Uncivil War

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

Instead, Zack Oprea worked for years in a factory, aware at all times of Securitate agents who lurked on and off the job: "You could not go to get a cup of coffee without someone watching you. Spies everywhere. Can't practice your religion. Can't say nothing about nothing."

He says he and three friends tried to escape Romania through Hungary in 1976. The "plan" was to somehow get his family to join him wherever he found refuge. But Hungarian authorities returned Oprea to Romania, where he was imprisoned for six months.

"My wife didn't know I was alive for weeks," he says. "No lights there. Freezing cold. Bad food. I thought I was gonna die. I got a little crazy. But I still believed in God."

New Elim pastor Petru Lascau says he has come to a "church in turmoil."
Dan Huff
New Elim pastor Petru Lascau says he has come to a "church in turmoil."
The Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church opened near 19th Avenue and Cactus in 1998.
Dan Huff
The Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church opened near 19th Avenue and Cactus in 1998.

Three years later, the Communists allowed Zack Oprea and his family to leave Romania. The Opreas were among the lucky ones. Life for most Romanians during the 1980s was exceptionally cruel. Already living in one of the poorest nations in Europe, residents routinely found themselves without heat, hot water and electricity.

During that time, the Ceausescu regime outlawed birth control, and mandated couples to produce five children, in hopes of boosting a shrinking work force. The Securitate was more potent than ever, using its web of impoverished citizens to spy for money on friends, neighbors, even family.

Romania's Pentecostals weren't allowed to practice their faith freely, if at all. Government agents infiltrated those churches that were allowed to operate, and made life unbearable for clerics who dared even to allude to Ceausescu's shortcomings.

"We would worship in back rooms, with the lights down low, after hours, and always be frightened of getting caught," recalls Jacob Cotan. "You're always thinking, 'Who is a spy? Who is my friend, but not my friend?'"

By the late 1980s, about 200 Romanian Pentecostals had migrated to the Valley. Almost all made a beeline to Ted Oprea and his network who knew the lay of the new land.

By now, they could call themselves a congregation.

The Romanian Pentecostals rented, then bought a building on North 23rd Avenue, south of Missouri. Ted Oprea continued to share pastoral duties, but he knew the budding church needed a full-time pastor to lead it into the future.

In 1992, the church hired Dorin Druhora to do just that.


Dorin Druhora would not discuss his past for this story, other than to stress, "You cannot believe anything that the people who hate me say about me."

Aspects of his background, however, are verifiable through public records and other sources. Born in November 1958 in the northwest Romanian city of Cluj, Druhora in the late 1980s attended the Pentecostal Theological Seminary in Bucharest.

He came to the U.S. in 1992 to study at evangelist Pat Robertson's Regent University in Virginia. When Ted Oprea learned from school officials that a Romanian Pentecostal was attending the Christian institution, he contacted Druhora.

"My wife and I decided to support him financially at school," Oprea recalls, "then to help him and his family establish residence in Phoenix. I thought he was the angel of light when he came here in 1993."

Even those who came to despise Druhora admit he's an excellent orator. His stirring sermons lured dozens of immigrating Romanians to the growing flock in the early and mid-1990s.

By then, church members had donated much of the money and labor needed to purchase land and to build a new church. In 1997, for example, records show that Druhora and the church board collected $675,000 in cash from parishioners for construction costs.

The new Elim church opened in 1998, and is an impressive structure, with a high-vaulted ceiling and lovely stained-glass windows. It comfortably seats about 700, and features state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment and other amenities.

The celebrations that marked the opening of Elim went on for weeks. But the excitement soon was dimmed by what had been the simmering concerns of many parishioners. Though no one can point to a galvanizing incident, some church leaders, including Ted Oprea, say they had begun to suspect that Druhora was stealing money from Elim.

The pastor denied wrongdoing as Oprea and others started to air their grievances. But the animosity was palpable by 1999.

"We found out that this guy is a Communist, 100 percent," Zack Oprea says. "The Devil brought this man to us. He did whatever he wanted with people and money."

Evidence of this, however, was inconclusive.

In mid-1999, Elim's governing board asked parishioner John Hactu, an accountant, to examine the church's ledgers. Hactu later said Druhora repeatedly refused to give him the records he needed to properly do his job. Still, his audit revealed that Elim's finances were, to be kind, a mess.

Thousands of dollars in "personal loans" to Druhora hadn't been repaid. And the pastor quietly had billed Elim for numerous personal items -- cell phones, furniture and the like.

Druhora's response was to damn the report as biased, and to disallow its presentation to the church as a whole.

Then, in an unexpected August 1999 maneuver that outraged many, Druhora disbanded the church board and installed his own supporters. The pliant new board later expelled John Hactu and others from Elim for conduct allegedly detrimental to the church.

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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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