Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” This promise was real for Agape Christian Church in Ploiesti.
This church is part of the Brethren Movement in Europe, which appeared as a result of the nineteenth century spiritual revival in Great Britain and Switzerland.
The Beginning (1907-1945)
In 1907 a small group of young people in Ploiesti started to get together to study the Holy Scriptures. They believed in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Gheorghe Giuvelea dedicated his life to Jesus when he was 18 years old at the same time with Vasile Ionescu, Gheorghe Motoi, Nicolae Dragoi and others.
They used to meet in Mrs. Heltzer’s house, a German lady who was running a luxurious tailoring workshop in Lipscani Street in Ploiesti.
In 1912, Architect Johann Buhrer, member of Open Brethren Assemblies in Switzerland and skilful Bible teacher, settled down in Ploiesti and worked as an architect at Astra Romana Oil Company. He joined the group of Christians who had already been meeting weekly to study the Bible and worship God. He lived in Ploiesti up to his wife’s death, in 1949, when he had to go back to Switzerland.
Brother Gheorghe Giuvelea was a true pillar of the local church in Ploiesti. For many years he was one of the leaders of the Brethren Assemblies in Romania. Being owner of several factories and workshops in Ploiesti, he donated the land in Negru Voda Street and most of the money necessary to build a “House of Prayer”. Johann Buhrer designed it, as well as Gheorghe Giuvelea’s house nearby.
As the number of believers increased, the original building had to be extended in 1933, 1973 and in 1980.
In 1923, David Teoorescu, a devoted preacher of the Gospel came to Ploiesti. Seven years before, while in military service, he had dedicated his life to Jesus. After the war, he moved from Nedelea and lived in Ploiesti, in Negru Voda Street.
Ion Giurea, who had studied at the Bible School in Wiedenest ,Germany, was really helpful in the ministry in Ploiesti as well as serving the Christian churches around Ploiesti, providing them with consistent spiritual nourishment.
Alexandru Panaitescu, who had previously been an orthodox priest, also moved to Ploiesti and preached the Gospel.
Nicolae Tonoiu, distinguished intellectual, a graduate in Orthodox Theology at the University of Bucharest, was also an excellent preacher.
With God’s blessing, the number of believers in Agape Christian Church increased continuously, and thus, it became a mother church not only for this region but also for Romania, as it helped planting other brethren churches. As a dynamic church, it soon became a strong spiritual center, well-known in Romania and abroad.
This was a very difficult time in church history because the believers were continuously persecuted and discriminated.
First, Antonescu’s system prohibited public religious meetings. However, Christians continued to worship God in underground house gatherings.
Then, during the communism, baptism of new converts was forbidden.
For some members of the church, such as Cioata Silviu, Georgescu Constantin, Furnea Petre, Cioata Mircea and Toader Ioan, who were involved in Bible transportation and distribution, persecution culminated in prison.
Some of the church presbyters during this time were Victor Dumitrescu, also the Leader of Brethren Assemblies in Romania in the 80s, Pavel Ghiorghiu, who had been working as a teacher for many years and Silviu Cioata, a doctor who was also President of Brethren Assemblies between 1990 – 1997.
After December 1989, a large number of people repented and there was an important increase in number of the members of the church. The old church was now too small and believers started to build a new one in Miciurin Street in Ploiesti. It was opened in 1996 with a part of the members of the mother church who formed a new local church.
At the same time, the number of believers in the old church increased continuously and the building became too small again. The believers decided to extend it. The project started in April 2004 and with God’s help, it only took 18 months to be finished. During this time, church meetings were held at Toma Caragiu Theatre in the center of Ploiesti.
At the opening of the new building on the 6th of November 2005, the church was also given a name – “Agape Christian Church”.
The word ‘Agape’ comes from the Greek New Testament, where it appears over one hundred times and it means divine, unconditional, sacrificial love which expects no reward and is demonstrated through action.
This is God’s love who sacrificed Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinful people.
This is the kind of love that every Christian should have in his relationship with God, other believers and people in general.