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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
Jun252012

Goodbye for now

By Alicia Jones

I've watched friends say goodbye to their friends and family and move to another country. I've listened to friends share the stories of moving far from home. Strangely, yet with peace, it is my time to say goodbye and to move far from here. I look forward to life among the Roma and the adventure ahead.

God has been very gracious to me, blessing me with a season of calm before my journey to Ukraine begins. I've had several weeks to spend quality time with beloved friends and family. I was even able to go to the beach with my family, only my eldest brother being absent. 

These blessings, great as they may be, pale in comparison with the treasure I have in Christ. As I pack my bags and prepare to leave in less than a week my heart cries one thing, "God please send your Presence with us!" I remember Moses saying to God in the 33rd chapter of Exodus, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here." I cannot bear the thought of a journey like the one before me, with so many uncertainties, without the Presence and Power of the God of the Universe leading and guiding me along the way. Yet, when I think about going, as He leads, to a land and a people so different from everything I've known I get giddy with excitement. My heartbeats faster and my step gets quicker. Let the adventure with a great and awesome God begin! 

Saturday
Jun022012

Sharing the Vision

By Alicia Jones

For the past four months I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing the vision of Love Help Teach with several churches and at a few special events around the state of North Carolina. The journey of preparation through sharing the vision has blessed me in two significant ways: (1) in seeing God at work across the state and (2) in remembering the biblical basis for why I am going to Ukraine.

I am convinced God is at work all across the state of North Carolina and around the world through the local church. I say such a statement because what I have seen in the past four months is God's spirit at work in small towns and big cities as well as a great number of people with a great love for God and for others in local churches.

Sometimes, in the humdrum of our own lives, we develop tunnel vision. The work we do individually or we see our church doing seems so small and never enough, but the work one individual body of believers does is not all God is doing. Your church and my church are not the only two bodies of believers laboring faithfully in the name of Christ Jesus! God has raised up a great army of diverse and spirit-filled redeemed people. The effort each one puts forth in obedience to God is multiplied over ten-thousand times all across the globe. In my visits to various churches I've begun to do some math, adding up what each one is doing and, wow, the state of North Carolina is not without bold witnesses and a righteous remnant. May we each faithfully continue in love and good deeds.

As I’ve shared with churches the vision of Love Help Teach I have not shared from one scripture, but instead God’s spirit has directed me to a different scripture for each opportunity. These scriptures I’ve shared from have been ones that God had used in my life previously to illuminate the path that has led me to move to Ukraine: Psalm 84, 1 John 3:16-23, Psalm 79, James 2:5-6, and Psalm 61. As I shared I reflected on exactly how I got to this point; I leave four weeks from today to go to Ukraine, and I have been stirred within with a desire to go in obedience and by faith in God Almighty.

Praise God that he cares for the poor and defends the fatherless as the Scripture testifies, and yet his redemption comes to anyone who puts full trust in Him no matter how rich or poor. My prayer is that God’s provision for the Roma of Western Ukraine will prove His faithfulness and sovereignty to all the people of Transcarpathia and that a great number will trust Christ.

These few pictures give a glimpse of the culture of Transcarpathia into which I am about to be immersed; they were taken by Anna when I shared at Green Springs Baptist Church.

 

 


Sunday
Apr082012

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.

Sunday
Mar182012

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.

Friday
Mar022012

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.