Born on January 8, 1930 in Spanovica, a small town in central Croatia, Emil Brus would grow to display a fire for Christ that would rage throughout his life, igniting all who came in contact with him. However, the sparks for this fire were first lit in 1926, before Emil was even born. After World War I, Europe was ready for rebirth. Emil’s father and uncle, Jakob and Stanco, started a logging business that boomed in the postwar economy, eventually employing 400 workers. During this time, Jakob married Terezia Voncina, who would eventually become the spark to ignite a flame in the then-Catholic Brus family. Raised with staunch Catholic beliefs, Terezia’s life took a different turn when a neighbour gifted her a Bible. Upon reading it for
herself, Terezia found many Catholic beliefs to be in conflict with the Bible and took the matter up with the priest. Receiving unsatisfactory answers, she realised that her hope lay not in the Pope of Rome, but in the God of Heaven. The flames of her conviction spread to the rest of the family and were further fanned when several Seventh Day Adventist colporteurs passed through town. They introduced her to the seventh-day Sabbath, which she observed faithfully from that point on. Another group stopped by two years later, introducing her to the Seventh Day Adventist Reform church. By 1929, Terezia had brought 40 members of the Brus family to God. The influence upon her family was evident when, years later, a family friend confided in Emil that his father, Jakob, had been responsible for his conversion. From this environment, came Emil ‘s passion for ministry. Although his family had converted to Adventism by the time of his birth, the community was still steeped in Catholic tradition. At the time, the law of the land dictated that all newborns were to be baptised into the Catholic Church. Most importantly, a Catholic baptism was the only way to receive a birth certificate. As Jakob and Terezia were no longer part of the Catholic Church, they had no way to register Emil. Officially non-existent, the school officials raised more than a few eyebrows when Terezia attempted to register him for classes in 1936. After hearing the explanation behind Emil’s missing records, the city officials arranged for him to have a Catholic baptism. Before baptising him, the priest asked several questions. “Do you believe in God and Jesus Christ?” Emil answered, “Yes.” “Do you believe in the Holy Roman Catholic Church?” He answered, “No.” The priest replied, “I cannot baptise this boy!” Emil had to wait ten more years before officially entering the land of the living. In 1946 Emil was inspired to be baptised into the Seventh-day Adventist Reform church. This time, his baptism was completed, and driven not by the need for a birth certificate, but a true encounter with God. One night while sitting at the kitchen table, Emil cried out to the Lord with all his heart. In the stillness of the night, Jesus revealed Himself. His baptism served to seal this covenant and begin a lifetime commitment to church life and missionary work. Early on, he participated in youth work, later going on to organise youth groups and even preach. At the age of 22, Emil met Helen Kirchner, a beautiful, caring, Christian woman who would one day become his lifelong partner. On November 29, 1955, they were married. On February 9, 1957, their first child, Mario, was born. Concerned for his family under the communist regime in Yugoslavia, Emil worked tirelessly to bring his family to Austria. Finally, his wife Helen and one of her sisters, Juliana, along with the 3-month-old Mario escaped to Austria. Still uneasy about their situation, Emil applied for visas to America. Unable to get them, he applied for residency in Australia. After many months, the Australian authorities granted them visas. By the time they finally set sail, Helen was pregnant with their second child. William was born on June 10, 1958, just three months after arriving in Australia. Their
third and final child, Heather, was born on May 26, 1961. They lived in Australia for 8 years. Not speaking a hint of English at their arrival, the couple pressed on through the language and cultural barriers, finding work and taking classes to learn the language. With the doors of communication opening, Emil was able to participate in church life more fully. He became a missionary leader for the Field Conference and was involved in various Union and Field projects. Helen participated in the Church Health Department. In 1966, Emil took up his missionary calling in the United States, helping organise a new church. Moving to Los Angeles at the urging and sponsorship of Helen’s sister Paula, the family immediately came in contact with a new group of believers, eventually leading to their acquaintance with the Burec family. They moved again in 1967 to Sacramento, California. Church life was again central to their activities. It was not uncommon for the family to go door-to-door, distributing literature and books to communities, working to spread the good news of the Gospel. One of Emil’s largest projects came in 1969, when he was asked to work on building the Sacramento Church. In order to get the project moving, Emil needed to raise $20,000. Rather than backing down from such an ambitious assignment, he dove headfirst into it, aggressively soliciting church members for donations. By 1971, the funds were raised and by the end of 1972 the building was completed. Although he pastored the church beginning in 1970, he was not ordained to be a minister of the Gospel until 1981, by Brother Devai. His building projects did not end there, as in 1974, the council members of the North American Field Office, along with the General Conference representatives, asked him to begin a Missionary School in Moriah Heights. Emil became one of the religion teachers at the school, building on a love of teaching that he had developed as a young adult in Yugoslavia. As part of the curriculum, students were taken on field trips, including a cross-country journey with stops at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit and Ellen White’s gravesite in Battle Creek, Michigan. His thorough planning included ideas for expanding the mission work to the California Bay Area with the help of the Karn family. On one of his mission trips, he found a multicultural group in Denver, Colorado without a church family. To provide a community for the Denver Adventist Reformers, he sent out a call for two families to move there. The Baer and Kramer families responded and packed for Colorado. To add to his list of accomplishments, Emil was elected as the Secretary/Treasurer of the General Conference in 1975, but he declined the position due to health concerns. Then, in 1979, he became the Treasurer of the Sacramento Church and Vice President of the local Field. In 1984 he was placed in charge of the Moriah Heights Hope Foundation and the local church. While living in Shingle Springs, California, he organised a small church group. Throughout his life, Emil packed in more ministry and caretaking than many people could
accomplish in several lifetimes. When, in 1986, the Church Conference asked Emil to do mission work in Portland, Oregon, he happily accepted the call. He worked long hours and traveled extensively along the entirety of the West Coast, until illness several years later forced him to slow down. Counting it a miracle that he survived, Emil retired in 1995, at the age of 65. His work in Oregon resulted in the baptisms of many souls for the Lord. In 2000, he moved to Idaho Falls, where he and Helen lived for 14 years. His ministry continued in Idaho, as he took on the role of grandparent with the same fervor that defined the rest of his life. Seeking warmer climates, Emil and Helen moved once more, to their home in Medford, Oregon, where Emil continued his ministry as a Christ-like example to many gardeners and plumbers that happened under his employment. One week before he passed away, he became ill, his lungs no longer functioning as they should. Surrounded by his family, he watched David Zic present his last Sabbath message. After closing Sabbath, he peacefully fell asleep. Even in his hospital room, he continued passing on the flame that surrounded him since birth. The hospital is no doubt bursting with the books and pamphlets given to each person he came in contact with. He now rests from his labors and waits for the blessed hope of the resurrection when Jesus will take him home where he can meet with his loved ones and live forever. Emil is survived by his wife Helen Brus, his three children, Mario Micky Brus, William Brus and Heather Clements, and six grandchildren, Olivia Mangeac, Andrew Brus, Ashley Clements, Kristi Clements, Tiffany Brus and Katryna Brus.
~ Published with permission from:
SDARM Northern California Conference (21st Missionary)
[Edited for Australian readers]
While living in Australia, Brother Emil Brus and his wife Helen were a strong support to the brethren in the early days of the work of the Australasian Union Conference.
We are very sad to hear of our dear brother’s passing away and extend our condolences to his family. May God comfort each one during this time of sorrow.