[romanian]Probabil ca nu foarte multi din cei care se decid sa porneasca dinspre Arizona spre California cu expresul I-10 mai tin minte ca ultima localitate apartinand statului Marelui Canion, ce isi face aparitia dupa aproximativ nouazeci de minute de drum prin desert, este Quartzsite. Amplasata la 125 de mile de capitala Phoenix, la 129 de mile de asezarea turistica Palm Springs si la 20 de mile de Blythe, primul oras din California situat chiar pe granita cu Arizona, in Quartzsite locuiesc in jur de patru mii de suflete, printre care si un conational de-al nostru, pastorul John Todor.
Aflasem cu ceva timp in urma de John, dar nu reusisem inca sa il cunosc, pentru ca ne despartea o distanta de 120 de mile, cam doua ore de condus. Am tinut legatura prin e-mail si telefon pana la inceputul lui decembrie, cand revenind acasa dupa o saptamana petrecuta in California cu prilejul Zilei Recunostintei, cum drumul nostru spre Surprise trecea si prin Quartzsite, am stabilit o intalnire la biroul sau din incinta bisericii pe care o pastoreste. La sosire, am fost intampinati cu multa caldura de familia Todor, care ne-a aratat cladirea bisericii, un local destul de spatios si de impozant pentru un orasel cum este Quartzsite.
John Todor s-a nascut si a trait în România pâna la vârsta de 14 ani când va începe o noua viata dincolo de ocean. Bolnav de scolioza (curbura coloanei vertebrale), in conditiile in care medicii nu mai puteau face nimic pentru el in tara natala, adolescentul impreuna cu mama sa trec frontiera la sarbi pe 15 septembrie 1989. Vor ramane sase luni in lagar in Iugoslavia, ajungand in Statele Unite ale Americii pe 8 martie 1990. Dupa un an, familia se intregeste si celor doi li se alatura tatal si sora lui John. Vor locui din 1990 pana in 1996, in “Orasul Vanturilor”, Chicago, Illinois, de care John isi aminteste cu drag. La liceu avea multi colegi emigranti – romani, polonezi, indieni – si se intelegeau foarte bine, iar dupa ore, lucra la pizza delivery in Downtown Chicago, pentru ca mai tarziu, in colegiu, sa reuseasca sa prinda un post de noapte la “Chicago Tribune”. Au fost ani frumosi, afirma el, mai ales ca in Chicago exista o comunitate mare de romani si alti europeni…, de aceea se simtea uneori ca si cum s-ar fi aflat pe batranul continent.
Chicago s-a dovedit o experienta interesanta pentru Todor, venit dintr-o comuna cu doar doua mii de locuitori din Romania. Adolescentul s-a integrat repede si cu toate ca atunci cand a pus piciorul pe pamantul american nu stia deloc engleza, a invatat aceasta limba pe parcursul liceului. Nu i-a fost greu sa se adapteze la ritmul alert de viata al metropolei, probabil si pentru ca era la inceput de drum si avea credinta in Dumnezeu. Din 1996 pâna în prezent, cu o întrerupere de opt ani, când a revenit în România, John va locui în Phoenix, Arizona, unde l-au atras foarte mult clima, curatenia oraselor, linistea, dar si diferitele oportunitati pe care le ofera acest stat atat tinerilor, cat si celor mai in varsta.
2004 si aduce bucuria de a se casatori cu Mythyl Grace, sotie si mama ideala, dupa cum afirma chiar el, originara din Filipine, si amândoi sunt in prezent parintii unei fetite de un an, Elshana Grace Todor, care s-a obisnuit deja sa auda vorbindu-se în casa, rom?na filipineza si engleza. S-au cunoscut intr-un mod mai neobisnuit, intr-o zi din vara lui 2001, cand John, aflat la sala de computere de la Arizona State University pentru a scrie o lucrare, s-a simtit inspirat de Dumnezeu sa caute pe Internet tineri misionari cu care sa impartaseasca idei despre lucrarea in ogorul Evangheliei. Dupa o prima cautare, pe ecranul calculatorului au aparut mai multe organizatii, iar el a dat click la intamplare, pe una dintre ele si a descoperit o serie de profiluri, printre care si pe cel al viitoarei sale sotii, in momentul acela misionara in Singapore. John i-a scris un scurt e-mail, iar a doua zi a primit raspuns. Pe parcursul lunilor care au urmat, cei doi s-au imprietenit si s-au rugat unul pentru celalalt, asteptand sa vada ce plan avea Dumnezeu cu ei. Au tinut legatura prin e-mail, telefon, scrisori, iar pe 5 iunie 2004 au facut nunta la Bacolod City in Filipine. Despre Mythyl Grace, John spune ca este o persoana tematoare de Dumnezeu, o fiinta plina de dragoste si tandrete, la care l-au atras simplitatea si iubirea pentru Tatal Ceresc.
