Researcher visits descendants of Transylvanian Sabbatarians
The writer and his wife live in the Netherlands with two daughters and two sons. A 58-year-old cryogenics consultant, Mr. Rook has been a member of the Church of God since 1975. He visits Sabbatarian congregations scattered throughout Eastern Europe, exhorting the brethren to contend for the faith once delivered and encouraging them to write down their history as a witness for the faith. Mr. Rook is cotranslator of The Sabbatarians in Transylvania, published by the Christian Churches of God. For more information write Mr. Rook at email@example.com, or fax him at +31 527 203 534.
By Bonne Rook
MARKNESSE, Netherlands--After a long time of working hard for a living, I was recently blessed with 10 days that I could use for things that were on my list to be done.
I am heavily involved in research of the Sabbatarians of Transylvania, people of God who lived in what is now western Romania hundreds of years ago. I am actively involved in visiting them in Eastern European countries.
So I drove my car early Monday morning, Nov. 11 (according to the Gregorian calendar), to Lausanne, Switzerland, and to the Vaudois, the country where the Waldenses lived. Some of them are still there, having returned to their homeland in Piedmont over the mountains.
Lausanne is a beautiful city at the beach of the Lake of Geneva, not far from Geneva itself, where during the Protestant Reformation John Calvin had Michael Servetus burned at the stake because of his unitarian (belief in one God) faith.
In Lausanne I met with a man named Zlatko, from Croatia, who had asked to be baptized into the Body of Jesus Christ.
We went through the significance of the sacrifice of Christ and the real meaning of baptism and following in the footsteps of Christ, including that the consequences might be complete isolation, with everybody hating you and trying to kill you, and eventually that you might be added to the number of martyrs because of the faith living in you.
But Zlatko was serious, and he told me how he had come to the faith in a most remarkable way.
The next day would be the best opportunity for baptism. A swimming pool was not available, so only the most harsh and public means were at hand: baptism in the lake.
Remember that it was in the middle of December, and, although it had been a mild winter, the waters of the lake are filled by molten snow and ice from the mountains and glaciers.
Zlatko said simply: "What the Russians can do, I also can do. I am just as strong."
So we went to a favorable part of the beach where the waters were shallow. The water was cold indeed.
With the help of Sladjana, also from Croatia, I had the privilege of baptizing Zlatko into the living Body of Jesus Christ.
Sladjana was most impressed by the sudden change of color of Zlatko's skin when he was immersed in the cold water. He was as white as a lifeless body that is going into a grave. This was caused by the contraction of the veins under the skin by the sudden cold of the water.
However, it was also a burial of the old man Zlatko in the grave and the rise of the new man Zlatko into the Body of Christ.
After the baptism we kneeled and I laid hands on Zlatko and asked the great God to bestow on him the Holy Spirit, as promised.
We left the place, where a few passersby had witnessed the baptism, and we walked happily through fields of vineyards.
After our walk we drove over Vevey and Montreux to see the Castle Chillon. The castle has a lot to be studied because of the many coats of arms there. It is a place where one can see the signs of Freemasonry and the unicorn.
In the evening we had an excellent meal. Time passed quickly into the early hours of the next day.
It was with tears that we parted next morning. After a blessing and prayer I headed in my car to Singen, Germany, where I would meet Zoli and his family.
Zoli and Eastern Europe
The family of Zoli I have met a few times before. Through him I have come into contact with Sabbatarians from Eastern European countries including Romania and the Subbotniki from Ukraine, Russia, Tajikistan and Siberia.
I had been invited to come to these countries and visit the congregations there. I found it interesting that they did not want to have anything to do with Seventh-day Adventists or what they call "Ambassador," referring to Worldwide Church of God and its splits.
Most if not all of these congregations have stayed independent and autonomous over centuries of persecution until this day, and they want to keep it this way.
Meeting Mr. X
From Romania I met Mr. X, who has been imprisoned for years and who is writing his story: how he came to the faith and what he has done as a Sabbatarian.
As soon as he has finished his history I hope to have it translated into other languages so it can be a living witness and admonishment to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.
Zoli is a Hungarian by birth and has lived a few decades in Germany. He agreed to accompany me to Hungary as a guide and interpreter for my research.
A sister well versed in the Bible, Regina, also lives in Hungary. She is one of the pillars of faith whom you rarely find. She was visiting her daughter in Friedrichshaven in Germany. There we visited her to bring her home with her car.
In my car, a Volkswagen Variant, we had loaded an organ for her son, who is an SDA preacher in Hungary, and drove with two cars and had a blessed journey without any problem at customs or on the road. The weather conditions were excellent, and we made it the next Thursday to Balaton.
The next day Zoli and I traveled by train to Budapest, where we started our search for literature about Sabbatarians. We have been fortunate in this and found some interesting manuscripts. Zoli himself was amazed about what we have found.
We left Budapest with a wealth of references and secondhand books and ordered some more at an antique-book shop for further study. It will be a hectic job for Zoli to translate the most important parts into German.
Fewer and fewer Sabbatarians
The Sabbatarians still exist, both in Transylvania and Hungary. However, they are becoming fewer and fewer in number as the lure of material wealth sucks them away from the simple and straightforward faith, as we have seen happen so often here in the West.
As you might know, I have been involved in the digitizing of the German and translation into English of Rabbi Kohn's book The Sabbatarians in Transylvania, written in 1896. It has been for me an incentive to study further about these remarkable people.
Rabbi Kohn relied heavily on the so-called Old Sabbatarian Hymnal and New Sabbatarian Hymnal for descriptions of these people. Mr. Kohn tells us that the hymnals were copied by hand and never printed and that he had collected quite a few of them.
Is it not remarkable that these Sabbatarian congregations do not have printed hymnals even today? They still copy the hymns by hand, without any written music. The songs are jewels in text and the melodies beautiful and with a remarkably modern rhythm.
Zoli told me most of the songs and melodies were handed down from generation to generation. Zoli is musical himself; he can play almost all the songs by heart. He will be a big help in preserving these songs and melodies and making these available on CD for all the brethren, including the scattered brethren.
The stay with Regina was also a wonderful event. We spent many, many hours studying the Word of God and the history of the Sabbath-keeping people in Germany and Eastern Europe.
Regina is also a wonderful cook. She provided us with the best from her gardens and sent some delicious things home with us.
Snow in Austria
Zoli and I returned to Singen Monday afternoon and had a dreadful journey through a snowy Austria. We had hoped also to visit Neuhofen to have a look at Ostarricchi and the monuments of the 120 people exterminated over the ages because of religion and hate. However, the weather did not allow us to do that.
We arrived Tuesday morning in Singen and spent the day there evaluating the trip.
It was worthwhile and encouraging. We look forward to the next opportunity to dig deeper into this rewarding and encouraging effort.
The next Wednesday I drove home, arriving safe and exhausted. Nevertheless I have memories of a wonderful and blessed journey.
I want to thank all who have prayed that I would be blessed and spared on this endeavor. I thank the great and Almighty God, who has answered your prayers. May the great God also bestow on you the multitude of His blessings so that you might have a full and rewarding life, till He sends Jesus Christ back to the earth.
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