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.










Friday, December 16, 2016

Wish List

I had a startling Skype conversation this week. An educator in the Netherlands was discussing the Parent-Child Program with Coco, an outreach worker in Romania. The Romany village where Coco works is particularly poor. 
"Would the mothers like Christmas decorations for their houses?" the Dutch woman asked, thinking about some craft activity to suggest. 
"They would like food," the Romanian field worker replied. 
What would you like for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Deck . . . the House?

Have you started to deck your halls--or your house? Four guys in Moldova just finished decking a house with a new dak (roof, in Dutch).

The story starts with Maria. She is a widow on a very small pension with a very large household of dependents (grandchilden, daughter, daughter's children . . .). In this photo she's standing in front of a place she was housesitting. She and her family were glad to be there that winter (2015) because their own house leaks. Like a sieve.


The story continues when a woman
from the Netherlands visited the Romany village where Maria lives.  When she saw Maria's roof,
 she asked Pastor Petru Ciochina what it would cost
to fix it. Then she went back home to the Netherlands
and asked some friends to help fix the roof.




They were not the only ones helping to fix the roof. Pastor Petru (here up on top of Maria's house) got three other guys from church to work with him. Together, they put the new roof up.





Here's one of those guys in front of the finished project:  a roof which does not leak! Maria and her whole family are very happy!


The new roof is even green.
Maria's house is already
decked out for Christmas!



But wait, this story did not start with Maria. This story starts . . . with Christmas. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sinterklaas and Spain

 We're celebrating Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas Day) here in the Netherlands. Children set out their shoes (rather than their stockings) with carrots for St. Nicholas's horse (rather than cookies for Santa Claus).

Sint Nikolaas, a proper bishop with mitre, robe, and bishop's crook, doesn't go hopping down chimneys. His fun-loving servant Piet/Pete does that for him, though sometimes the good saint himself politely rings the doorbell. After the festivities are over, he and Piet return to Spain (not the North Pole) by steamboat (not by flying sleigh), taking the naughty children with them.

Keith happens to be going to Spain himself later this week. No, it's  not because he's been naughty. He will begin recording the New Testament in Basque or Euskara.
Why?
Well, why is Sinterklaas so much more popular here than the fat guy with the elves? Is it because he comes to the waterlogged, canal-crossed Netherlands on a boat, speaking Dutch and acting Dutch? The legend of a kindhearted Christian in 4th-century Turkey has been transported into something Dutch children can readily relate to.
God came in a way all of us could readily relate to--as a human baby. Keith wants everyone to understand what that baby said and did when He grew to an adult. And we understand that best when we hear it in the language closest to our hearts.






Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Building Bridges . . .

Coco is building bridges. She's the one with the glasses in this selfie of her team. She's building a bridge towards the future by investing in these Romany youth. The young man on the right recently took the major step of being baptized.
Parent-Child
Start Games

Together, they're building bridges to a small Romany village in southern Romania. They've visited homes there to personally invite parents with young children to a Parent-Child Club and to invite children to a once-a-week Bible club.
Once a week, she and her team of Romany youth travel an hour or so to a village in Romania. They're using Davar: Bridging to Literacy materials in these back-to-back gatherings.

They're building bridges to Jesus Christ as well. Remus, one of the team members, speaks the local version of Romani fluently.

Remus speaks in Romani
He used materials from the Wycliffe/SIL Roma Service Team to tell the story of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Everyone's interested in following along.
Several of the listeners have already prayed to receive the new life Jesus offers. 

Want to join Coco's team, too? She could use all kinds of support, beginning with regular prayer.
Want to build bridges in your own community? Let us know if Davar is a helpful tool (http://davar-education.eu/).





Monday, November 7, 2016

Coordinating Resources . . . Cooperating Baptists . . .


Students from a previous session of Gypsy Smith School
This week makes the seventh time that Dutch Baptists flown to Romanian to teach at for the Gypsy Smith School in Bucharest.*   Fellow CBF team members started this training school for Romany pastors and church leaders. The school meets four times a year for one-week intensive training.

Romany church leaders in Romania . . . field personnel from America . . . pastors from the Netherlands . . . how did that all get linked together? Well, we flew to the Netherlands 20 years ago to serve as resource coordinators for CBF's Romany Team. The day after our arrival, Dutch pastor Teun van de Leer came to visit us at the youth hostel in Arnhem where we were staying. He arranged English translation for our first visit to the Arnhem-Centrum Baptist Church the following Sunday. We are still part of that church. In fact, Mary is now one of the English translators.

