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Who are the Roma people?

The Roma are a people group with no home country. They are scattered primarily throughout Europe, but also the world. Typically living in tight-knit exclusive communities, the Roma maintain a unique culture and close family ties.

To learn more about the Roma visit the Britannica Page or the Wikipedia Page.

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Saturday
May072016

A Testimony of Salvation

By László PetróLászló Petró and his son Gergi

My name is László Petró. My testimony is an interesting story.

I was not a believer. Although I had been baptized as an infant, I never practiced the faith because it wasn’t possible. My parents were teachers and at that time because of communism they were not allowed to attend the church.

In 2012, when the local government gave the operation of our school over to the Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid), I asked, who in the world are the Baptists? I looked for information and I looked for people who knew something, because the word in my town was that it is a sect and that we should not give our school to them for operation. Naturally, the staff, the parents, and the students were asking will this change be good?

Even without knowing, I then said, it will be good. Since then I have blessed the Lord because we received this opportunity.

And in December 2012, Sándor Szenczy (the president of HBAid) and his wife Kati came to a special event at our school. In their presence, I felt a strange unique feeling. It always comes to mind; the love was just dripping from them. I also experienced this with other Baptists I met later.  At that point I did not anticipate that there would be a change in my life. The love and the honest with which Sándor shared his life story just struck me.

In 2012, HBAid asked if we would like to have an American team host an English Bible Camp at our school. I thought, we need to introduce these new things slowly and with discretion. That’s why our first camp was in 2014, for which I can never thank the Lord enough! It was then that I experienced the honest, desiring to do good, love-giving true personality of Baptists from North Carolina.English Bible Camp

What they did in one week, even their preparations, they always did happily and joyfully. The week’s closing program ignited a fire in my heart! For me, it was when Jarrick hugged my wife and I and we cried together that I knew this was an experience touching eternity. I received my first Bible from Alicia’s father, and since then it the most important book in my life.

After that we attended church services in Verőce, three hours from our home. There the members’ love encouraged me to confess my faith publicly. I talked with Sándor many times about it. August 31, 2014, the day of my baptism because an important date in my life. I asked for a new heart, and as I came out of the water I received a new heart from the Lord.Baptism in the Danube River

I can proudly say that I multiplied the number of Baptists by three in our community. That kind of success few denominations can brag. Oh, you ask, how many Baptists are we now? Three.

Many attack me because I openly became a Christian, but I am not afraid because I know I am not alone. God watched over me and is watching over me!

Now I know that what I have been able to do in life thus far, I can thank the Lord for it all. In high school, against the wishes of my parents, I didn’t want to be a teacher, instead a radio service man. I wasn’t a very good student, and my teacher said I would never become anybody. That summer a magazine advertisement for math majors landed in my hand. As a joke, I applied. The end of the story is that I became a math teacher. So, I may have had a different plan, but this is what the Lord wanted. I am now trying to make up for the 61 years of lost time in my spiritual life.

I know I have an assignment and my wings have been untied as the Lord is freeing me. I am flying. True I’ll be flying as the principal of our school only through the end of this school year because I plan to retire.

At my school I am trying to make faith, hope and love realities. My staff and my family are big supporters. My wife reads her Bible every morning and is planning to get baptized soon.

We have 422 students. Each one is a gift, both to the parents and to the teachers, to be raised, taught and most of all loved. Since HBAid has taken over our operation big changes have happened in the school. The staff is more relaxed and they know the Lord is paying attention to their work. He is there to help. And, if a teacher smiles at a student, the student is going to smile back. In this way, we work together.

Every week our afternoon students have a B49 school-church evangelistic service led by a local Christian singer and songwriter, Béla Pintér. I thank the Lord for this opportunity.

Alicia’s presence means a lot in our school. Her American mentality is helping us realize that we can see the good in each student even if it is small. It is changing me and the entire community.

We count it of great importance to prepare well for our yearly summer English Bible Camp hosted by Baptists from North Carolina. We want everything to go well. And we are always waiting for them with great expectation and love. I am thankful for all those who in the past have blessed our school with their presence and service. Thanks to Baptists on Mission for this opportunity!

Many say when they come visit us that when they set foot in our school they feel something unique. They ask, what could it be? We look for the reason, but it always comes back to one thing, love.

