Monday, March 20, 2017


Did you grow up speaking a language that important people used on important occasions? That had big books printed in it and people signing up to learn it? 
Radko Kratsov, a Roma Christian leader in Bulgaria, issued a challenge to advocate for the development of Romani*:
“We (Roma, who are 'always under someone's feet', who 'come from a shame-based culture') need someone to lift our hands to show the world that our language is important. Someone to blow the trumpet to raise the status of the Roma language."
SIL Roma team member working with Roma in Moldova
He shared how he had witnessed at a Bible study in Ivaylo, Bulgaria, how people's faces changed from mirroring shame to expressing happiness when they truly understood and participated in the study and were able to express themselves in their own language.

(CBF partners with the SIL Roma Service Group. SIL members in Bulgaria are stimulating the use of Romani in engaging with the Bible in ways that include all people present.)

*Romani is a term often used to refer to Roma languages. 

Friday, March 10, 2017


Keith sat on the train from Arnhem to Amsterdam. The ride takes a bit more than an hour. He had a horrible cold. A Roma man, probably from Bulgaria or possibly Romania, walked through the car, laying this note on the little table between the seats. Keith gave him a 50 cent coin and got a welcomed packet of tissues in return.

A month before, Mary sat on the train from Arnhem to Amsterdam. A Roma woman, also probably from Bulgaria, walked through the car, laying a xeroxed copy of this same note on the little table between the seats. When she walked back through, picking up the cards, Mary bought a packet of tissues.

Two months later, Mary sat on the same train. A much younger Roma woman walked through the car, laying a copy of this note on the little table between the seats. Mary smiled at her and pocketed the note. The young woman smiled back.

What would you call this practice? I call it enterprising.

P.S. These folks probably didn't "have a job at the moment." Unemployment rates in some Roma villages and neighborhoods run as high as 98%. Want to do something about that? Let us know!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Pile of Mismatched Scraps

In late January, the 29th to be exact, I (Dianne) did something I had never done before.  I stood on the Arkansas state capitol steps and participated in a political rally.  It was a protest against the President's executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.  I was there to show support and to hear stories from those affected by the order.  One statement stood out to me in particular, "I know what it is like to wake up every day in a country that does not want you, that despises you."
Joyce Elliott, an Arkansas state Senator was describing her experience as an African-American in the United States, in the south.  But she could also be describing the experience of the Roma peoples we work with in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, or the Syrian refugee, or the US-born Hispanic child or the Iranian-born doctor with a green card.  These people who are looked at with suspicion, distrust, and contempt because they look or sound different.  The "Others" among us.

I can never imagine how this feels because my birthright brings me a certain amount of privilege.  So I use my privilege to call attention to the injustice turned on these bearers of the Image of God - dark or light skin; bi, straight, trans; Atheist, Christian, Muslim; rich or poor.  The distinctions we humans make don't matter to God.  We are all created in God's Image and reflect the Image, marred as it is, to one another.  When we limit who we know and interact with, we limit our knowledge of the Creator reflected through them.  Our diversity is beautiful to God and through our diversity we learn more about God.

I visited my Aunt recently and she showed me a quilt she is working on.  The top was pieced by her mother/my grandmother over forty years ago from bits and pieces of fabric from old clothes.  To most of us, we would have seen a pile of mismatched scraps not worth much.  My grandma saw something beautiful and useful. Our world is much like that pile of mismatched scraps.  But when we look at one another through God's lens, we might catch a glimpse of a beautiful quilt.  A quilt whose pieced-together fabric is warm, useful, and full of love.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mission Bites

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Mission Bites are designed to be dropped into worship bulletins, newsletters and other materials to educate congregations on the impact of their support.
Our Church is pleased to support CBF Global Missions in moments like these where bearing witness to Jesus Christ takes form through providing resources to Romany believers who are eager to learn more.
"November made the seventh time that Dutch Baptists have flown to Romania to teach at the Gypsy Smith School in Bucharest. The school meets four times a year for one-week intensive training. We resource coordinators do not have the fun of teaching these enthusiastic Romany believers ourselves, but it gives us great satisfaction to link people who have those teaching skills with leaders eager to learn; to see Christians cooperating across national, ethnic and linguistic lines to advance the Kingdom."

- Keith Holmes and Mary van Rheenen, CBF field personnel in Europe
Be sure to also sign up to receive fellowship! weekly e-newsletter, which includes updates on all the wonderful ministries of CBF and our partners.
We treasure your support and prayers! Please contact me if you have any questions.
Grace and Peace, 
Ryan Clark, D.Min. 
Church Engagement Manager
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
160 Clairemont Ave., Suite 500
Decatur, GA 30030
770.220.1611  office
404.545.5003  mobile

Friday, February 10, 2017

Getting Better in Basque Country

Note the poster outside this church in northwest Spain. Can you identify the two languages? Yes, one is indeed Spanish. The other is Euskara, known to outsiders as Basque.  It's one of the oldest languages in Europe, unrelated to any other living language. 
Keith was working with Basque believers in this church to record the New Testament in their language. 
Ever had your tummy feel funny when in a very different place? Keith's got so funny that he ended up spending a week in the hospital. Which was not funny.
He's been out of the hospital for a few days now. But he needs to go home, see his regular doctor, and recuperate. So yesterday, he packed up the studio in this church. He hopes to feel better in a few weeks. One way or another, he wants to make sure that this recording project is completed. Because Basque people prefer Euskara. As you can see from the poster, their language is on top. (And no, I don't know what the poster says. Do any of you?)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Children without a Country

“In terms of statelessness, Roma are without a doubt the most over-represented ethnic group in Europe by numbers of stateless children. We already face enough problems from anti-Gypsyism in its many guises across the continent - being born without a nationality means our children are even further denied social, educational and healthcare services, as well as being stigmatised and pushed further towards the margins of society. It is time for governments to take responsibility and end this harmful situation for the next generation.”  - ERRC President Ðorđe Jovanović

For more information, or to take action, go to: stateless kids

Who knows, perhaps the new First Lady of the U.S.A. would be interested in addressing statelessness in Slovenia, the land of her birth Slovenian Youth Ambassadors .

*Roma child, who may or may not have identity papers.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Word . . . Moved into the Neighborhood

Immanuel--God with us—is mirrored in the traditional Spanish manger scenes. The baby Jesus is born in Spanish mangers and other traditional Spanish buildings. He is surrounded by Spanish farm animals: sheep, goats, but also pigs and chickens.

Keith is in Spain recording the Word, this time in Euskara. Wherever your neighborhood is and whatever language is spoken there, may you also hear and see Immanuel. He's moved into the neighborhood.