Teun later moved on to serve as rector and professor at the Dutch Baptist Seminary. About eight years ago, when he was guest speaker at Arnhem-Centrum, we asked him if he knew of anyone who would be willing to teach a one-week session at the Gypsy Smith School in Bucharest, Romania. Well, yes, the seminary was looking for some hands-on mission experiences for students. A student and a professor might go together. Yes, that might work.


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.

To read about a previous trip, go to: Dutch Connection.
English translation available.
    
*The school is named for Rodney "Gipsy" Smith (1860-1947), a British Rom who preached around the world.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Something New--Going . . . Together

Last time we went to the Republic of Moldova we didn't just help organize activities in the Romany village of Vulcanesti. We helped believers in that village organize an activity in another Romany village.


The kids sang songs.




They did a skit 
illustrating the parable of the Lost Coin.



 
Musicians shared their own compositions.







 
And our hosts in the second village shared hot tea, soft drinks and snacks.








  
Going with people we usually ministry with to another place to do ministry together was something new for us. It's the sort of journey that's well worth repeating.










Friday, October 14, 2016

Widow's Mite? Mighty Widows!

Do you remember the story of the widow's mite? A couple of weeks ago, my friend Erika led a women's Bible study on this (Mark 12:41-44). Erika's the one with short hair and glasses. Our friend Alina translated for her. She's the one with reddish hair and bluejeans. The rest of the ladies, the ones with long hair, really long skirts, and--if they're old married ladies--head scarves, live in this Romany village in the Republic of Moldova.

Sister Galia with her gifts
Some of these ladies cannot read. But they can listen. They listened to the story of the widow's mite in the Moldovan national languages (Russian and Romanian) and their own language, Ursari Romani. Did hearing the story in their own language drive it deeper into their hearts. Because we saw that these sisters not only listen to Jesus' words--they put those words into action.

The first day, we provided refreshments. The next day one of the ladies showed up early with a bottle of soft drink and a box of deluxe cookies to share! She gave gladly, but definitely not out of an abundance of wealth.
Maria with her gift
 
A week later another lady, Maria, also gladly gave. Erika, Alina, and Els (another team member) were all staying in the village. The weather turned cold, and they had also all gotten sore throats and bad colds. Maria had gone to the forest to collect fallen sticks and tree limbs to fuel her wood heater. No central heating, no indoor plumbing--Maria lives a labor-intensive life. Still, she made time to gather fresh rose hips for Erika, Els, and Alina. Vitamin C! The women immediately began picking out the seeds and eating the tart fruit.
  
As Jesus also told us, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What a privilege to see His words put into action!

Recorded in the Gospel of John 12:35, NIV



Sunday, August 21, 2016

You have provoked me today...

   The Baptist Church in Nesvady had a dilemma.  One of the church members, a cantankerous old man who, following his wife’s passing a couple of years ago has only become more a pain the pastor’s side, began inviting his Roma neighbors to church.  He would go and visit with them often, taken them Bible-themed movies and copies of several translations of Scripture (Romanes, Hungarian, Slovak) in an attempt to help them study Scripture together.  Well, all of his relationship-building paid off.  The matriarch of the family accepted Christ, came to church, and wanted to be baptized.  On the day she was Baptized, twenty-something of her relatives attended the service, sending the church into full-blown panic mode!  What if these people start attending church?  What if they want to join too?  How do we minister to them?
   Because I have known the pastor since our first week in Slovakia and have come to know many of the members including the elders of the church, they decided to invite Dianne and me to come and lead them in a discussion about ministry with Roma.  Their three main questions:  Roma history and culture?  What does the Bible say about ministry with minorities?  What are some practical things we should do?
   The first two topics are able to be done in a weekend conference setting.  The last question, much to their disappointment, cannot be answered from a distance but must be discovered through genuine relationships rooted in their context.  While we will continue to walk with them as they discover their practical ways of ministering in their community, the comment from one of their elders as he left church Sunday morning provides a bit of hope.
   “You have provoked me today,” he said.
   “Well, Marian, I think that is a good thing.  How did I provoke you?” I asked.
   “I have never considered Roma to be created in the image of God.  I will have to keep thinking over what that means.”  He said with a nod that the journey his church is undertaking is likely to be more provocative then they ever expected.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

