In December 1976, we arrived in the United States. A Christian friend had rented a brand-new house for us in Anaheim, a suburb of Los Angeles. Aurica and the children stepped into their new American home. They looked wide-eyed at the four bedrooms, two baths, the living room and large kitchen. It was the kitchen appliances that took their breath away. The refridgerator was filled with food, and next to it gleamed a stove Aurica must have thought dropped from heaven. Furniture filled the house. We toured each room and continually broke out in praise and thanks to God.
But our schedule did not leave us much time for wandering awestruck about the lovely home and garden. God raised up a church, the Romanian Apostolic Church in Sante Fe Springs, which I pastored. Each year afterwards God led me to start another new church--so that days were taken up completely in church ministry.
Nights I spent working as an office cleaner. Our family was large, compared with most American households, but with God's help we were able to afford the payment of rent and a car, enjoying most of the usual conveniences of life in America. I found a job as a custodian at a large church and church-school, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Costa Mesa, California. I also took work as a field manager on a commercial farm outside Los Angeles. The time passed swiftly for us. Three more children were to be born to us, all full-fledged Americans! And our ministry in churches was blessed and extended, for I was asked to speak in many parts of the country and even on a nationwide, Christian television network.
But aside from the stresses of enemy attack and our great deliverance from Romania, Aurica and I and our family experienced the most serious crises of our lives in this "City of Angels," Los Angeles.
First, we had some mishaps with our "newest" American--our son Benjamin.
The worst incident with Benjamin occurred when the truck we used on the farm started moving accidentally and rolled over Benjamin, crushing his head nearly flat. Rushed by ambulance to Bakersfield Hospital, Benjamin experienced a miraculous healing. We will never forget the look of amazement on the face of the doctor who had seen the first X-rays. "Incredible!" he said to us several hours after admitting Benjamin. "That's just incredible! From the time we took the first X-rays three hours ago, his head has returned to normal! I really don't know what as happened. There doesn't even seem to be any brain damage."
In these and other incidents with Benjamin, we all saw God's power, care, mercy and healing evidenced dramatically. But shortly we would experience God's mercy in a completely different way. At the start of the same year, I was fasting and praying for direction from the Lord. I still had no conception of the great thing God was soon to accomplish in our midst. Aurica and I had received a word about God's plan to do something with our family. But just because God said that He was going to do something, that was no cause, as we saw it, to be alarmed.
In March the warning signs grew more disturbing. Elijah Jr. had two dreams. He was in a park filled with flowers and had played with angels. In the next dream he saw himself run over by a large bull. He was so upset about the bull that Aurica and I had to pray with him before he finally settled down and slept. A little boy's nightmares can be easily dismissed, but about that time our daughter, Lidia, came to us with a startling dream. She had seen Jesus standing in our garden. Jesus told her that He was going to pick one of our flowers, a rose rare and sweet. Although we could plainly see something was about to happen, we put the worst possibilities out of mind. Elijah Jr. was just too lively a boy for us to worry about his health.
A Romanian family was staying with us, sponsored by us for immigration, so there were seventeen children in the house who needed to be fed and clothed. To keep up with their appetites took a lot of food, so it was not surprising that Aurica and I were away at the store when God said to me: "Return home immediately!" Feeling a heavy sense of foreboding, I turned to Aurica and forgot all about preparations for dinner. "We need to go home at once," I told my wife. "I feel something has happened!"
It was about 5:00 PM when we rushed through the door to find the police waiting for us. They said that they had been trying to reach us by telephone. Little Elijah Jr., they said, was in the hospital. Weeping and praying, we rushed to the Emergency Room and learned he had been struck down by a car while crossing a street. He had permission to go to our neighborhood park with the older children. But the older ones wanted to go to another park further away, which meant crossing the very busy Beach Boulevard. All the children made it safely across to the second park, but when they were returning home a car ran over little Elijah.
The doctors would not let us see him. Aurica and I could not sit in the waiting room any longer without seeing our boy, so I quickly looked up a telephone number. I knew a doctor who was a surgeon, and I called him from the hosptial. He came right over to see if he could be of help I was called in to the operating room. But the sight of my son's blood and all the doctors and nurses huddled over that precious little form drove me out into the hall weeping.
Aurica and I prayed and wept, prayed and wept, until I said to her that I coud pray no more. It was in God's hands, I realized. Then I saw, distinctly, a circle of angels rising above us and above the hospital, lifting little Elijah Jr. toward heaven. Little by little, the circle of angels and our son ascended and finally disappeared. Having seen this, I was quiet before the Lord. Forty minutes later, our doctor-friend came out of the operating room. "He is gone," he said.
Aurica and I heard his words but we could not take them in. When we turned to go home, I argued with God all the way. Yet God pierced through the dark grief. "Why are you crying?" the Lord asked. "You are crying because I took My child home to Me? This was My plan. I have much more about this to show you later, and then you will understand."
After hearing the Lord's reproof, I realized it was fruitless to argue with Him. His ways are perfect, though we may not understand them right away.
In a short time we began to see that God had prepared a great blessing to come from the seeming tragedy of little Elijah Jr.'s death. It gradually unfolded like a gleaming pattern of silver threads out of the dark tapestry of our sorrow and loss. Several hundred people attended the funeral service. They were so touched by the message given on that day that at least twenty people re-dedicated their hearts and lives to the service of the Lord. Others received Jesus as Lord and Savior and were saved, born-again as new Christians!
We were not able to speak with the poor woman who had driven the car that struck down our little son. Police would not give out her address, fearing retaliation. Nevertheless, we prayed for her. Several years passed. I was at the airport talking with other passengers waiting for a flight in Dallas, Texas, when the conversation turned to the accident. I told the people around me how, in the various lives touched by God at the funeral service, good had come out of seeming evil. A woman listening to me responded with a story of her own. She began telling of her daughter-in-law, who lived in Garden Grove (next to Anaheim where we lived) and who had run over and killed a Romanian boy.
I listened with absolute amazement as she told how her daughter-in-law sat for weeks after the accident in numbness and despair at home, fearing another accident if she got behind the wheel again. Finally, one day as she was watching a Christian television program, she heard the Good News about forgiveness of sins and salvation in Jesus Christ. That was all she needed to set her free. It was then that she gave her heart to the Lord Jesus. When she told her family, all eight, including her mother-in-law telling me the story, believed in Jesus as their Lord.
Later, I told this to my family, and they too were overjoyed. The way it touched our hearts is indescribable, for we great missed little Elijah Jr.