Romanian Student Escapes Oppression to Pursue Ministry

Feb. 7, 1996

WACO, Texas - Americans often take freedom for granted, but for one Romanian, now a student at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University, freedom is cherished and appreciated.

David Bucur, a first-year seminarian at Truett, swam the Danube river into Yugoslavia to escape the oppression of his former communist homeland of Romania. Since leaving Romania, Bucur said his concept of freedom has expanded and he is enjoying the greatest freedom of his life at Truett Seminary.

"I am actually experiencing the peak of my concept of freedom at Truett, which is freedom of the mind," Bucur said. "What I like about Truett is that you are not just taught by the teacher. You get to discuss your ideas. Our teachers encourage us to find ourselves and be confident with ourselves." Dr. Brad Creed, dean of the seminary, said Bucur's struggles in Romania are what make his education at Truett so meaningful to him.

"A university is pledged to academic freedom, which parallels Daniel's pilgrimage," Creed said. "The freedom he pursues intellectually is enhanced because of the freedom he has experienced politically and spiritually."

Police interrogation and forced political allegiance were a way of life for Romanians, said Bucur. Already outspoken and rebellious toward the oppressive government, pressure on Bucur's life increased when his older brother escaped the country, which resulted in Bucur's decision to leave as well.

"The police assumed that I helped him," Bucur said. "I had security officers following me. My friends were questioned by the secret police.

"Teachers had instructions to keep me under observation. I could not get a job. I think people were afraid to hire me."

Bucur and several friends crossed into Yugoslavia, only to be caught by police and thrown in prison. He was placed in a 10-bed cell with 40 occupants, which was so cramped he slept on his knees. A Romanian Bible was in the Yugoslavian prison cell, which he read for the first time.

"It (the Bible) made sense so I asked one of my friends in the cell with me if he believed in God," Bucur said. "He said he did believe in God. My friend also asked me to pray, 'Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us.' We prayed that prayer every night, every hour, every minute, every second."

Reflecting on those events, Bucur said God must have heard his prayers as he was released from the prison and accepted as a Yugoslavian political refugee. Though he was not a believer in Christ at the time, Bucur said the power of God had significantly changed his life by the time he got out of prison.

"At that time I realized that freedom was not what I had understood before," he said. "Freedom is the opportunity to enjoy nature, have a friend, to be healthy."

Bucur's pilgrimage led him to Germany where he found a church and he continued to learn about Jesus Christ. His conversion to Christianity came around Christmas in 1990 after a dramatic encounter with Jesus.

"I felt the greatest release that I have ever felt in my entire life," he said. "My heart was strangely warm. I felt the presence of someone who really cares for me and my troubles felt far away."

Bucur's older brother had gone to America and helped Bucur secure means to come to the United States. Before going, however, Bucur's pastor challenged him to ask God what his purpose would be in the United States. Bucur said the Lord asked him to serve in the ministry. Overwhelmed by this request, Bucur said he resisted the call for several months before consenting

"I said (to God) 'You have got to be kidding me. I do not even speak the language. I do not have money,'" he said. "I dealt with it for a couple of months and then I said I would do it. But I told the Lord He would have to help me ."

A member of his church in Germany supported him through the first two years of school at Campbell University in North Carolina. Bucur credited the Lord with overcoming his academic challenges associated with his limitations in using the English language. By mid-term he had performed poorly and considered going home.

"This was a turning point in my life," Bucur said. "I asked myself where home was. I did not have one so I decided to look to the future. I prayed and studied very hard." Bucur finished the semester on the dean's list. He graduated in three years with a 3.1 grade point average, made the dean's list a second time and earned a scholarship to Truett Seminary. Bucur's willingness to build relationships in his new surroundings was one of the reasons for his success, said Dr. Michael Cogdill, dean of the divinity school at Campbell.

"He had quite an adjustment to make, but he had good relationships with his teacher, peers and church," Cogdill said. "One thing that stood out about Daniel was that he quickly identified with international students and he mentored and discipled them in their faith."

At Truett Seminary, Bucur also is having an impact on the lives of others as well as having his own life influenced, said Creed.

"Because of his background, he has a perspective that the other students do not have," Creed said. "He experienced tyranny and oppression first hand. "

Bucur said he is not certain where his future as a minister will take him, but he said his mind is made up to be faithful to his commitment to the Lord.

"Whatever He asks me to do, I will do it," Bucur said.

For more information contact Stacy Houser, director of student life at Truett or Creed at 755-3755 or 1-800-BAYLORU, option 5.

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