Pe românul John Todor, casatoria cu o femeie de alta nationalitate l-a facut sa devina mult mai interesat de cultura altor popoare, cu atat mai mult cu cat din toamna lui 2006, este pastorul unei biserici americane, “First Baptist Church” din Quartzsite, Arizona, unde slujeste cu devotament si consacrare. Daca pana atunci pastorise doar comunitati romanesti, ceea ce l-a atras cel mai mult aici a fost dragostea fata de Cuvantul lui Dumnezeu, fata de frati si fata de cei nemantuiti, pe care a descoperit-o la membrii si apartinatorii acestei biserici. ” First Baptist” face parte din Conservative Baptist Association, iar daca ar fi sa mentioneze cateva dintre schimbarile care au avut loc in comunitate de când a preluat-o, ar trebui amintite infiintarea unui departament pentru copii si difuzarea in fiecare duminica, de la ora doua PM, a predicilor la o statie locala de radio, oferind astfel posibilitatea zecilor de mii de persoane ( snowbirds ) aflate in Quartzsite pe perioada iernii, sa auda Cuvantul lui Dumnezeu pe calea undelor. Slujirea sa in acest loc implica atributii de Senior Pastor, cum ar fi predicare de trei ori pe saptamana, vizite pastorale, consiliere. El studiaza minimum cinci ore pe zi, iar in timpul liber ii place sa citeasca, sa cante la chitara si sa mearga la pescuit.
In opinia lui Todor, chemarea de pastor inseamna sa fii ales de Domnul si nu de oameni pentru aceasta lucrare, cu atat mai mult cu cat pastoratia este mai mult decat o profesie sau un job si oricine se angajeaza sa Il slujeasca pe Dumnezeu ar trebui sa fie constient de acest lucru. Nici el si nici sotia nu au avut vreodata indoieli cu privire la invitatia pe care le-a adresat-o Tatal Ceresc de a servi aici, asa ca de la inceput au trait cu convingerea ca fac voia Lui.
John Todor si-a inceput studiile teologice in 1998, la Institutul Teologic Baptist Bucuresti si a fost pasionat de omiletica. Dupa termiarea facultatii (in conditiile in care revenise in Romania pentru o anumita perioada), viziunea sa a fost sa ramana in tara si sa ajute lucrarea de acolo, iar cu doi ani inainte de a se intoarce in Statele Unite, Domnul i-a facut cunoscut ca vrea sa slujeasca in biserica americana. Cu toate ca iubeste enorm de mult poporul roman si bisericile romane, se simte implinit si binecuvantat pentru ca impreuna cu familia are harul de a oficia serviciile divine pentru fratii americani.
Todor spune din proprie experienta ca un pastor care lucreaza cu adevarat, ca pentru Domnul si nu ca pentru oameni, munceste mai mult de 40 de ore pe saptamana, pentru ca activitatea sa este practic, continua si nu poate fi incadrata intr-un anumit orar. In general, slujba de pastor nu este una usoara, asa ca perioada de inceput la “First Baptist”, i-a prilejuit bucuria de a constata ca totul era mult mai simplu decat s-ar fi asteptat, intrucat membrii comunitatii l-au incurajat si sustinut. In fiecare duminica, la sfarsitul zilei, el Ii este recunoscator Domnului si multumit in adancul sufletului, pentru ca samanta Evangheliei a fost semanata. Referindu-se la planurile de viitor, John declara ca isi doreste ca “First Baptist” sa ramana in continuare sub autoritatea lui Hristos, cultivand si pe mai departe modelul bisericii primare, prezentat in “Faptele Apostolilor” 2:42: “Ei staruiau in invatatura apostolilor, in legatura frateasca, in frangerea painii si in rugaciuni.”
Pentru el, Domnul Iisus este modelul perfect in slujire si in toate lucrurile, model pe care L-a urmat si atunci cand s-a convertit. John Todor a crescut intr-o familie de credinciosi baptisti, iar in 1991, intr-o duminica seara, la biserica din Chicago pastorita de fratele George Dancea, Duhul Sfant i-a facut cunoscut ca sosise momentul sa se predea lui Dumnezeu… La incheierea serviciului divin i-a marturisit pastorului hotararea sa si a fost botezat cateva saptamani mai tarziu, la First Romanian Baptist Church.