LESSONS LEARNED

Camp Fire with Polish Sausages
You'd expect a lot of learning to go on at a week-long camp with daily English lessons and Bible study sessions. Last month we helped out with such a camp in Poland, where Keith's brother Ted and sister-in-law Bev work with a new Polish Baptist church. This local church is very focused on evangelism and had organized the camp as an opportunity to share the Gospel. A group of American volunteers, also very focused on evangelism, also came to help. They learned some unexpected things--and so did we.
Lesson A:  a very sweet American woman had never, to her knowledge, met anyone with autism. There were two young people at the camp with different forms of autism. During the course of the week, this lady learned more about the autism spectrum and became more comfortable interacting with these folks. I would love to know how God is going to use these lessons!
Lesson B:  Bev and I were to teach the beginners' group. After the first day, we split the group. Bev took the beginners who could actually speak English. The other three campers went with me and Monika, a young Polish woman fluent in English. Began with sentences like "I am Polish"  and progressed to "She drives a truck underwater" and "Monika fishes for pigs." Silliness proved to be a good learning tool.
Lesson C:  I didn't grow up traditional Baptist, and I am not a typical American. After a bit, I wondered whether this camp program and I were a good fit. But God had called me there for a reason. I was able to pass on ways of meeting God with my Bible study group which are not typically Baptist. My experiences with Romany believers, with illiterate believers, with Mennonites and Pentecostals and Roman Catholics all enriched our time together. At the end, a member of our group wrote, "I have had great advantage from talking with you." She had not prayed the sinner's prayer, but she left with a firm affirmation that she, too, had been adopted into God's family. 

Fellow Camper in Keith's Hat
Lesson D:  Dancing isn't just for squares. One evening Bev taught us how to dance like they do in Tennessee, where she and the volunteers are from. We danced the night away in groups of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. Great Blue Grass music; great fun!

Lesson E:  Every night one or two people shared their faith story. Powerful evangelism. 
Lesson F:  Finish strong. 



Thursday, August 4, 2016

ROMANI IS A FIRST-CLASS LANGUAGE

Keith first met Stano and these other Romany brothers in 2014 when they helped record the New Testament in their Eastern Slovak Romani language. Now Stano & co. are helping to translate the Old Testament. (Excerpt below taken from:  https://seedcompany.exposure.co/unlikely-calling.)  
THE VALUE OF HEART-LANGUAGE SCRIPTURE goes even deeper. Several people have told Stano what it felt like to hold their New Testament for the first time. At first they felt shame in seeing God’s Word in what they saw as their second-class language. But soon the shame was eclipsed by joy.
“I believe that they’re not ashamed of their language anymore,” Stano says as he looks up a word in the dictionary. “They have tasted of something, like myself, that we have God’s Word in our language. That’s something wonderful.”
Pavol looks up from his screen.
“For our nation, for our people, this is something that is very precious.”


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sisters in Sweden

Last Sunday I met two extraordinary sisters. Keith and I worshiped in a Swedish church first built in the 12th century. We shared a pew with the sister sitting next to me in the photo. She's a Roma woman from Romania. Afterwards, the church offered all of us coffee or tea. The Swedish sister on the left is one of the church members. She sometimes bakes cakes for the coffee time.
I find it extraordinary that three women with such diverse backgrounds can meet around the same table. And yes, we did celebrate communion.

Monday, July 4, 2016

OUR MUSLIM NEIGHBORS

Yesterday as I was biking home from church, I saw an old man on the path ahead of me. He was wearing a dark blue suit; the rest of him was obscured by a very large dark-blue umbrella. We exchanged a brief greeting as I passed. The face under the umbrella was wrinkled and respectful. Just as I suspected, he was wearing a little cap. My neighbor is a practicing Muslim.
We have neighbors down the block who are non-practicing Muslims. They came here as Bosnian refugees. We got to know them through the retired Baptist preacher who was their backyard neighbor and a member of our church. She ironed the Baptist's shirts (this retired pastor always wore a suit, even when working in his beautiful and prolific garden). The Bosnian children enjoyed that garden, too. The preacher was a sort of grandfather to them. I do not know whether their biological grandfathers had survived the war.
We have other neighbors who are practicing Muslims. There's the old lady in a long dark robe and headscarf who used to ask me about cans and packages in the grocery store. I suspect she's illiterate--or at least illiterate in Latin letters and in Dutch. There's the Sudanese woman, Sarah, who was even more wrapped up. She had some Dutch lessons from a woman in our church. Then there's the teen-aged girls in jeans, trendy tops, and colored headscarves I see going to high school on the bus or on their bikes, and the guys from the local Muslim prayer group who helped renovate our neighborhood meeting place, and the boy one street over who fetched a 2-Euro coin for his grandmother to put in the collection box the time I went door-to-door for the Dutch Cancer Society . . . .
A lot of my friends in America do not have so many Muslim neighbors. One of my friends recently voiced concern because there were so many Muslims in this or that political party. This morning Keith read a news article about a motel receptionist whose fear resulted in the police confronting a customer who happened to be from a predominantly Muslim land.
Did I think twice about using an international transportation hub after the Brussels airport was bombed? Yes. I am a reasonable person who does not want to take unreasonable risks. Do people who happen to follow the Muslim faith frighten me? No. Do violent fanatics alarm me? Yes, be they soccer hooligans, neo-Nazis, radical Islamists, or Branch Davidians. And, I confess, I am a bit afraid of other people's fear--fear that some people in an American political party might follow this or that faith; fear that a man in Middle-eastern dress might be about to blow up my motel; fear that those people cannot be neighbors just because they happen to be Muslim.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fellow Pilgrims for the Short-term or the Long-term?

