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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In His Strength

By Alicia Jones

The weight of this Easter season has hit me in a different sort of way. I am preparing to move to Western Ukraine, and I've come to see that this step of faith will only be done in His strength.

At the cross and through the resurrection Jesus accomplished exactly what he was called and commissioned to do. Nevertheless, from the gospel accounts we see Jesus in the garden in great anguish as he faces this call. After the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples received a call and commission. The Father had sent Jesus; likewise Jesus sent the disciples into the world to preach the gospel of Jesus (John 20:21).

For me, the last two years and three months have passed quickly as I have prepared to serve God wherever he sent me by studying at Seminary. I've treasured the many hours of studying His word and fellowshipping with His people. Now the time is drawing near for me to get on a plane and move to Ukraine, where I believe God has called me to live and serve Him among the Roma of Western Ukraine. To read the entirety of my testimony visit Alicia's Story.

Worshiping God with the Roma in January 2012During these final months of preparation it seems that the reality of this coming step of faith has intensified. Language learning presents both challenges and delights. In my prayers for the Roma, I have become keenly aware of the enormity of my insufficiency to help them and the depth of their need for God Himself. As I've shared with believers across the state of North Carolina the vision for change God has given me for the Roma, I've had to face the realness of what I share and excitement often overtakes me. God is big enough and powerful enough to meet the deepest need. Along the journey of preparation, I have felt powerless and God has graciously reminded me through His word that I go forth only in His strength.

I may be trying to learn a very difficult language, but I must be strengthed by God for the task. I may long to see the Roma be "called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor" (Isaiah 61:3b, NIV), but it will only be by awesome displays of God's strength and power that such spiritual life will continue springing forth. I may share the vision God has given, but I find myself completely dependent on his strength for this task too. 

"Finally, be strengthened by God and by his vast strength." (Ephesians 6:10, HCSB). There is a call on us all to find strength in God, not in ourselves. His strength is vast. Jesus, even in his anguish on the night before his death conciously chose to depend on God and on "his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 1:20, NIV). This is the same strength upon which we are invited to depend.


Looking Back, Looking Forward

By Jack Carroll

     Every time I tell the story of the Gypsies and New Life Church, I begin by saying, “I never planned to go to the Ukraine because it seemed like a cold and damp place”. I am sure I will find it that way when I go back for the third time this winter.

     My involvement with NCBM Disaster Relief Ministry goes back to Williamston, N.C. during the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd in 1999. It began with a feeding unit early one morning. It continues today as my wife and I make preparations to return to Munkacs, in the Ukraine.

     In the summer of 2010, and twice already this year NCBM have provided medical care and relief teams to a considerable Roma Gypsy population. The Roma have been pushed to the edge of society for so long it has become their home. They are tougher than we are. Their ruddy complexion and hard hands tell an unspoken story. I do not know many folks that could live like they have to. I am always amazed to see smiles and laughter spring from such a desperate situation. I have been blessed to be part of the hope and the healing for these people.

     In 2005 I enrolled in EMT continuing education classes at the local community college. I had joined the NCBM International Search and Rescue Team and I wanted to learn a skill that would be useful. It was a long and winding road, but one traveled by others before me. As a student you are trained academically and emotionally to deal with illness and trauma. I was being prepared for my mission.

     The medical training and the EMT certification put me in a position to go with the first NCBM team into Haiti after the earthquake. I could not have planned to be used by God in a more powerful way. Our team was amazing, and so were the people we worked with. It was on a canvas of desperation and hopelessness that God did his best work in Haiti. We were the colors he used to create a brighter day for so many and his artwork continues to take shape. You are always changed after experiences like that.

     I had been asked to go to Ukraine once before with some friends I had met on mission. I was not able to accept the invitation then, but God was working. Earlier this year in the spring, I opened an e-mail that indicated that a medical team was forming and needed a pharmacist and an EMT, and nurses, to go to Ukraine. God was still working, because you see, my wife is a pharmacist. I had always wanted to be able to go on mission with my wife and here was this opportunity. God is awesome!

     So with God going on before us, we prepared for our mission in Munkacs and at New Life Church. The team came together, and we were able to secure the medical supplies that we thought we would need. We took a lot of supplies but the most important thing we carried with us was love.

     It was love that carried us past the whitewashed houses and the grape arbors to the end of the road. We found the gypsies where the road turned into dirt and dung and trash. Women and children with aimless expressions became animated at the sight of the vehicles. Others continued to stare as if to say, “so what”. Their dilapidated homes soaking in the sunlight that beamed through holes in the roof and walls, the same holes that the rain and the icy winter wind would soon blow through. Their animals have that “I’ve been kicked before” look.

     It was in that place; at that time that God continued his work with us, and the Gypsies. The stories of their lives were revealed as we listened to their hearts beating and touched their weathered bodies. If we needed further understanding we were blessed with wonderful young people who translated and worked beside us. We laughed and cried and cared for them and for some it was the first time anyone cared. God revealed himself to them as he accomplished his perfect will through us. I could not have planned any of this. God is great! His timing has always been perfect.


Staying Warm

The winters are very hard for the Roma people. It is harder for them to find money on cold winter days, and many times they have nothing to spend on firewood. New Life Roma Church does their best to help those families facing this problem. 

This winter was especially difficult because of the excessive snow and very low temperatures. The help provided was lifesaving: many families would have frozen if it wasn't for the firewood. The harsh winter even lead to the loss of one woman who froze to death in one of the villages. She was asleep in the cold room without any heating and this tragedy happened. The pastor does not remember such things happen before; "it seems that we are living in different times now." Poverty in camps is huge, and people cannot pay as much attention to others as they used to, since it is very hard for them to provide for their own families.

Please pray for the Roma and that God would take care of them even in the details, like having firewood during this harsh winter.



Hats from our hands to your heads

A group of ladies from a church in Roxboro asked last summer what they could do for the children in Ukraine. "Can you sew?" was the response. The ladies were sent a pattern and sample of fleece hats. A week later they had a bunch ready to go and so we took them with us in August. The pastor said not to give them out because the kids would lose them before winter, so we stashed them away in the storage room at New Life and hoped someday we'd get a chance to hand them out. Oh, what a glorious day Monday was when every single child in a small village received a hat during the clinic. Sometimes it's the simplest things that can make a huge impact. Ladies in their 70s and 80s sitting around sewing hats for little ones they'll never meet, wondering what they'd look like wearing their creations. And now they'll know. It doesn't get much better than that.
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