Una din experientele sale cu Dumnezeu s-a petrecut in copilarie, cand, desi urmase recomandarile medicilor de face gimnastica medicala, deoarece suferea de scolioza, acestia au hotarat ca pentru el nu mai exista nici o sansa de recuperare. Dupa spusele lor singura posibilitate era operatia, insa nu in Romania, ci in Statele Unite ale Americii, altfel ar fi ramas pitic si garbov pentru tot restul vietii. John s-a rugat si I-a promis lui Dumnezeu ca daca avea sa il ajute sa plece din tara si sa fie operat in America (ceea ce din punct de vedere legal, dar si ilegal era foarte greu in aceea vreme, cand regimul comunist detinea puterea), Il va sluji si va vorbi si altora despre puterea Lui. Dumezeu i-a inlesnit sa treaca frontiera impreuna cu mama sa si odata ajunsi pe pamantul fagaduintei, cei doi s-au rugat sa gaseasca un spital unde sa fie operat, in conditiile in care operatia costa cam 130.000 $, iar ei nu aveau nici bani, nici serviciu sau asigurare medicala. Dumnezeu i-a calauzit catre un spital din Chicago, sponsorizat de milionari din America, la care odata acceptat, nu plateai nimic. Cu toate ca pe lista de asteptare se aflau multi copii, John a fost primit destul de repede, interventia a reusit si el a inceput liceul, apoi a devenit student la psihologie la DePaul University din Chicago, noaptea lucrand pentru tipografia “Chicago Tribune”. Intre timp, s-a mutat cu familia in Arizona si s-a transferat la Arizona State University. Desi se considera un om realizat, simtea ca nu are pace, ca Dumnezeu ii pregatise o alta slujba, asa ca s-a rugat si a postit. Era in iarna anului 1996-1997. Dupa aproximativ o luna de rugaciune si post, a simtit cum un curent electric ii strabatea tot corpul, din cap pana in picioare si a izbucnit in plans. In acele momente, Domnul i-a reamintit de promisiunea pe care o facuse in copilarie, ca daca va ajunge in America si va fi operat, Il va sluji. Chemarea Lui, pe care a acceptat-o, a fost sa lase totul si sa Ii slujeasca, vestind Evanghelia. Siguranta ca El il va insoti pe acest drum o are si in prezent, de aceea John Todor se socoteste implinit si stie ca face voia Domnului suta la suta.
Cu toate ca nu a mai fost in Romania din iunie 2006, pastorul Todor se considera pe deplin roman, isi iubeste tara in care a crescut si a copilarit, poporul, limba si obiceiurile si tine legatura cu foarte multi romani din Arizona, cu membrii si pastorii Bisericii Baptiste din Phoenix. De asemenea, este foarte apropiat de comunitatea filipineza din California, zona Los Angeles.
Cititorilor nostri le doreste ca in noul an 2009 sa aiba parte de binecuvantarile lui Dumnezeu si sa isi aminteasca mereu ca Isus Hristos este: “CALEA, ADEVARUL SI VIATA“.[/romanian]
[english]How many of you who have traveled from Arizona towards California on Highway I-10 still remembers the last town you passed through prior to reaching the Californian border? – probably not many! Situated at about 125 miles from Phoenix, 129 miles from the tourist spot Palm Springs and about 20 miles away from Blythe (the first city from California), is a town called QUARTZSITE.
Quartzsite, a town with a year around population of about 4,000, swells to close to a million during the months of January and February. What Israel is to Christianity, Quartzsite, Arizona is to Snowbirds. Snowbirds are a large and growing group of people, who leave the northern states for the winter. They head south, with an average age over 50, when the joints begin to ache, and the wind turns cold, the Snowbird is making preparations to migrate.
Most Snowbirds are retired people who like to get away from near-artic winters and find a warm, cozy hide-a-way where the sun’s rays can keep the arthritis to a minimum and exercise in the great outdoors can keep the body in shape and the cholesterol from clogging the arteries.
One of the favorite spots for winter nesting is Quartzsite, Arizona. Retired people from all over the United States and Canada descend on this small desert town in flocks that you will never believe, looking for a place in the sun.
In this unique and interesting town, quiet in the summer months but full of life and traffic in the winter, lives the only Romanian in town – pastor John Todor along with his family.