This is the season when many of you go on pilgrimages called "short-term missions." There's some debate about the effectiveness of short-term verse long-term missions. I usually go on a short-term missions trip myself this time of year. A few regular volunteers go along to work with local Romany believers in Moldova. This year we won't be willing to go until September. But God knew that the children could use a summer program as well. A team from CERI just completed doing a week-long Vacation Bible School there.

Your support of our long-term presence made that short-term trip possible. Last February I went to the Ruth School (very long-term) in Budapest to work on an education project. One of the leaders of CERI was also there, working on a project with the Naomi Center (also long-term). He had met me in Moldova during one of his trips there and said if he could ever do anything for us, just let him know. Our partner there, Petru Ciochina (long-term), knew that teams from CERI sometimes provide shoes or boots for children. He could contact the CERI office in Moldova himself, but thought we would get better results if I contacted this American leader. The leader was very happy to make the connection. A group of Roma children enjoyed an afternoon program by CERI volunteers and received water-proof boots.

That connection led to the CERI volunteer team (short-term) coming this past week. They did great work. Would they have come if you had not been contributing for the last 20 years towards my long-term presence in the field? Maybe. Would they have been as effective if you had not been contributing to my long-term presence? Probably not. Because my being here is a major reason for Petru being there. And without Petru's being there, they would not have made the connections nor received an invitation to go there. 

So a big thank you to all of you who engage in short-term missions. Your pilgrimages can make lasting differences. And an even bigger thank you to all of you who support long-term missions. You make those short-term pilgrimages possible because there's a long-term presence for them to contribute to. And that long-term presence makes it possible for a week-long visit from such a team to have years-long impact. Thank you, fellow pilgrims all.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Then Do Folk Long to Go on Pilgrimage . . .

Pivot book final cover thumbnail 

Summer--the most popular time for people to engage in short-term missions. Team members have contributed towards this resource for this.
Pivot: Turning Teams Toward God’s Mission Near and Far is a resource geared especially to those seeking deeper meaning in short-term mission experiences. The 106-page spiral bound publication considers and offers guidance on the impact of the local community as well as teams of these short-term trips. From the period of mission preparation, on-site experience to pivoting back home, Pivot seeks to train individuals and congregations, including clergy and laity, to think critically about cross-cultural mission engagement.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Word for Translation

   At a board meeting of Word for the World-Slovakia, the Slovak organization that holds the copyright for the Eastern Slovak dialect of Romani language Scriptures, I was able to hear the testimony of some of the translators.  So far, the New Testament is completed and available.  Currently the Old Testament is being translated.  What these three men shared was an incredible testimony of the power of the Scriptures to touch the heart through one’s heart-language.

   “The more I work on this, the more I realize what a beautiful language we have and how God’s word is understood in our language.  I can experience God’s word deeper in my own language.  It is a blessing.” Translator 1.

   Translator 2 added, “I learned more about my own language in this process, in the reading of God’s word.  Even non-Christians are asking and waiting on when the translation will be done.  For my family, to be active in God’s word every day is having a big influence on my faith and on my family.”

   “When I read to Roma in Romanes, you can see how God’s touch falls on them.  (This translation) speaks to them deeper.  Once they learn a new word, you can see how much more of God’s word than they knew (from when the translation is) in Slovak.”  Translator 3

   “When I read (the Bible) in Romanes, the Slovak I grew up with suddenly was not only more understandable, it was not sufficient.” Translator 1

   It was encouraging to hear the testimony of these three men as they reflected on the incredible work they are doing. 

