Transylvania would not seem to be the likeliest place to search for heroes, much less for Baptist heroes, but two outstanding servants of Christ sprang from that region nevertheless, born 90 years and 75 kilometers distant from each other. Their names were Mihály Kornya and Liviu Olah. I have already devoted a series of posts to the life of Kornya. This post begins a series on Liviu Olah.
A further link between the two is the fact that the scene of Olah’s most fruitful ministry, the Second Baptist Church in Oradea, Romania, began with twelve of Kornya’s converts in 1906. Kornya was a Hungarian who also loved and preached to Romanians. Olah was a Romanian who also loved and preached to Hungarians. Given the ethnic enmity between Romanians and Hungarians, both thus manifested the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. These two heroes deserve much wider recognition in the West than they have received.
Our second hero, Liviu Olah, was born in Oradea, Romania, on May 30, 1934, the second son of Dumitru and Veronica Olah. According to his testimony, at age 13, he knelt in his room and asked Christ to save him.
Before proceeding with a recounting of his life, we must remind ourselves that the Romania in which he ministered was a police state. One in ten adults was a police informer, including a large number of pastors in the Baptist union.
After high school, Olah received his law degree in 1955. Feeling led to enter the ministry, he studied at the Baptist seminary in Bucharest but was not allowed to finish, probably because of pressure from the secret police.
From 1958 to 1968, he lived in Timisoara, where he helped Pitt Popovici, a pastor with whom he had worked before. During these years of obscurity, he held a variety of jobs: general laborer, accountant and office worker in a factory in Timisoara. Everywhere he worked, he impressed people with his servant attitude.
On September 10, 1960, he married Eugenia Lupescu. God blessed their marriage with one daughter, Diana.
In 1968, the church in Timisoara ordained Olah and called him as their pastor. He served in that capacity until 1972. During his tenure, the church increased by 90 members. He was especially effective in reaching college students. This situation was intolerable for the authorities. Because of 25 years of communist control of education, religion should have been withering, especially among the young. The state removed his authorization to preach and he moved to a village about 100 kilometers away.
David Potter serves as a missionary in Hungary with Baptist World Mission.
- My sources for these posts include information widely available on the internet and conversations with Romanian Baptist preachers who were converted under his preaching. In particular, Petru Beltechi, who knew him personally and has researched his life, was particularly helpful. [↩]