I was born in Crete in the year 1975 and I came in 1989 with all my family in Athens where we also settled. I belong to a pious Orthodox Christian family and I was baptized since I was still in my cradle times. I always affectionately remember those wonderful years of my childhood spent in the bosom of the Orthodox Church with holy services on Sundays and on big feast days.
I estranged myself of the right faith, in 2005, in a private school in Athens, where I used to teach (I am a teacher). In that school, I made the acquaintance of a pupil of mine, Anna, four years younger than me who was and continue to be a member of the “Free Pentecostal Apostolic Church” (as they like to call themselves) in Athens. To come to the point, Anna, after I got rapidly a New Testament from her, approached me openly and started to talk to me about the Christ “from the beginning” and later about her Pentecostal church.
She came almost daily to visit me and my mother did not suspect anything especially that once we had a Sacrament of Holy Unction ministered in our house and Anna came to me as always and she partook in the service – so that no one understood what faith she belonged to. In the course of time, she started to reveal her true“identity” slowly but surely. Initially I showed some interest in this new “church” that she described as being apparently the first apostolic church. And of course, the brainwash followed! She changed completely my beliefs about Theotokos, icons, cross, priests – afterwards I started to be concerned about the path I was following.
– Maria, did you go to the Pentecostal Houses of Prayer?
– Yes, of course I did. Anna took me with her to listen the “preach of Gospel”. I went there early so I could partake in the praying hours as well. When I entered their central “church” from Athens, I felt so weird that I could start screaming for what I saw there! I did not only disliked it but I found those things I saw so inappropriate – especially two “prophetesses” who were screaming so loud. Those around them believed in those moments that they spoke foreign languages! But their yells could only make me feel disgusted – sorry that I say it so boldly! I do not want to offend anyone but I felt like I was in a synagogue of Satanists Jews. That day was for me a black day – Anna started to convince me that apparently that’s how I felt on my first day in the apostolic church! I spent my days listening to the sermons of Pentecostal pastors on CDs, confessions of people who “met Christ” and reading the Bible. Day by day I started also to kneel to the prayers and ask for the “rebirth”, as they said. Something was not quite well in all those. I could not concentrate at my work, lost hours of sleep to listen to the CDs and I started to ask myself why did I get like that. Anna was continuously telling me that I had to weep and receive Christ as my personal Savior. I told her that I received Christ at my baptism and I acknowledged Him in my consciousness since I was a child. I had never denied Him, but she was continuously stressing that I had not had yet the chance to meet Him as I should have had.
One day in November 2006, Anna proposed to take me to the “church”, kneel on a pillow in front of the pulpit and ask Christ to reveal Himself to Me, confess my sins, weep – and the “brothers” would pray for my rebirth. There, Oh My Lord Jesus Christ, could not have been worse! I completely forgot the way they behaved, I felt compulsion and disgust towards their “services” and wild roars that they pretended to be the “speaking in tongues”. I lost my mind. Then their pastor came and laid his hands on the scarf they gave to me to wear on my head and he started to scream something in a language that seemed to me to be Greek with Arabic accent and terminations. I was feeling awful, distempered and nervous and I was praying to Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary to deliver me from that disgusting experience. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but I was afraid of not being kicked out. The pastor continued praying “in tongues” and suddenly a woman started to yell as if she was possessed. Tremendous moments! She was yelling, repeating the same words, some words in English that sounded like “my God” and those around me translated what they thought that God was yelling for me through her mouth: “My daughter, I guided you to My House, stay with Me, the end is coming! I will protect you!” I panicked since I realized that I became the victim of some charlatans who were sneering at me and were legally brainwashing me. Did you ever! God was speaking to me through the mouth of that madwoman! Lord, have mercy! Although I was very frightened, I found the strength to quickly stand up and run to the restroom. There I started to cry of fear. A “sister” who was standing next to me told me that in that moment she had a revelation… that I was about to reborn soon after that. O my Christ, what revelations and visions! I got scared again, stood up and run immediately from that crowd of brainless people…
The next day, Anna called me and I told her that I became very frightened. She tried to calm me down telling me that she would pray for me in her room and ask God to take the fear away from me. That night I had such real and intense nightmares that I woke up very sweaty and sobbing. It was then the first time after so many months that I made the sign of the Holy Cross! Next morning I told everything to my mother and brother. They advised me to have nothing to do with those people and my mother lit the candle and I saw her praying for me in secret. In that moment my heart melted, I started again to weep and run into the arms of my father who told me that he had noticed a major change in my behavior since I had fallen under the charm of the Pentecostals. He caressed me and assured me that he would not let anyone harm me. That afternoon Anna called me and told me she had had a vision with me the night before, when I had those terrible nightmares, and saw how Christ was holding me and brought me in the “Church” of Pentecostals. In that moment I realized that I was dealing with some maniac, dangerous people who were capable of anything. I told her that I did not want to see her again, hung up the phone – and since then I had never met her again.
I was saved due to the fact that I was not “baptized” by those insane people and that I did not deepen in their absurd belief. They think they embrace Christianity. Yet, what kind of Christianity? I learned on the hard way that what I saw at the Pentecostals has nothing to do with the notion of Church nor has something divine in it. Their behavior is so amiss and their words so senseless and their yells give you the impression that you are partaking a meeting between Muslims or Judeo-Arabians. They make friends only with people belonging to their group and all the others are considered to be lost. They are convinced that only they will be saved. I feel pity and pray for them so they might understand their rovings. I saw many websites or blogs related to this movement therefore I decided to confess my small but tremendous experience.
Familia Ortodoxa, no 42 January-March 2010.