   Pray for these three as they continue the translation process.  Also pray for a project being done by the Slovak Bible Society which will offer a parallel translation of Slovak and East Slovak Romani New Testament.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Story for Pentecost

 Did you celebrate Pentecost this past Sunday? Many Christians around the world did. So it was fitting that this week's Songs of Praise program on the BBC included a segment about Mary Jones.

Mary Jones lived in Wales. On the very first Pentecost, people heard Jesus' disciples proclaiming the word of God in their own languages. Mary heard the word of God every Sunday in her own language, Welsh. But she yearned to be able to read God's word everyday. Welsh Bibles were expensive back in the last 1790s. She began to save to buy one. After six years, she finally had enough. She heard that a Rev. Thomas Charles in another village had Welsh Bibles to sell. So one morning in 1800 the 15-year-old Mary Jones bundled up her savings, packed a little lunch, told her mother she was going to buy a Bible, and set off on foot for this village--26 miles away. She walked barefoot across countryside like this.

She arrived that evening only to discover that Rev. Charles had already sold all of his Bibles. He was so impressed with her dedication, though, that he arranged for her to get one anyway. Her thirst for the word of God inspired him to join with others in founding the first Bible Society in 1804.

And that is why Keith is in Latvia today. The Latvian Bible Society has him recording a new translation of the Latvian New Testament. And that is why the United Bible Societies published the New Testament in Romani languages, why they have a  digital library of  Scripture translations, and why they contacted Keith to help get some Romani translations in that digital library.


Recordings . . . digital libraries . . . ways of accessing the word of God have changed since Mary Jones first trekked 26 miles to get her own printed copy. Ever since that first Pentecost, Jesus' followers have found more and more ways to share that Good News in people's own languages.


(Photos taken from Mary Jones Story)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Recording in Riga


 

How good is your geography? If it is extremely good (or if you live in this corner of the world), you know that Riga is the capital of Latvia.* The city had a boom during the Art Nouveau period** and is full of fascinating buildings like this one.

Keith is here recording a new version of the Latvian New Testament with the Latvian Bible Society. He does this through Faith Comes by Hearing. The project assistant, Elizabeth, thinks the computer program for doing this is way cool. She speaks fluent English and hopes to design games or computer animation. 
What, you may ask, does this have to do with Romany ministries? Romany in Latvia will also have more access to the Word of God when the Latvian New Testament is available online. Because perhaps there are Romany in Latvia who do not speak Baltic Romani, the first version of Romani ever recorded by Faith Comes by Hearing. Want to hear a bit? Baltic Romani New Testament


*If your geography is moderately good, you know that Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, is one of the Baltic countries. And if your geography is reasonably passable, you know where the Baltic Sea is. And if your geography of Europe could use some refreshing, but you are reading this, you can look all this up on the Internet . . . .
**We won't get started on art history.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What The Offering Makes Possible

This post originally appeared on CBF's Blog in a series highlighting ministries supported by the Offering for Global Missions.
Support from the CBF Offering for Global Missions enables us to concentrate on nurturing long-term relationships in local communities. These relationships are not built on promises of long-term funding. We receive no ministry funds from the Offering. What we do receive is funding for our presence – which includes not only living in Slovakia but also provides for us to be able to travel when needed to visit with our local partners.
dianne-etc.
Dianne McNary (far left) and Danka, Viera and Mina – women from the Jekh Drom nonprofit in Vazec, Slovakia.
Sometimes we have to visit often and over many months or years. Joining in ministry and learning to deal with one another’s cultural baggage takes time and patience. The Offering provides us with the hallowed space to engage with partners in a community at the pace of our host culture. This is an immeasurable gift.
Long-term sustainability is enabled by a long-term presence. 
Should one of the predictions of the imminent end of the world prove true – Jesus’ return, if thatperson is elected president, World War III, or One Direction’s Reunion Tour – we know that we will be safe, living happily in Slovakia for another twenty years. They say that’s how far behind the times we are here. Without testing the end times’ theory, it is true that time here moves at a different pace.
In 2013, we set a goal to assist one local partner establish a preschool for Roma children.  As we formed a plan to coordinate our work together, it was clear that the only way forward in the future would be for the Slovak organization to have a building. Within just a few months of beginning the project with them, we had generous sponsors from across the Fellowship who agreed with the vision of the Slovak group and wanted to support them in either purchasing or building a new building.
Because the CBF Offering for Global Missions provided us with time to study language and culture, because the Offering provided for our stable presence in Slovakia and because of the faithfulness of individuals and churches who generously gave more than their support for the Offering into a project to buy the building we were ready to keep up our part of the partnership agreement with the local Slovak organization. The Americans responded relatively quickly and sacrificially. Then we entered Slovak time.
Believe me, we would have preferred to move the process along more quickly!  Culturally and missiologically, however, we knew this would be a mistake. If the building was to be theirs, they had to decide what was appropriate. We had to wait, though not always patiently, for them to act.
Thankfully, the American donors were willing to stay in relationship with the Slovaks throughout this process. Almost three years after we began the project and two years since we had the funds available, we were able to celebrate with our local partners when they purchased a suitable building!
Engaging in long-term cross-cultural missions is an investment in the Reign of God where the results may never be fully known. We have been blessed to have hosted many short-term ministry teams in the twelve years we have been fully funded by the Offering.
We remind teams that God’s story has been unfolding in Slovakia for at least 1,200 years (to hear the rest of the story, you have to join a team!). A short-term team or even our long-term presence does not introduce God to this place. Lest we be tempted to speak of amazing numbers of conversion stories and Reign of God breakthroughs, we do not seek quick decisions or quick-fix solutions. Instead, the Offering allows us to live in the sacred now, building community-honoring, healthy relationships, and seeing how God moves through different cultures to achieve God’s ends. This is, indeed, an immeasurable gift and an amazing opportunity.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Romany on the Move . . . Back to Moldova

