departure.

"The Romanian people are good people," says former Elim church secretary Leo Isfan, who now attends the new church. "But we've got it in our blood to disagree on things. I have been a witness to the whole unhealthy circumstance at Elim. One day, God will grab us by our ears and discuss with us what we said and what we did."


About 85 percent of Romania's 23 million people are members of the Orthodox Church. About 500,000 Romanian citizens count themselves as Pentecostals.

Pentecostals say that, after the "Rapture" and the "Millennial Reign of Christ," God will judge the living and the dead. Some will be rewarded with eternal life, while others will face eternal punishment.

Pentecostals also believe that God divinely calls their minister to the fold, a most ringing endorsement. But Ted Oprea says he had no intention of being a full-time pastor when he started preaching to fellow Romanian immigrants after migrating to Phoenix in 1979.

"No one else wanted to do it," says Oprea, a tough guy originally from western Romania, who now buys and restores apartment complexes.

Oprea was born a Baptist, but decided as a young man to become a Pentecostal. He left Romania in 1979, when he was in his mid-20s: "I didn't have nothing but my family and the Bible. But we don't scare easy. We escaped from the Communists, you know."

In Phoenix, Oprea worked long hours on construction jobs to support his family, and build his savings account. He also opened his doors and pocketbook to other Romanian newcomers, and preached the Gospel out of his West Valley home.

Oprea's brother, Zack, joined him in Phoenix in 1980. Zack, too, came here with little, but was thrilled to be in the States, he says, "a free man, with a free family, just free."

Zack Oprea had served in the Romanian Army as a teen, and says the Communists targeted him as a potential future member.

"I was a good boy," he says sarcastically, "and I had opportunities to go all the way to the top. But the Communists were big liars, saying all the time we were equals, when they had their own everything -- stores, restaurants, money. I said no to all that."

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6 comments
NihilSineDeo
NihilSineDeo

Its so sad that this story still lingers on the internet. I would be curious to see what all those people quoted in the article would say today about what happened that year. What would the Opreas say or the Farcas say? What about Cotan? What would you all say today about what happend? It might not mean a lot to most of you but it's sad that because of this article, people who don't know the facts, random people who were not part of what happened, will never know the truth about Elim and brother Druhora yet each time they will do a google search on "Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church" one of the first things that pops up is this "Uncivil War" article that is filled with lies. So much of the information in here is twisted and 

I was there when all these things happened and SO many people that were there know the truth and can testify to it and its too bad that they don't. It's sad that so many members sat silent in fear of a small group of people. What a shame! I no longer want to sit silent and im sorry that I did for such a long time.

I remember pastor Druhora when people would accuse him or say bad things to him, he would just say 'God is my justice" and surly we can all see that God was his justice. Even if his name is stained by this twisted and biased ariticle, written by someone got got paid well to write this, his character is not stained. 

Please ask yourself and do some reasearch - where are all the trouble makers? what are they saying today? what are they doing, where are they? As for Elim, it's sad that they did with pastor Lascau what they did to Druhora (except Lascau was gutty enough to tell them all off carelessly and Lascau did not get beat up at church as it happened to Druhora). 

I do not want my hands to be smeared with innocent blood so i testify today that the majority of this article is filled with lies. One day, we will all see the truth (if we haven't yet).


Luminita_simi09
Luminita_simi09

I can testify that Druhora is not the one that called the police (there are documents for all those who are really interested...not just empty words or guesses). Second of all, what the so called "Mr. Pop" declares, is a lie. It has been established in the court of law in Romania that all Mr. Pop said was a lie. I would be very careful to make such unlawful allegations (for which he almost went to jail if it wasn't for Mr. Druhora pleading with the judge). It's a HUGE thing to accuse someone of such things and I'm struck by the fact that Phoenix New Times keeps this article up. In a way I'm not surprised because many people today don't check their facts before posting something. Please people, check before you make statements that can stain someone's name for a long time...or more than that, that can harm the Church!!!

Luminita_simi09
Luminita_simi09

I agree with Noprea and the other two below as well. So much of what is written in this article is untrue!!! But there will be a judgment day one day and all the truth will be revealed. I was there and saw what happened to Druhora and it's quite a different story than what is written in this article. I wonder how much Paul Rubin got paid to write this or where exactly he received this information.

Noprea
Noprea

Unde sunt cei care au luptat impotriva lui Druhora ; Basa, Gimon, Tavi, Cotan, Ciurdar,Goman, Olariu, etc.??????????????????????. -Sa ma fereasca D-zeu sa ma ating dwuasul D-lui. About YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Paul
Paul

As I do not know the details of the allegation against Dorin, nor do I have the capacity to investigate them, I can not add any meaningful support or defense against or for the allegations.

However, what I will say is that I have had long talks with Dorin and gotten to know his family personally in the past. I have found him to be an outstanding person with character, sound mind, balance and wisdom. He is able to understand both the Romanian culture and the American culture. If he has intentionally done harm, it would be the greatest surprise of my life. We all do make mistakes, and I'm sure he has as well, but I would be extremely hard pressed to believe that he had done intentional personal, physical, political or financial harm to anyone.

I hope that all the churches and members are doing well.

mircea volosen
mircea volosen

Druhora Dorin was a clasmate in high school .He came from a well educated family .His father was a scool superintendent .I took Dorin to a penticostal church in Timisoara and God changed his life forever . He was persecuted by the school , secret police, communist party and his family. He was expeled from the school because he became a christian . His name was all over the romanian newspaper and given as an example of somebody who lost his mind becaming a penticostal . It is so sad to see all this lies . Dorin is my hero . 6825570686

 
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