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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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Monday
Sep032012

Made for this relationship

By Alicia Jones

Not every Roma community is the same. In fact, I would say every Roma community is unique; they all have a story, a special place in this harsh world. Some communities have had a group of faithful Christians for more than fifteen years like one village we ministered at on Thursday evening. They still do not have a church building, but with joy they fit as many people as possible into one of the larger homes among them to sing praises to God, to pray for healing spiritually and physically, and to listen to the word of God.

Very near the Hungarian/Ukrainian border there is another village. The work of God in this place is vibrant. The new body of believers is just one year old. They too meet in a home to sing praises, to pray and to listen to God’s word. Their hunger for the word of God is evident. This village is just twenty kilometers from the one previously described. The gospel came to them because their friends living in the first village asked the pastor of New Life Roma Church to share the gospel with these Roma brothers. The community welcomed the message of Christ and is being transformed. Glory to God!

  

Saturday evening together with the pastor’s family I visited a family to congratulate them on the birth of their second son. The parents said, “This is a son of prayer, we have prayed for him.” They are searching for a biblical name for this gift from God. After we saw the precious new child we gathered around a feast, ate, talked and looked at pictures of weddings in the family. I have visited this village many times this summer, nearly weekly.  Saturday night as I looked at pictures from before these people knew their Savior and then looked around at the faces at the table, I marveled at how full and glad these ordinary people were now that they are in Christ. Surely all people were made to be in a relationship with their Creator! Most of the congregation was baptized this summer at one of the two baptisms; see the joy of the Lord on their faces.

Wednesday
Aug292012

Let our hearts be hungry

By Alicia Jones

I know life is more than having and not having. I understand that poverty exists. I believe God blesses the poor with rich faith. But still, I feel there is such a great disparity between the world of the poor and the world of the rich.

A Roma home for six people.A home in downtown Munkács

How can I report what I have experienced in my first two months living in Ukraine? My Roma friends ask me for simple things. One asks for a pair of shoes. Another asks me to teach her English. One women asks for $100 to buy medicine for a lump in her chest. She even shows me the x-ray from the hospital.

Some young girls keep begging me to visit them or they ask if they can visit me. One woman asks me to help start a kindergarten in her village. A weary couple just asks for a quiet and dry place to rest for a few minutes after bringing their sick child to town to see the doctor.

As I pray for wisdom from God as to how to respond to every request, I become more and more hungry myself. I begin to ask fervently for his kingdom to come. My heart longs for the day when “the ransomed of the LORD will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee” (Isaiah 35:10).

   I look around at these scenes and just know that the disparity should not be, it is a result of human sin. I hold to the hope that the great signing and sorrow that my Roma friends face will one day be fully replaced with joy and gladness. Even now, they come to their churches with singing and for a moment I can see on their heads crowns of unending joy. And I praise God that no matter how much you have or don’t have He will give you a crown of unending joy if you hunger for Him.


Wednesday
Aug152012

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

By Alicia Jones

Last week I went with about ninety youth ages 11-18 from the main town and surrounding villages for a week of camp. Life at camp was much like what I’m used to. There were the kids who missed home. There was the video camera and the annoying guys who invaded your room at one o’clock in the morning asking “Where are you?” There was crazy meal time in the dining hall. There was a great talent show, a bonfire, and dancing. And of course there were sports and team games.

For me, the week progressed like the start of a big race. I feel like a settled life here among the Roma and the start of the kindergarten is just around the corner and this week a voice seemed to yell, “On your mark, get set, GO!”

At the start of the week, the American team that was here on mission came two afternoons to the youth camp to do some activities, a little teaching and some small groups. These two afternoons gave me some contact with English speakers and some encouragement; I was on my mark. Additionally, the first four days of camp, a Hungarian girl stayed with me at the camp to help translate small group times and any serious conversations. This time helped me get set. But she had to leave Thursday night to return to Hungary. So, when Friday came it was time to GO! I was excited for the opportunity to be “on my own” among my Roma friends. No translator, no Americans, just me and the Roma.

The week of camp was run by a couple of local pastors and local church members. The songs, tears, and prayers of the youth during worship were meaningful, the friendships built between the young people are encouraging, and the work God did this week will be remembered. 

Tuesday
Jul242012

The Building Blocks of a Kindergarten

By Alicia Jones

I came to Ukraine on the first of July with the hope of seeing God establish a kindergarten as part of the ministry of New Life Roma Church. The first classroom of children will not gather until the first of September, but I knew there was much preparation to be done. The stepping stones from no kindergarten for the Roma children to a functioning effective kindergarten for the community may be difficult to see but are certainly there. God will take this community from one stone to the next until they arrive on the other side.

About six months ago at my church we held an interest meeting for the upcoming trip to the Ukraine to work with New Life Roma Church. At the meeting each attendee shared his or her gifts and how they hoped God would use them on the trip. A young man and his wife attended the meeting because of her interest. The young man shared that he has a hobby, woodworking. I immediately piped up and said, “Wonderful! Could you come help build furniture for the kindergarten?” Over the next few months he researched and planned. This was his example chair. I was delighted as I saw more stepping stones appear.


Six months later we found ourselves amidst a busy week at the church. The men on our team went with some local Romani men to the Ukrainian version of Home Depot and got excellent prices and all the supplies needed for the furniture project. By the end of the team’s trip to Ukraine, 20 chairs and 5 tables were constructed. The next team from Kannapolis, NC came the following week. They, along with many of the Hungarians who serve as translators, painted the tables and chairs. As the finishing touches went on I could almost see the chairs filled with squirming kindergarteners. There are many more steps to leap across, but I praise God for the gift of furniture for the kindergarten.


Monday
Jul092012

Buli: a party like none other

By Alicia Jones

Buli: origin - hungarian; meaning - party

Saturday is always a good day for a party, but it is a great day for a huge celebration of new life in Christ! This Saturday I went with four bus loads of Roma friends plus a few car loads of Hungarian friends down to the river. It was one of their bi-annual baptisms. New Life Roma Church takes seriously a person's commitment to follow Chirst. After coming forward to confess Christ in a church service, candidates for baptism are discipled and taught what it means to follow Christ, after one to eight months of preparation the day of baptism and celebration finally arrives. And I must say the Roma know how to celebrate!

The day began with young boys and girls darting for the warm pool that was dug and lined with tarps adjacent to the river. As they splashed in the water, the youth put their feet in the cool river water and the church ladies prepared sandwiches and drinks for everyone. After lunch, the reason for the party began. All the candidates got dressed in white clothes. There were approximately 50 of them.

The beautiful group entered the water and stood waiting to be baptized. The lead pastor and his good friend, the leader of Hungarian Baptist Aid, performed the baptism. I watched with great joy. A handful of youth from the church were in the group baptized; evidence of their new life in Christ is already clear as they have been meeting at the church in the morning daily for a time of prayer and worship. After each new life came forth from the waters of baptism their was an explosion of clapping and celebration. The service continued with heartfelt worship amplified for all to hear and prayer over each of the new believers. The time was so sweet and many shed tears of joy. The Roma then broke out in dancing!

The afternoon hours were filled with swimming in the river, singing, playing guitar, and eating traditional soups, one made of fish and the other of pig feet. There was plenty of joy, food, water, laughter and song to go around. It was a memorable day for all, especially for those who made their new life in Christ public. 

 

"Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life." Romans 6:4