House in process
Two weeks ago we posted prayer requests about Romany who were moving from Moldova to Berlin.  One family had been in the process of building their own house in Moldova before they left for Germany. They got tired of living in tents over there and came back home. 
They were not alone in returning. There's been a reverse migration back to Moldova. The pastor of this family's home church reports that only five church families remain in Berlin. And two of those five want to go back home as soon as it can be arranged.

The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 7 - Thank God!

Thank God for Mira and Sasha Zivanov, CBF field personnel who work in the St. Louis area with immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. These include Romany from Bosnia. The Romany have been most open to this ministry. They participate in ESL classes, worship services, food pantry, and tutoring. Mira and Sasha are themselves immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and can directly relate to the experiences of the people around them.

Praise God for Romany on the move like Pastor Stevo from London. He evangelizes and disciples other Romany at home as well as in Ireland, Toronto, and Los Angeles. Praise God, too, for the witness of Slovak Romany who have started churches in their new homelands.

Thank God for Luton Roma Church, an outreach in England with Romanian Romany immigrants.

Thank God for CBF’s International Team in Europe with units in Belgium, France, and Spain who reach out to all migrants, including Romany.

Praise God for Christians across Europe like Rachel Brunclikova in the Czech Republic who voluntarily tutor Romany students. As she wrote in last year’s prayer guide, “Pray for the Roma students coming each week to the Roma Education Center for tutoring. May we give them not only the knowledge they need to do better in school, but may they also see God’s love through us as we work to help them.”

Thank God for Italian Baptists who used a “Camper of Friendship” to visit Romany throughout Italy. Thank God for Italian Christians called to minister with Romany migrants, many from Romania, who camp under bridges in makeshift shelters.

Praise God for the CBF field personnel who have worked at the all-Romany Gandhi School in Pecs, Hungary for two-to- three years. Three sets of short-term personnel taught English and led other activities at this junior/senior high school. Glen and Clista Adkins were the last short-term field personnel to serve there. They continue to invest in future Romany leaders by bringing teams to lead intensive English camps.

Thank God for people like you, who support Romany on the Move through prayer!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 6 - As You Go

From Shane and Dianne McNary, Slovakia and Czech Republic:

When leading members move in search of better jobs, it can be devastating for a local church.  It can also be discouraging to disciple members for positions of leadership only to have to start over again when they move away.  Stereotypically, Roma are always on the move.  Practically and missiologically, Roma expat communities from Central and Eastern Europe are having an incredible impact on the church wherever they go.

A pastor friend lamented the fact that so many of their leaders were leaving, there were more members living outside of Slovakia than they had still in the country!  Similarly, a Czech pastor struggled in his attempt to recruit potential leaders for their church, only wanting to invest in the lives of those who made a promise not to move abroad in search of a better life.  A Slovak Roma pastor told of how they chose a family from the church to send to England as missionaries so they could plant a church for Roma living there.

