Sam Buliga was raised in a village in northern Romania, two miles from Soviet Russia, in the territory that is now Ukraine. As a seven year old boy in 1965, he would walk two kilometers to and from school in the deep snow. His father was the lay preacher of the church in their village of Corjaut and Sam remembers his father’s send off as he began making his way. “Have a nice day, my son, and may God be with you today.”
Sam never wanted to be late to school because his teacher “…would give me a hard time. She couldn’t bear the fact that I was a Christian and she would look for anything and everything to make my life miserable.”
Sam’s parents, Alexander and Valeria, were very hard workers. Sam remembers, “They worked their land by planting crops and raising cattle, pigs and chickens. This was our source of food.” They struggled hard to provide for their family, but always set a time for the family to have prayer and discuss the Bible. “My dad would always teach me, my sister and my brother how to comfort ourselves, especially since we were believers and had to make a difference.” He would say, “My dear son, you need to pray for wisdom. You’ll need God’s wisdom to follow you all the days of your life.”
The Buligas lived under the “ferocious iron fist of President Ceausescu and his despicable dictatorial reign,” Sam describes the Communist oppression they lived under. “Father had a lot of land until 1960 when the Communists took control.
Before, Romania was a very rich country. The Communists destroyed everything and it became poor. Everyone was unhappy. Communism is a horrible thing,” Sam says. “I lived there the first twenty-nine years of my life. Nothing good comes from Communism – nothing!”
Their farm became the property of the state and most of what they raised was taken by the government. As hard as they worked, it was not enough to support five people. Many families came to the heart wrenching decision to send some or all their children to government orphanages because it was impossible to support them. Sam’s parents struggled with the decision to send his older brother to the orphanage. They agonized over it and prayed about it and decided to trust God to provide. Sam says, “He indeed did!”
At the age of six, Sam remembers that after each Sunday morning service, some “visitors” would approach his father. Sam asked, “Who are these people and why do they come to talk to you each week?” His father would reply, “You are too young to understand. I will explain one day.”
Week after week became year after year and these men were always there. Finally, Sam’s father told him, “These people work for the government. They are Romanian Secret Police and they want me to be an informer for them. They want me to tell them about the lives of the members of our church.”
Sam’s obvious question was, “So, what did you say to them?” His dad said, “Each time I repeat the sermon that I preached in the service.” After years of harassment, these thugs became tired of Sam’s father’s avoidance and asked him, “Are you going to work for us?” Pastor Alexander replied, “I cannot serve two masters. I already have one. He is the Lord Jesus. I cannot become an informer.”
Sam says, “These men then became very furious at him and said, ‘What you did today will affect your entire family.’” They reminded him that he had three children and that he could have ensured their education at any university if he would agree to do what they wanted by betraying his friends. “But now, none of your kids will go to school in Romania,” they boasted. The brave Pastor replied, “I will not do this.”
Sam says, “My father’s life was never the same. They disrupted our family peace by invading our lives and creating chaos for us, any chance they got. They started coming after our family. From that day, we were under their eyes.” Everything the three siblings did was reported to their father. “We were followed everywhere.”
When Sam began high school, they continued to follow him, mocking him because he was a believer in Christ. But Sam had such a strong example from his father, he also would be determined to never give in to the mistreatment. The Securitate (Secret Police) turned all the students and faculty against him, telling them that he was a dangerous guy and was ridiculed by them every day. He says they would say, “How can you believe in the Bible? Everyone knows there is no God! Why should I believe in God? Show Him to me!”
Sam says, “I had my personal conviction and faith in God.” He answered them, “You can say whatever you want to say, but I know there is a God. I can’t show Him to you, but I have my personal experience with Him.”
Sam says, “I got sick and tired of being stalked and having them breathing down my neck.” After a long talk with his parents, the decision was for him to go to high school far away to Timisoara, in west Romania. Before he left home his father had a long talk with him and gave him a Bible. He said, “Take this book with you, my son. You’ll need it more than you ever think.” Timisoara was a, “big beautiful city with great opportunities, and away from the monotony of my village. Little did I know that my problems were not over, nor even the same, but intensified.”
Dormitory life was strict and difficult and the teacher that was in charge was “quite harsh and mean. So, I started to miss home, where I had my family and the coziness of my home.” This loneliness prompted Sam to read his Bible and he began reading, especially at night. Sam said, “My roommates challenged me about God, and questioned me – ‘Does He really exist? Don’t you see you are all alone in this and God is just a myth, and these stories have no truth in them?’” He remembers, “They were only sixteen against one, so I started to doubt. ‘What if they are right and my dad is wrong? After all, it was a big city and I was coming from a small village. I wanted to back off, to forget about the whole thing. I desperately wanted to fit in with everybody else and have peace. For the first time, I realized that I was alone, no parents to run to. I was confused and extremely tormented.”
Sam told his roommates to give him some time. He says, “I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I was unsure, very lonely and mad. There was only one way out and that was Jesus.” He sought a place to hide away and pray and he opened his heart to God, “Lord, if you are real, and if you truly exist, reveal yourself to me and teach me what to say and do! Immediately I felt this indescribable peace and joy that replaced my sadness, fear and confusion that anguished me.”
Sam received the assurance in his heart from his God that day and, “from that point on, I totally surrendered my life to Jesus, because I personally experienced Him and His power.” Sam would face his agitators with power and assurance from that point forward.
In stark contrast to the Secret Police’s bold statement that Sam would not get an education in Romania, he graduated from high school and now set his sights on the university. “There was a lot of corruption in the education system. One had to be brilliant or have lots of money to pay those who would arrange for you to pass. Since I didn’t have a lot of money, my only solution was to study hard.”
My next posts will continue Sam Buliga’s incredible journey of faith, his brave escape from Communist Romania, how he met his wonderful wife, Valetta and his career now as a missionary. It is a joy to hear how God has protected and guided this man and I am anxious to share his wonderful story with you.