Some time ago I heard exciting things about John, his family and his ministry, but since there was a distance of about 120 miles between his place and the place where I live (about two hours of driving), I was only able to meet him in person a few weeks ago.
I kept in touch with him by e-mail and phone until the beginning of December last year when I along with my family were passing through Quartzsite going home from California, and I made an appointment of meeting with him at his office at the First Baptist Church in Quartzsite, AZ.
The moment we arrived in the church?s parking lot we were warmly greeted by the Todor family. We had a great chat about the ministry and they showed us the church building and the wonderful projects that they are working on, we were touched by their faith and passion for the Lord.
Who is John Todor? If you would ask him he would tell you that he is a sinner saved by the grace of God, a simple servant of the Lord called to minister to God?s people in the desert of Arizona.
He was born and raised in Romania, while Romania was still under the communist regime. He lived there until the time he was 14 years old, when he moved in United States of America. As a child he was suffering of scoliosis (curvature of the back bone). After years of ?false hope? given by the Romanian doctors, one day they told him and his parents that they could no longer do anything for him in Romania. A short time after that, with faith in God?s unchanging promises, John and his mother passed the Romanian border to former Yugoslavia on September 15, 1989, three months before the communist regime fell in Romania.
For six months they lived in a refugee camp in former Yugoslavia, and on March 8, 1990 they arrived in United States of America. One year later, the family was reunited with John?s sister and father arriving in the States.
Chicago proved to be an interesting experience for Todor, who came here from a small town in Romania of just about two thousand people. However, according to him, it was not difficult to adjust in Chicago because he trusted God to lead him all the way.
From 1996 till the summer of 1998 John lived in Phoenix, Arizona. What he loves about Arizona the most is the nice climate, the cleanliness of the cities, and also the different opportunities that this state offers to the young and older people.
In 1998 John left Phoenix and went back to Romania where he lived until the summer of 2006. In the summer of 2004 he had the joy of marrying Mythyl Grace de los Reyes from the Philippines, who according to John is great wife and mother, and presently they are the proud parents of a baby girl who hears three languages being spoken in the house everyday: Romanian, Filipino and English.
John met his wife in a very unique and interesting way. One day, in the summer of 2001 while being in Phoenix for the summer, visiting his parents, he went to Arizona State University to do some research in their computer lab. After finishing his work he felt led by the Lord to search and make contact with different missionaries from different parts of the world in order to share with them ideas about the ministry. After the first search, many such sites came up the computer?s screen. He randomly clicked on one of these where his wife happened to be listed. At that time Mythyl was a missionary in Singapore. He sent her a short e-mail about him, his love for the Lord and the ministry that he was involved in, and the next day he received a short reply from her.
In the weeks and months to come the two of them became friends and prayer partners, patiently waiting to see what plans God would have for them. They continued to keep in touch through e-mails, telephone calls, letters, and after 2 years John went to the Philippines to see Mythyl and her family, and one year later, on June 5, 2004 they were married in Bacolod City, Philippines. What attracted him to his wife the most was the fact that she fears God, her simplicity, and her love for the Lord and people.
Being married to a woman of a different nationality, helped this Romanian young man to be more interested in and to love the culture of other people, this being so obvious, since John beginning with the fall of 2006 is the Senior Pastor of an American church, ?First Baptist Church of Quartzsite, AZ?, a congregation that he serves with love and devotion.
What attracted him the most to this church was the love of the church members for God, for the brethren and for the unsaved.
?First Baptist Church of Quartzsite? is part of the Conservative Baptist Association, and if he was to mention some of the changes that took place in this congregation since he came here he would mention the establishment of a Children?s Ministry, a recreation room for the teenagers from Quartzsite to come especially in the hot months of summer and have some fun playing games, and a Radio Ministry – every Sunday at 2PM his sermons being broadcasted on a local radio station so that the thousands of snowbirds from Quartzsite and around could listen to the word of God by tuning in to the Radio.
His job in this church implies fulfilling the duties of a Senior Pastor such as: preaching three times a week, pastoral visitations, counseling and many others. He studies at least five hours a day and spends his free time reading, playing guitar and going fishing.
When asked about the ?calling of being a pastor?, in John?s opinion, to have a call to pastor means first and foremost to be chosen and called by the Lord and not by the people for this ministry. He strongly believes that pasturing a church is more than a profession or a job and whoever considers about serving God must be aware of this.
He and his wife never doubted God?s calling to pastor in Quartzsite, Arizona, from the very beginning they had God?s assurance that they are in God?s will.
