ImageOne of the guests named Laza who came to our church to preach was from a distance of about 15 kilometers.  One could get to our village by walking, by a horse-drawn carriage or by bike  Autos were scarce and trains and buses went in other directions.  Therefore, when Laza came to visit us he biked or got a ride from someone else.  If he got a ride from someone else, then he had to wait for another ride on the way back or walk back home.

I do not remember any of Laza’s sermons, but I remember that he could teach for hours.  He would start one book of the Bible and explain it systematically.  Because the Bible was mostly the only textbook that our preachers had (no commentaries, concordances or dictionaries) they really knew their Bible.  I am embarrassed at how often I use the concordance or type a verse into the computer so that I will find where it is in the Bible.

Laza also loved to talk with children.  He would come for lunch on Sunday after the morning service and then would talk to us until the service started again at 3:00 PM.  In one conversation he mentioned that a Baptist Convention would take place in Belgrade.  He asked me if I wanted to go.  Not even knowing what a convention was, I responded in the affirmative.  In a couple of months, while I was in the 5th grade, I traveled with him to the capital city to be one of the youngest boys there. 

One of my sisters had a conversation with Laza about lying.  He told her that the problem with lying was that you always have to think of another lie to cover the first lie.  My sister will tell you that even up to these days she feels that her foundation of telling the truth always resulted from that conversation she had with this preacher when she was about 6 years old.

However, what our family appreciated the most was that Laza knew how to challenge the people.  At one point he challenged my father that for the sake of our family (four children) he should buy a cow.  My father told him that he did not have the means to buy a cow.  Laza insisted that they go to buy a cow.  My father traveled to buy a cow and came home from the market place with a cow that this gentleman helped my father to purchase.

One of the ladies in our church wanted to be baptized.  She came before the committee and the committee told her to wait another year because she was new in the Christian faith.  The second year that she came for baptism, her unbelieving husband was vehemently opposed.  She was determined that she would be baptized, even if she would have to do it by herself!  Laza came to talk to her and asked her if she loves Jesus less now than she will when she would be baptized.  “No,” was her reply!  “I just want other people to know how I feel about Jesus.”  He told her that if Jesus knows how much she loves him, then she can delay being baptized for another year so that the church and her husband would rejoice at her baptism.  She waited for one more year, and her husband changed his mind and came to her baptism.

This preacher influenced our little church by emphasizing that we should be known by our goodness and godly behavior, something that we have learned from his life and godly counsel.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...