One pastor tells how a new church plant began when a group of Slovak and Polish Roma found the church’s services online.  The expat Roma who lived in Ireland reached out to the Slovak Roma church to see if there was any way they could help lead them in planting a new church.  Utilizing technology, the Slovak church leaders and the leaders of the church in Ireland teleconferenced regularly for prayer, instruction, and encouragement.  Once established, the Roma church in Ireland continues their relationship with their mother congregation in Slovakia even though they were never part of the local congregation.

What we call The Great Commission emphasizes the truth that “as (we) are going,” we are to make disciples.  For many Roma on the move in search of better opportunities, the truth of the Commission is experienced again and again as they plant new churches across Western Europe.

In your prayers:

  • Pray for churches in Slovakia and the Czech Republic as they reimagine themselves as missionary-training centers for all their members.
  • Pray for new Roma church plants in countries across Western Europe – that they would also reach out to non-Roma in their new homes and not only to other Roma.
  • Pray for all migrants, whether in search of jobs or fleeing wars, that God will continue to speak and guide them as they are on the move.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 5 - Moving On

From Keith Holmes and Mary van Rheenen in the Netherlands:

The Ursari Romany in Moldova used to earn a living as bear trainers. They would move from place to place, entertaining the locals with their dancing bears. When Moldova became part of the USSR, they were forced to settle down. But once Communism ended, they lost whatever jobs they had in Moldova. They were forced to be on the move again. Some moved seasonally to Ukraine to work in the fields. They then took their pay--sacks of sugar beets—to Moscow to sell. When border controls and customs fees made this too difficult, many of the non-Christians switched to begging at both Orthodox and Muslim religious places and festivals. Others went as far as Siberia, buying and selling in local markets. Some, particularly the believers, longed to stay at home, in their own village, to build the church there and provide stability for their children. Several applied for loans with Christian micro-economic development organizations. None resulted in permanent, full-time income.

Now a number of these very families are on the move again. Recently, Russia began imposing significant fines on beggars. Those who begged came back to Moldova. They heard that Germany was accepting refugees. Believers and non-believers began a mass exodus, taking their entire families with them. There were 200 children registered at the village school. The pastor estimates that there are now only 20 left. Will the Germans eventually send them back? Will they get tired of living in tents in refugee centers and come back on their own? Or move elsewhere? Only the good Lord knows. He goes with us wherever we—or our Romany brothers and sisters—go.

In your prayers:

  • Pray that Christian Romany will share their faith wherever they go; 
  • Pray for spiritual support for those who emigrate in search of work; 
  • Pray for spiritual and economic support for those who stay.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 4 - Hopeful Future

From Jon & Tanya Parks in Kosice, Slovakia:

Do you remember your high school prom? For many of us, proms and high school graduation are memorable rites of passage, events that mark the end of one chapter in life and the beginning of a new one. Slovak students have a similar event that’s a combination of prom and graduation. They dress in formalwear and gather to share a meal with their parents, classmates and teachers. The graduates wear a green ribbon to mark their upcoming graduation. They observe time-honored traditions and share publicly their hopes and dreams for the future.

Just a few weeks ago, a group of students gathered for one of these events near the city of Kezmarok. This particular gathering was even more special because of the students themselves. All 12 are Roma. Together, they make up the largest graduating class of Roma students in Slovak history.

Roma in Slovakia face many challenges in education. Some arrive in first grade having spoken only Romani at home. They must learn a new language to even survive in school. With these and other challenges, many drop out. Very few even begin high school level. Only a handful of Roma in Slovakia graduate from secondary school . . . much less with the opportunity to study at university or professional school. That’s why this group is unique. They all have plans to continue their education. Some of them, talented dancers and musicians, hope to study music. Others want to improve their Roma communities and plan to study social work. A couple even hope to study toward Christian ministry.

In a region with 90% or higher unemployment among Roma, an event like this is truly a reason to celebrate! These students will have the opportunity to show the world what Roma can accomplish.  They’re truly Roma on the move!

In your prayers:

  • Thank God for this group of dedicated young Roma!
  • Pray for them as they explore the possibilities for the future.
  • Pray for educators in Slovakia as they look for new ways to help inspire and educate Roma students.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 3 - Moving Forward

From Ralph and Tammy Stocks in Bucharest, Romania:

from L to R – Sorin Badragan (Dean of Seminary, Bebe Prica, Oti Bunaciu
(former Dean of Seminary), Ralph Stocks (CBF Field Personnel)
Meet Bebe Prica, a Roma pastor serving a church in tiny Badila, Romania! We first met Bebe when he enrolled for the Gypsy Smith School of Leadership Training.  He has a quiet, unassuming personality that quickly drew other GSS students to him. Upon completing that two-year program and with the approval of the Romanian Baptist Union, Bebe was ordained. He continued and completed his studies in the undergraduate program at the seminary. Look today and you will find that he now is studying for his Masters at the seminary!