Friday
Jan082016

An Unforgettable Christmas

By Alicia Jones

I anticipated Christmas this year with great joy knowing that I would be spending it in Hungary and Romania. Two years ago, I spent Christmas here, but I knew this year would be different because now local friends had become family.Attendees at the first concert

The festive season began with concerts in three schools and one kindergarten. This was a dream of my ministry partner, who is a wonderful singer. She translated several songs from English that boldly proclaim the message of Christmas. I prepared a PowerPoint with pictures and words pointing the audience to Christ. For two of the school performances I was able to prepare a dance with five students from the school here in Nagyhalász with satin cloth for special effect. Students, teachers and even parents attended the four concerts. It was a joy to share the true message of Christmas in picture and in song. At the end of most of these concerts each child received a shoebox gift and carried it home with joy anticipating Christmas Eve. Amidst the concerts, the most unforgettable moment was traveling in the car with the students who performed with us. As we went to share the dance with a school other than their own, they were so excited they could hardly stand it. In many ways, I think this special opportunity was their Christmas present.

Performers with the first grade class holding their shoeboxes!On Christmas Eve morning we woke up early so we could accomplish all we had planned. First we went to visit my ministry partner’s family and enjoy some fish for lunch! We helped put up the Christmas tree; traditionally in Hungary, Christmas trees go up on Christmas Eve. Then we continued on to Romania. There we quickly purchased goods for 170 food packages for the church and surrounding communities. Then we enjoyed watching the Christmas Eve service prepared by the children of the church. They did a fabulous job reenacting the first Christmas and celebrating it with song and poem! See pictures at the end of this post or in an album here. At the end of the service we had the joy of handing every child a shoebox and every family a food package. It went so well and every face smiled as they received their small Christmas present.

We continued our Christmas Eve celebration as we delivered small gifts we had prepared for families we visit regularly and a crowd of young boys we love. There was so much delight in watching them receive a Christmas gift, but at the same time it was humbling to know that there are so many like them, who don’t normally receive anything on Christmas.

The next day we went to four villages to hold services. With the things I had in my home donated from American teams, we put together little goodie bags for the kids. In the first three villages, we gave the small gifts to eager children. In the last village we watched as the very last food package went to the very last family present. The children here received shoeboxes with joy. We headed home late Christmas night, but our hearts were so blessed.

The most memorable moment from the day was when I saw a little girl playing on the street alone. She often plays alone because no one really can tolerate her incessant chatter. I stopped the car and gave her one of the goodie bags we had prepared wishing her a Merry Christmas. She looked up and her face said it all! She was overjoyed to receive a gift this Christmas day. She nearly jumped through the window to hug my neck and said a big thank you and wished us a Merry Christmas in return.

Thursday
Jan072016

You Know

November 10, 2015

By Alicia Jones

You knew what kind of life I would live.

You knew where You were leading me.

You knew who I would meet and how our relationships would pan out.

You knew where I would stay and where I would just pass through.

 

You knew it would be difficult.

You knew I would struggle.

You knew I would enjoy a variety of things along the way.

You knew who needed a friendship with me and whose friendship I would need.

 

You knew which doors would open.

You knew which ones would close.

You knew when I would be lazy and when I would be inspired.

You knew every twist, turn and backing up.

 

The best news is, You know.

Tuesday
Sep082015

Students as Lights in their Community

By: Alicia Jones

Before the summer began, the leadership of the church came to me with two dreams for the summer. One of their visions was to hold summer school at the church in order to help the children of the church who failed in one or more subjects during the 2014-2015 school year. They would take care of finding two suitable teachers, one for grades 1-4 and one for grades 5-7. Their goal: To prepare the children for retesting in September. The students could change their status from failed to pass if they performed well enough on the retests.

The leadership explained their dream and hope with such passion. They recognize that the Roma children of this community in general are not succeeding in school and are dropping out at incredibly high rates (dropout rate before 8th grade is 75%, dropout rate before 12th grade 99%). They want the children of their church to be setting an example for the community; showing the difference it makes when a family follows Jesus. They want their children to succeed in school and complete not only the 8th grade, but even the 12th grade. The problem they saw is that there were 15 students within the church family who would be retesting in September. These kids needed to prepare if they were going to pass and go on to the next grade. The dream of a summer schools seemed like the right avenue! All that was missing was the funding. Recognizing that this dream falls in line with the goals of Love Help Teach, we supported the vision.

The program was for four weeks in July. The children studied everyday for 3-4 hours under the guidance of two compassionate teachers from the school, one being Roma himself. The teachers worked hard, the children worked hard. When Love Help Teach arrived July 31 with a team from Temple Baptist Church, all the children and parents were eager to explain the success of the summer school. Everyone in the church said that the children learned more in one month at the church than the entire school year at the school. The two teachers were extremely proud of their students, but the true results would come one month later when the children take their retests.

