It was a unique service at Devleskero Kher (our Roma/Slovak church) that morning. There were 50 people visiting from Norway, at least 30 from Germany, a team of five from the USA, and many Roma and Slovaks present. The two large visiting European teams had been working tirelessly in the villages in the area. The American team had just arrived the night before, and they were still fighting jet-lag from a long trip across the ocean. And the church members were exhausted from a long week of hosting such a large group. Despite the tiredness in those present, there was a lively service of worship and praise. Songs and testimonies in Slovak, Romani, English, and Norwegian added to the spirit of unity and global celebration.
The spirit of the Lord was certainly in that place. As the service progressed, each of the leaders of the churches (German and Norwegian) had been asked to say a bit. The leader of the German group got up to speak. He thanked the church for their hospitality, talked of how much he and their team had grown from their experiences in the villages, and told a few stories of their time together. He then proceeded to tell about his Grandfather, who had been one of the leaders in the Nazi party. (For those who are not aware, the Nazis killed an estimated half million Gypsies during the Holocaust.)
With tears in his eyes this man confessed that he did not know what his grandfather had done to the Roma, but because of his grandfather’s position in the movement, he was sure that atrocities had been committed to Roma because of his grandfather. He apologized to the Roma present, on behalf of his family, and on behalf of his people, for the horrors that had been done to them. There was not a dry eye in the room as the pastor of Devleskero Kher invited some of the older Roma men and women to come to the front and officially accept this heartfelt request for forgiveness. In response, one of the Roma leaders admitted that they had demonized the German people as well, and asked for forgiveness as well.
We were witness to a prayer of forgiveness and reconciliation between these two different groups of people. The walls of hatred which had been present for many years was beginning to diminish, if even in this one place. And all I kept thinking was, ‘if reconciliation cannot happen within the body of Christ, where will it begin?’
As Americans, we cannot fully understand the long-standing hatred between these two groups. We cannot fully grasp what this kind of forgiveness takes. More than likely over a half-million Gypsies were killed, most of them not documented because the Nazis didn’t think the Gypsies were even worth writing down. The hatred is strong, and the bitterness has been around for years. But, we got to witness a small portion of the wall crumbling as one man was bold enough to seek forgiveness.
Where have you allowed bitterness and hatred to keep you from full fellowship with Christ? How can you be an ambassador of forgiveness and humility in love in the body of Christ? This kind of healing doesn’t come from the world. This is the kind of healing that can only start with God’s people. What kind of healing can only start with you?
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14