In addition to his own leadership, Bebe seeks to train believers by initiating one-day seminars led by other pastors. His church hosted a visiting youth choir whose concert drew many from their community. The children and youth in the church warmed quickly to volunteer teams coming to lead VBS-type activities.

When the norm is for Roma men to progress no further than the 8th grade academically, Bebe has far surpassed that standard to excel in his quest for religious education. He is beloved by his church and community and exhibits how his personal faith has impelled him to traverse cultural norms as he serves his Lord!

In your prayers:

  • Praise God for leaders like Bebe Prica.
  • Pray for more Roma men to follow his example.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 2 - Moved to Help

From Jeff and Alicia Lee in Skopje, Macedonia:


Pastor Toni, as he’s known to most, volunteers at the refugee transit camp on the border with Serbia four days a week. He boils eggs and passes out fruit, clothes and other supplies to the thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees who pass through each day. After a long week in the camp he travels an hour from his home just outside of Macedonia’s capital city to the small town of Sveti Nikole. There he spends his weekend leading a growing house church of Macedonian and Roma believers and another small church in an impoverished village nearby.

He works tirelessly to meet these congregations’ spiritual needs. But over the years he grew frustrated that there wasn’t much he could do to meet the physical needs of his parishioners. His family lives on the very meager salary his wife earns. From time to time he also earns a little bit from his church work. But even when he gives more than he can afford, there are still many unmet needs. He began to consider how the church could do more, more to meet the physical needs of the church-goers and the community around them. When Toni learned of our interest and background in agricultural ministry opportunities he was ready to pitch his idea: A farm. God’s Farm, to be precise.

With land acquired by the church Toni dreamed of starting God’s farm. He hoped to use proceeds from the farm to help the church provide for the practical needs of the members and the community. Toni developed a plan. With a grant from Texas Hunger Funds we helped Toni purchase livestock. In time, the farm will be a tool for further ministry among the congregations Pastor Toni leads.

Join us in praying for the further success of God’s Farm, the growth of the churches in Sveti Nikole, and for Pastor Toni and his family as they continue to serve where God has called them.

Prayer requests:

  • the further success of God’s Farm;
  • the growth of churches in Sveti Nikole;
  • Pastor Toni and his family as they continue to serve where God has called them.

Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Week of Prayer for the Romany People

Each year in conjunction with International Romani* Day (April 8), CBF Romany Ministries sponsors a week of prayer for the Romany people.  At this time we release a prayer guide featuring stories and pictures from our various ministries.  Throughout the next few days we'll be posting stories here, and we invite you to read along, to be inspired by what God is doing, and to join us in prayer for God's kingdom to come among the Romany people.

The theme for this year's week of prayer is Romany on the Move.

If you’re very familiar with the Romany people, you’ll probably think “on the move” is an appropriate phrase to describe them! After all, for centuries many Roma lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving in groups from place to place wherever their services were needed. Even today, some Roma will move themselves and their family from one place to another in search of better opportunities.

But there’s another sense in which Roma are “on the move” – they are making strides socially, politically, and in advancing God’s kingdom.

The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority, an estimated 10-12 million people with their own distinct history, languages and cultural traditions. But while many Europeans are becoming more culturally open and sensitive, the general attitude toward Roma people is a glaring exception. Many Roma people still experience prejudice and social exclusion, and some live in deep generational poverty.

But there are positive signs. In some places Roma are beginning to find better jobs, receive better education, and improve their communities. And when they do have to leave home, many of them take their deep faith with them. New congregations are popping up all over the globe, because these Roma on the move are planting the seeds of God’s Good News everywhere they go!


In these pages you’ll hear the stories of Roma from around the world who are on the move. Join us during the 2016 Week of Prayer for Roma, as we give thanks for how God is moving among the Roma, and discover how God calls each of us to walk alongside them as they find their place in God’s kingdom.

Maybe you or your group would like to join us in the week of prayer - the prayer guide is undated, so you can use it anytime.  We're also providing a link here to the PDF versions of the guide (see below) that can be printed and used at home or at church.  Please contact us if you have any questions or ideas about using the guide.



*Romani, Romany, and Roma are all names used to refer to this people group.