The first week of September the students took the retests. There were Hungarian children, Roma children, and Romanian children taking retests. The tests were difficult. There were many children who failed the retests, but every single one of the 15 children who came to the summer program at the church passed all their retests! This result was far more than the leadership of the church even dreamed of. With the help of Temple Baptist Church and the growing vision of the local leadership, the extra help for these Roma students does not end with the retests! Throughout the school year, the two teachers have offered to teach Saturday school to the children at the church. They will meet for 4-5 hours each Saturday to practice their lessons and fix mistakes far before they are close to failing a class. This is an exciting time in the life of the Roma Baptist Church in Romania. Praise be to God for the exciting results of the summer school and the opportunity for Saturday school.

Friday
May152015

Seeing God Work Through Short-term Teams

By Alicia Jones

Can short term mission teams really make any difference? There is much discussion over this question. From my perspective as a coordinator of teams from North Carolina to Eastern Europe I would have to say, "Yes!"The following four stories show how I've seen teams make a difference in individual lives; some visits have a momentary, yet significant impact, other visits have eternal impact. Our responsibility is to be obedient to Christ who taught us to love. We go, we give, we pray and we serve because we are compelled by love. "For Christ's love compels us...therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, 'Be reconciled to God.'" (2 Cor. 5:14a, 20)

  1. In summer of 2013, a young girl who had been diagnosed with brain cancer had a delightful time at the VBS offered by the team from NC (see picture). She learned to sing the Christian songs and heard how she could follow Jesus even as a young child, a teaching not too common in her community. Her name is Vivien and the team in April of 2015 went to her house to visit nearly two years later. She was suffering greatly on her deathbed, but she took hope in God. They prayed for her and her family. May 4, 2015 God decided to take her home. The community grieved deeply the loss of this 11 year old girl, but they talk about her incredible child-like faith. God is using her life and her death to bring the people of of this area to Himself.
  2. Maria with the team leader 2014In March of 2014, we thought Maria was a little boy because the community called her by a boy’s name. Her mother moved to a foreign country earlier in 2014, leaving her and her four siblings under the care of their alcoholic father. The team from South Elm Street Baptist church has visited this community every spring since 2013. They love the children there. But last year this little girl got attached to the hip of the team leader. The community explained that she is the youngest in the family and is cared for the least. Her story of suffering brought our local friend to tears along with the team leader. But this year in April when we drove away, Maria crying and my eyes began to tear up because she has become so dear to my heart. Maria loves our local friend and the local leaders who come week by week to hold church services in her community, but she especially loves the visitors from America who love on her. My favorite memory is when I was holding Maria one Sunday during the house church service. She didn’t sing the words to the song, but every time the name Jesus was part of the song she would whisper that name…Jesus. May this child, no matter what life brings, call on that name and be saved!Maria with Alicia Jones
  3. In the summer of 2014, the team saw that the man and his mentally impaired daughter lived in a hole in the ground, covered by a lean-to. Over lunch one day they insisted that they wanted to build this family a house. They got the project started before they finished their week in Romania, and two weeks after they returned to America, the local brothers had finished the house. The mentally impaired daughter, Maria, started attending the church regularly the following winter. She now faithfully and proudly takes the front row seat and shakes hands with everyone during the first ten minutes of every service. Teams visit them when they come and the man tells his story being saved. He claims his clothes are too shabby to go to church, but we continue to pray he will join his daughter on the front row.Mentally impaired Maria with her Father in front of their front porch
  4. In January this year, the teams went to pray for the sick in their homes. After praying for a sick woman named Ilona, the pastor from the U.S.A. turned to the sullen-eyed husband, Joseph, and asked, “Can we pray for you?” The local pastor with us informed the visitors that this man is not a believer. Nevertheless, he drew closer to the American pastor for prayer. With the new information, the American pastor sat and directed the husband to sit across from him. The pastor asked and it was translated: “Where do you stand with Jesus?” Regretfully, he answered, “Far, very far.” As the truth and good news of the gospel was explained to him simply and straightforward, his whole demeanor lightened visibly. There in our presence, this aged, angry man became a new creation in Christ, as he chose to believe that Jesus died for his sins too. His wife has been a believer for more than 10 years. He announced proudly, “I’m going to get baptized this summer!” Joseph put his faith in Jesus that day in January. The first time I’ve seen Ilona out of the house since that January visit, was at the recent Roma conference held by a team in April. I greeted her excitedly and asked about Joseph. The following Tuesday the team held a men’s program and when I saw Joseph walk through the door I jumped up to help him. Joseph is mostly blind and walks with a cane. Wednesday evening we played the film “Son of God;” again Joseph came. Sunday he was at church once again.