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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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Wednesday
Feb122014

An Inexhaustible Treasure in Heaven

By: Alicia Jones

About 15 years ago in one large Roma community in Romania, through outdoor evangelism meetings and initial church planting efforts, a body of believers began to form. Over the years this body of believers was blessed in many ways and they grew.  With support from foreigners, the garbage dump at the end of their town became the site of their beautiful two-story church building/community center with its own large soccer field. The story of this congregation is full of twists, turns, heartache and victories, but the fruit of mature faith is beginning to ripen. This year they began gathering their resources to care for the poor in their community.

I have only known this community for about a year, but I have watched with delight as I see God working to focus them on things of eternal value and form them into the people He wants them to be. From what I’ve learned about the history of the church, various outsiders and their gifts have come and gone. The seed of the gospel was planted by some, watered by others, but God is giving the increase (1 Cor. 3:6-7)!

On January 4th, 2014 the church, using mostly their own resources held its first Saturday lunch for the poor in their community. They invited church members to serve in the kitchen or just come and enjoy the meal making everyone feel welcome. The first week more than a 100 came, the second week 150 and now regularly they have 200 or more. The praise team from the church provides music while everyone waits patiently for their lunch and the people in the kitchen hurry to get the food served up.  By the fourth or fifth week of the Saturday lunch those in the greatest need started showing up with empty containers so they could take home leftovers.

The local leaders’ faith is being challenged and grown through their new effort to serve God and care for their community. One leader says, if someone asked me what’s for lunch on Saturday during the week, I always tell them, call me Friday night if you want to know. We know how much money we start with for the next Saturday lunch after the Sunday service each week and it never seems like enough, but I’m always amazed that by the time Saturday morning rolls around I have in my hand just enough for the meal. There has been more than enough food at every meal they’ve served.

Just last fall this group of leaders together with the praise team decided to reinitiate making regular visits to three surrounding villages to hold church services. In the past they had been more faithful about caring for the smaller villages that are under the distribution of their town, but hardship and lack of funds keep them from going. Would you join us in praying for this Roma congregation in Romania? Pray that God would sustain their efforts to care for the poor in their community and serve the surrounding villages. Pray that He will increase the faith of the Roma leaders and provide the resources and strength for them to serve Him faithfully.

The following teaching of Jesus is difficult for any believer, but especially for Roma believer who may not have anything to eat today:  “Don’t keep striving for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:29-34, words of Jesus while teaching his disciples).

What a day it will when these Roma who faithfully served God and cared for the poor in their community are richly rewarded in heaven! The struggle to believe and obey is just as difficult for you and me as it is for our Roma brother or sister. Join in the struggle by praying, giving or visiting!

Friday
Jan172014

The Joy of Giving at Christmas

By: Alicia Jones

God gave his one and only son, wise men from the east gave the Christ child gifts of value, we give gifts to our children and loved ones. Giving has always been a great joy for me at Christmas time. This was a unique Christmas of giving among the Roma people. With the gifts of many North Carolina Baptists and personal friends and family, in the name of the local Roma Baptist church, we gave food bags to 170 Roma families. Preparing and delivering the bags in one day, December 23 was a huge task, but we managed with God's help!

Each bag was filled with flour, sugar, rice, pasta, oil, margarine, cocoa, frozen chicken meat, and Christmas candy. These are the ingredients for a fine traditional Christmas dinner. Many will make the Hungarian roll cakes, kalács (pronounced kalach), as this village grandmother is making. Some fill it with walnuts, found in abundance in this part of the world. Others may use poppy seeds, candied fruit pieces or make a chocolate filling from cocoa. Soup is often made from chicken broth remaining from boiling the chicken. The pasta is added to the chicken broth for a fine starter to the meal. Whatever foods were made by the families, we pray that the gifts were a blessing.

The first bags were delivered purposely to some of the poorest in the Roma communities. The first home was a very poor Hungarian family living in the Roma neighborhood. With four small children, the family was piled on a bed that took up the entire small one-room house. There was only another few feet for standing by the bed. They had a small candle lit on a side table. They offered us a seat on the bed and wanted us to stay for a visit, but we had too many bags to deliver. Another home we entered was lit by a small lamp created out of a recycled bottle, some wax and a spoon. A widow and her mentally handicapped daughter were snuggled in the bed to stay warm. One year ago I went in this home and there were only three walls and no source of heat. Now, praise the Lord, there is a small wood heater and four walls with a door. Over the course of the evening we visited many families, with various standards of living. Nevertheless, all were grateful that they were recipients a food package.

