Testimony of WON’s Founder, Achim Barbos
Achim was born and raised in Romania under Communist rule. He came from very humble beginnings growing up in a one bedroom farmhouse. His family never held the “insignia red card” in support of the communist party and suffered many hardships because of their opposition to the repressive regime. He learned first hand that people who did not follow the communist party were often denied things such as a higher education, the freedom to worship and move about at will. Achim attended standard school for 8 years and then two years of technical school to become a mechanic.
Achim attended the Romanian Orthodox Church during his younger years as most of the Romanians did. After his marriage he started attending the Pentecostal Church and made a profession of faith but had no real personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Under the communist rule there were many restrictions on true believers in every aspect of their lives including job availability and advancement and better military assignments. The duration of the worship services were censored and Christians were often fined and jailed for petty offenses. Achim had to do his time of service in the Romania Army where he was beaten and thrown into prison for six months because of his anti-communist views and because of his professed faith.
Achim and his wife had five children. Because he could see no future in communist Romania for his children, he secretly started making plans for he and his family to get to America. In 1981 he made plans to cross the Romanian and Yugoslavian borders on foot and head for Austria to earn enough money to send for his family. Walking through Yugoslavia he was arrested in the city of Maribor near the Austrian border and put in jail. After 12 days of incarceration one of the guards opened his cell door one night and told him to go. He could not go back to Romania because he would have been killed so he carried on with his plan and arrived in Austria some three weeks later with battered feet and physically sick. After two weeks of quarantine he was allowed to work in the immigration camp and was actually able to send money back to his family in Romania. After spending six month working in the immigration camp a church in California sponsored Achim and brought him to America. His dream had come true, however left behind were his wife and five children. After reaching California he learned that his wife and children were being constantly harassed by the secret police..He also learned he had been branded a traitor by the authorities. Meeting other Romanians in a similar plight there in California in 1982, Achim set off to Washington with these men to protest against the communist rule in Romania. He and his fellow countrymen went on a hunger strike for five days in front of the Romanian Embassy, the White House and Congress. They finally received assistance from California Senator Lantos and Congressman Donnie Myer. President Reagan sent a letter to the Romania government on their behalf and on behalf of human rights in their country. This event gained national news coverage.
After some time all of the families of his countrymen came to the US but his family did not. The Communist authorities had frightened and intimidated his wife into giving up their passports to America. Enraged by the government ploy to exact revenge on him through his family, Achim became a political activist against the Romanian government. He began speaking out weekly through the voice of Radio Free Europe against the appalling abuses of human rights in his country. This fight lasted from 1982 to 1989 when the revolution started and the president was executed by his own army in the streets of Bucharest on Christmas day.
After the revolution was over Achim went home to Romania to see his family. It had been 8 years since he had seen his children. One of his friends attempted to gather a group to welcome him back home and was killed because of this. Achim learned that the old couple who had sheltered him before crossing the Romania border had been interrogated and beaten to death. Achim’s freedom had not come without a cost. Three people had lost their lives in his flight to freedom because of the communist brutality. Within a few years Achim was able to get all his children to the United States where they were able to attend college and find good jobs. By that time Achim was a certified scuba diving instructor and had earned a private pilot’s license. He was a faithful member of Bible Baptist Church in Savannah and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and the Marine Rescue Squadron there.
Now we come to another tragedy and turning point in Achim’s life which God would eventually use to give him a vision of his life’s purpose. In January 1999 his beloved 25 year old son Iosif was killed in an industrial accident. Only three months later Achim went for an ill-fated flight above the city of Savannah with a friend. On return approach to the airfield while attempting a landing, his friend passed out and fell over the controls with a heart attack. Despite efforts to land the plane safely, Achim crashed into a clump of trees at the end of the runway and the airplane exploded and burst into flames. Trapped in the plane he realized the pilot door was jammed and melting in the fierce heat and also that his friend was blocking his exit through the passenger door. Achim knew his situation was beyond human control and that he was going to die. He also realized at this time that if he died he would go to hell. Although he had been attending church he really did not have a personal relationship with Christ. In agony of soul he cried out to God to give him one more chance in life, promising God that if he did he would devote his life to serving Him. The Lord worked a miracle that day. Achim some how found himself out of the burning plane down on his knees and elbows crawling free on the airfield but engulfed in fire. He suffered second and third degree burns over 47% of his body, and would later develop a severe lung infection. Here I will let Achim tell the rest of the story in his own words.
“Someone tackled me to the ground to put out the flames, and he suffered severe burns to his hands doing so. At this point my clothes had burned off me and only flesh was left. I was airlifted to the burn center in Augusta GA and hospitalized. The doctors felt my chances at survival were slim because in addition to the burns I had developed a severe lung infection. By the grace of God I did survive and was released from the hospital 35 days later. After I was released from the hospital, I was told by Christian and non- Christian folks alike that God had a purpose for my life and that was the reason he had saved me. I remembered the promise I had made to God so I started asking God to show me what that purpose was.
On a trip back to my native Romania, to look at some property given to me by my mother, I told my sister I would build me a “Bed & Breakfast” type hotel. I even gave her design instructions without knowing the purpose.
When I went into the city I saw orphans and abandoned children in the streets and train station begging for food. I learned that young girls were having babies and leaving them at the hospital for lack of being able to support them. The plight of the orphans and abandoned children in Romania was heartbreaking. I saw a 5 or 6 year old boy with severe scars from burns begging for food in the street. I knew what he had been through to stay alive. Because of his physical appearance he was shunned by others but he was still fighting for survival and hoping for a brighter future. I went to the city market and I saw many elderly people without proper shoes and clothing for the weather conditions. Many were sickly with little or no food. I saw no one smiling that day and there was a feeling or sense of no hope in the people as I looked around. That was the day God showed me the reason he had spared my life. I was to use my property and my prosperity from God, to build a distribution and or housing center for the orphans and the needy in the area of Romania where I had been raised. That was the day my life was changed forever. God also laid it on my heart to bring mission teams from the US to share the gospel of Christ to the orphans and the people of Romania. God gave me a vision of one day having a main building with small cabins across the mountain stream on the hill- side behind it to house those teams that would come to work with the orphans, the village and the gypsy children that lived in the area. There would be no hotel but a place where people could come to learn about Christ and the “Hope” that we can have in Him.”
I now use all of my resources to speak for the people of Romania who cannot speak for themselves or for those who fear to speak up because of the mentality instilled during the Communist days. With God’s help and the help of the people He chooses to help us fund this mission, I know that we can achieve this vision of providing relief and hope and most of all salvation to a people who desperately need it.
“For whatsoever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have Hope.” Romans 15:4