John Todor started his theological studies in 1998 at the Theological Baptist Institute in Bucharest, Romania and his favorite subject was homiletics.
After finishing his studies there (since God called him to be in Romania for a while), his vision was to stay in Romania for as long God wanted him there and to help the churches there. About two years before he moved back to United States, God impressed on his heart that upon their return here, he will serve in an American church. Even though he still loves very much the Romanian people and Romanian churches, he feels fulfilled and blessed for the privilege that the Lord had given him and his family to serve in this place. He is thankful to the Lord for the team of leaders as well as regular members that he can work with at the First Baptist Church, people who love him and his family, supports him, and faithfully serves the Lord making the First Baptist Church a better church and the town of Quartzsite a better town.
Mr.Todor says that based on his own experience as a pastor, a pastor that does his job the way it should be done, knowing that he is giving an account to the Lord first and foremost, works more than 40 hours a week, according to him a pastor?s work can not be fitted in and limited to a certain pre-arranged schedule.
At the end of each Sunday, Pastor John is thankful to the Lord and feels fulfilled in his heart for the fact that the ?seed? of the Gospel was sown.
Speaking of the future, Rev. Todor says that we wants the ?FIRST BAPTIST? to continue to remain under the authority of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, having as an example the early church – Acts 2:42 ?And they continued steadfastly in the apostles? doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.?
For him, Jesus is the perfect example that he wants to imitate as a Christian and as a pastor.
John Todor was raised in a family of Christian Baptists. In a Sunday night evening service in a Romanian church in Chicago pastured by Rev. George Dancea, while the word of God was being preached, the Holly Spirit convicted him and made him realize that that was the moment he needed to accept Jesus into his heart. At the end of the service that night he told the pastor about his decision, and a few weeks later he was baptized in the First Romanian Baptist Church.
One of his experiences with God took place when he was a child. One day the Romanian doctors told John?s family that they no longer can do anything for their son that the only hope for him would be to have a surgery outside of Romania, in United States of America; otherwise he will remain handicapped for the rest of his life. John still remembers how at that early age he prayed and promised God that if He will help him leave Romania and have the surgery in the States (something that at that time was very difficult both legally and illegally, since the communists were in power), then he will serve and tell others about God.
After days of prayer, God in His love answered their prayers by helping John and his mother pass the border from Romania to former Yugoslavia. Once they arrived on the American soil, John and his family asked God to perform another miracle, to find a hospital that will understand their unique situation, and help them, since they had no jobs yet, no medical insurance and no money to pay for hospital bills. They heard of a good children?s hospital in Chicago that helped children like John, however they were told by the hospital officials that there are quite a few children on the list waiting in line, and that it will take many long months till John?s turn will come for the surgery. John put his name on the list anyway and trusted God to somehow make a way for him to be accepted sooner. To everyone amazement, after only 3 months he was called by the hospital to report for the surgery.
In the hospital God really put this young man through the school of suffering, making him also realize that there are people in this world that are suffering more than he is and are at times in a bigger need than him. He learned there to look up to God more and to thank God for who he is and for what he has.
After a successful operation, John continued his education in Chicago by studying psychology at DePaul University while working at night for the ?Chicago Tribune Newspaper?. In 1996 he and his family moved to Arizona and he transferred to Arizona State University. Even though it appeared that John had everything going for himself, deep down in his heart he knew that he was not going to be fulfilled by making a career in psychology. He knew that God wanted him to do something else but did not know exactly what God was wanting from him, so he started praying and feasting and asking God to reveal to him what he should do. After about a month of praying and feasting, on February 20, 1997 while walking on the street towards a parking lot, God spoke to this young man.
He felt something like an electric shock going through his whole body from his head to his toes, and started crying. According to him, the tears were happy tears. In those moments, the Lord reminded John about the promise he made to Him when he was a child, that if he will get to the States and have the surgery, that he will tell others about God and serve Him. God?s calling, which John accepted was to leave everything behind and to start sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God assured him at that time that He will be with him and that he has nothing to fear, and right now, Pastor John testifies that God indeed has been and is with him and he feels blessed and fulfilled to be in the Lord?s will serving right now in Quartzsite in an American congregation.
He still loves and keeps in touch with many Romanian people and congregations. He misses his hometown Glimboca, a beautiful little place with wonderful people in Banat, Romania. He and his wife are also very close to the Filipino community from California, the Los Angeles area.
He wishes and prays that our readers will fully benefit from God?s many blessings this year and wants to remind us all that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that the real and eternal blessings are only found in Jesus.