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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A love that changes things

By: Alicia Jones

Two weeks ago we started a full day kindergarten 8 am until 4:30 pm; previously we held a half day 8 am until 12 noon. On the first full day we had the most children we’ve ever had—18! And the children have been very faithful to attend with the new schedule. The children were extremely excited about sleeping at the kindergarten and many have slept peacefully during their afternoon nap. But I will say, settling into the longer days has taken nearly two weeks, and I think the children and the workers are adjusting well.

The kindergarten room ready for an afternoon rest.


     On Saturday morning we did a little program for some visitors with the children singing and reciting poems they’ve learned. As Ingrid, one of the local helpers, and I sat with the children to enjoy the rest of the church program I watched these little kindergarteners as they glanced up to Ingrid and me every so often. One little girl was a bit frightened when the guests got up to leave and she quickly made her way to my lap. In those few moments following her action, I reflected on the familiarity we have with the children now and the love we have in our kindergarten family. This love is truly a gift from God.

Sunday morning, I read Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.” Little by little I am seeing the faithful love of God take root in the precious hearts of these kindergarteners as we head into a third week of long days with them. I am confident that God’s love will make a lasting difference in the lives of these children and in the lives of their families. God’s love changes things, it overcomes evil, it drives out fear, and it illuminates dark places. I’m praying God’s love will change things in this place, Transcarpathia, Ukraine. Will you join me in that prayer?


Mine! Build! Look!

By: Alicia Jones

A few weeks ago when I first took out blocks for the children a battle erupted in which each child quickly tried to hold as many blocks for him or herself as possible. They were sitting on the blocks and yelling at each other. One little boy literally laid on top of the blocks and was screaming “mine!” So I proceeded to pick him up and sit him on the floor. I took the blocks and deliberately built a small tower. Meanwhile I was saying “build, build” in Hungarian.

At first he continued his hoarding and gathering of blocks in his lap. But as I built the tower he began to watch. As I handed him some blocks and said “build,” he began to build a little something, but soon lost interest and went to play something else.

Since that experience the children have all learned to play more kindly. And last week there was a beautiful moment one morning when I looked around the room and all the children were playing quietly at various activities; coloring, playing house, and building with blocks. I noticed this same little boy, who had lain on the blocks a few weeks before, was sitting next to another boy with the blocks. He watched carefully as the second boy, who is an expert builder after just one week of working with the blocks, built a tall tower. He began to build a tower too. Then they built a tower together. When they were finished they ran to each teacher, saying, “Look, look!” With delight the whole class paused what we were doing and celebrated the building of beautiful towers and then we captured this picture. See more pictures of the first month of kindergarten here


It's the little things

By Alicia Jones

The kindergarten is off to a great start. A typical day begins with the children being brought by their mother, grandmother or siblings each morning between 7:30 and 8:15 am. We inspect them when they come in and they wash their face and hands. They find their cups with their personal sign (each child has a different picture like a flower or guitar so that they know what belongs to them) on it and brush their teeth. After getting cleaned up for the day, the children find a corner of the room to work on a self-directed activity until breakfast. We line up and head to breakfast. Mari, our wonderful cook and helper, makes breakfast so delicious that the children are always excited to go to the kitchen!

After breakfast we spend a while on the playground when the weather is nice. After the children have expended some energy we head back inside, wash up and have a piece of fruit. On days the children are able to be good listeners we have a short circle time together; share a bible story and songs. Then the children choose their own activity. Many of the children didn’t know how to color, do a puzzle or build with blocks the first day they came into our classroom, but now, just two weeks into kindergarten these are some of their favorite activities! They also choose from playing with baby dolls and kitchen toys or sitting in our quiet corner and looking at books.

Many children love when we dance together or do a group activity, like planting seeds before lunch. Soon after lunch mothers arrive and we say, “See you tomorrow!” And that is the routine of our kindergarten. Each day is unique with its challenges and successes.

It has been the little things that have filled my heart with joy. After just one week of kindergarten we had the class walking in a line to the kitchen and to the playground. After just three days of teaching the first nine numbers we had several children identifying the numbers on their own! By the second week of class all the children were brushing their teeth daily, a new activity for many of them. Now they even ask to brush their teeth when they arrive. When I see these small miracles I give God praise, He is teaching these children one day at a time.


God has begun a good work

By Alicia Jones

On Monday of this week we celebrated the opening of the kindergarten at New Life Roma Church in Western Ukraine. It was a great celebration as visitors from far and near were present: Sándor Szenczy from Hungarian Baptist Aid, Pastor Craig Hamlin from my home church, Fairview Baptist, a representative from the mayor of the region, and the director of the local Roma school. Our honored guests were the children of the kindergarten class and their mothers.

We celebrated a vision and a dream coming to reality. For two years plus I’ve personally been praying for God to establish a kindergarten for the Roma children in this town. Locally people have prayed even longer. As I said at the inauguration on Monday, we are beginning small, but we believe God will grow it in His time and in His way.

Tuesday the first six students came, on Wednesday we had eight new students and on Thursday three new students. We wanted small groups at first, so that we could get acquainted with the children and their unique personalities. What a blessings these three days were, learning who the children are and how we might provide a kindergarten education for them.

God reminded me half way through the week of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” We’ve prayed for God to work in these little ones’ lives and we trust Him to carry it on to completion!

See more photos here.


A Day to Celebrate

By Alicia Jones

September 1st was probably just the start of a new month and a regular Saturday for many, but here in this quaint town in Western Ukraine it was the first day of school and everyone was celebrating its inauguration. School girls dressed in their white and blue clothes blew horns and sung as they walked through the city center.

I had the joy of spending the morning on the edge of town at the local school for the Roma community. Many of the beautiful faces I came to know this summer were gathered in the school courtyard to celebrate the new school year. Everyone was clean and looking their best.  

The ceremony began with the national anthems of both Ukraine and Hungary. Then their were speeches in Ukrainian and Hungarian by various people: the mayor of the town, the school principal, visitors, local pastors who work with the Roma people and there were even a few words from an American because I was given the opportunity to address parents and children on this special day.

I shared that we hope to start a kindergarten at the church nearby to help better prepare children for school. The few teachers I talked with individually before the ceremony were so excited for this and expressed how great the need is for a kindergarten. Lord willing, New Life Kindergarten hopes to have an inauguration celebration on Monday, September 17. It will certainly be something to celebrate after so many have prayed for and dreamed of the opening of a kindergarten in this Roma community. 

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