Friday
Nov152013

Sleeping at school

By: Alicia Jones

Even if it was just a towel on the floor of the kindergarten classroom at the local public school in my town, I always loved naptime. The kindergarten teacher would come around with her fairy-wand and tap each child on the head to “make us fall asleep.” It worked for me and I’m glad that naptime has been made possible for sixty Roma children.

The four teachers in the kindergarten at one of the largest Roma communities in Romania where we work are in search of a magic fairy-wand to help the sixty squiggling 3 to 6-year olds fall asleep each afternoon for their naptime. The children, with the support given by North Carolina Baptist churches have nylon beds, pillows, sheets, and uniquely designed fleece blankets under which to snuggle for their afternoon naps. Unfortunately the black-out curtains and the low hum of the kid’s movie playing on a donated television don’t keep the kids from giggling, chatting and crying during naptime. But on a normal weekday afternoon, the mood of rest and sleep resides in the large warm room in the basement of the church.

This is the eleventh year of operation for this particular kindergarten in Romania. For ten years the lead kindergarten teacher has faithfully taught the Roma children. This year two new teachers were added to help carry the burden of teaching since the existing program that went to noon was extended until 4:30 pm. The kindergarten has received support over the years from the local government: both the mayor and the local school and principal. Currently, they also receive aid from Hungarian Baptist Aid and North Carolina Baptist churches.  Together these entities have made the afternoon naptime and three meals a day available to 60 adorable children in one Roma community. Now if someone would just give each kindergarten a magical fairy-wand to make the children fall asleep!

Wednesday
Apr032013

Learning Together

By: Alicia Jones

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to stand by the door and welcome children as they came to the  Afterschool Program. This is a new program we recently started in one of the primary Roma communities where we minister. I paid particular attention to each child as he or she arrived; one girl was downcast, I learned she was sick; some boys were cutting up; others came in huffing and puffing from the long walk from the school to the church; and still others came in calmly and quietly, taking their seats.  By now all the children are familiar to me as this is the third week of the program.

Every Monday and Thursday Roma children from the local school come to the local Roma church to study Hungarian or mathematics for a few hours. Two local Hungarian girls help do the teaching and local Roma parents or volunteers offer support. The principal of the local school provided us the names of the thirty children with the greatest need. Most are in the 5th grade, but there are a few from 6th and 7th grade as well. When the children arrive they receive a light meal (many cannot afford a meal at school), they receive their workbook and together we study. At the conclusion of the two hours there are a few minutes for singing and sometimes even dancing together before we say goodbye until next time.

This Thursday I began to sense the children were feeling at home in this little afterschool community. On Monday we had provided the children with flashcards with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems and taught them how to use them properly. On Thursday, it was a bit miraculous for me. We just placed the cards on the desks before the students came, and the early arrivers immediately found a friend and practiced with the cards, it was a beautiful sight as I glanced around the room and marveled at the excitement for learning in these children. God has a good plan for each life.

 

Wednesday
Apr032013

Love As I have

By: Alicia Jones

This Easter many of the poorest of the poor in one Romanian town, where much of our ministry is focused, received an unexpected blessing. There is a Roma community in Northeastern Hungary that is a little better off than their Roma brothers and sisters in the Romanian town. While the two communities are separated by more than 150 kilometers, but in recent times their hearts are being knit together with the love Jesus taught us. Jesus said, “This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

On March 3rd the fifth annual Roma conference was held in the Romanian town because the Roma church there has a spacious building that could hold the 900 plus people who attended the conference. While the church members from the Northeastern Hungary Roma community were attending the conference in Romania they could not help but notice the poverty of their Roma brothers. They went home with conviction in their hearts that they should help their brothers in need. In preparation for Easter they gathered kilos of flour, sugar, oil, rice, pasta, and other staple foods, but not for themselves or their families, instead for the community in Romania.

On Thursday the congregation sent four of their members to Romania with a trailer full of the goods. The visitors and the local leadership worked to divide the food evenly into 100 food packages for the families of the church. That evening the visitors participated in the church service and shared with the entire local church that they had brought food for the community. After the service they were welcomed into the home of the locals and shared a meal together. Friendship and Christian brotherly love was cultivated. The visitors had a long trip home so they headed out after dinner. The local leadership—at 10 o’clock at night, went on a drive through the Roma camp delivering bags of blessings to each church family. These families were overjoyed because now they would have food with which to celebrate the most important Christian holiday.

 

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