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Divine Encounter Strengthens Pastor’s Ministry

Vasile Cinpean reflects on the experience that changed his life.
Vasile Cinpean bravely escaped Romania in 1986 and came to the U.S. as a refugee, joined shortly afterward by his wife, Elena Rodica, and their children. He served for many years as assistant to Nicky Pop, founding pastor of Philadelphia Romanian Pentecostal Church in Portland, Oregon, the largest Assemblies of God Romanian congregation in the States. Cinpean succeeded Pop upon his retirement in 2011 after Pop led the church for its first 32 years.

But Cinpean might not have had the opportunity, had he not survived a nearly fatal heart attack, which had been prophetically foretold.

“I understand what the apostle Paul was talking about when he said that to live is Christ but to die is gain,” Cinpean remembers. “I am 100 percent sure it would have been a good thing for me to die, but not for my wife and kids and maybe not for the church.”

The experience began on a mission trip to Romania in late 2009.

“The Lord spoke to me through a prophet and said the devil had made a plan to basically take my life,” Cinpean says. “The prophecy continued: I will not allow it. It was such a presence of the Spirit in that moment that I knew it was from God. I knew this was coming, but I didn’t know exactly what would happen.”

Back in the U.S., he and his wife and children prayed and asked God to protect him. Then, on Sunday morning, May 2, 2010, after helping to serve Communion to the 2,000 people in the building, Cinpean sat on the front pew when his heart stopped. No symptoms of illness preceded the crisis.

“People saw what happened,” says Cinpean, now 64. “I was losing consciousness, getting dizzy.”

Cinpean’s sister-in-law Ana Petras, who is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, jumped to his aid with several others, laid him on the pew, and administered CPR. Cinpean had no pulse. That’s when Cinpean says he felt like his soul left his body. He describes a vivid experience which highlighted the power of prayer. The next thing he knew, he felt as if his soul returned to his body.

Cinpean felt a paramedic shaking him roughly, saying, “Sir, do you know where you are?”

“Yes, I’m in church,” responded Cinpean, who had been clinically dead for five minutes.

After he arrived at a hospital, doctors placed a stent in a blocked heart blood vessel. He recovered swiftly, and the next Sunday back at church he shared about what had happened.

“God fulfilled his prophecy and did not allow it,” Cinpean tells AG News. “The devil is so limited in what he can do when it comes to the children of God.”

At the time, Cinpean worked as an engineer for Freightliner. But the medical miracle spurred him to commit to leave that job and focus on ministry for as long as he still had life — without worrying about finances.

“My priorities changed,” he says. “God gave me life to invest into the work for the Kingdom. That was the major change.”

Ioan Filip, 50, founder and pastor of Maranatha, a Romanian congregation in Phoenix, has known Cinpean for many years. Filip, who participated in the creation of the Romanian Alliance Fellowship of the Assemblies of God, says what happened to Cinpean is well-known in the ethnic community.

“His experience inspired us a lot and especially had an impact on the young generation,” Filip says. "Each miracle helps us trust the Lord more and realize that life here is short.”

Filip says Cinpean continues to put greater emphasis on spiritual matters than material things.

“I saw this change in his life,” Filip says. “It didn’t disappear.”

The year after his experience, Philadelphia Romanian Pentecostal Church members voted to make Cinpean the new lead pastor, and he gave his two weeks’ notice at work. He and Pop remain the best of friends.

Cinpean also serves as president of the Romanian Alliance Fellowship, one of the two dozen recognized ethnic/language fellowships in the U.S. Assemblies of God. Filip is secretary of the group. The Cinpeans have five adult children, all married, and 10 grandchildren, all of whom live in the Portland area.

As for his near-death experience, “God decided to keep me here,” Cinpean says. “It would be much better for me to go, but I’m here and I enjoy it and I know that God is taking care of us.”

Joel Kilpatrick

Joel Kilpatrick is a writer living in Southern California who has authored or ghostwritten dozens of books. Kilpatrick, who served as associate editor of the Pentecostal Evangel in the 1990s, is a credentialed Assemblies of God minister.