Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ministry Possibilities in the Ukraine

Hungary shares a border with the Ukraine. Because of this there are many villages where Hungarian is widely spoken. Ralph recently visited there to research possible ministry projects. The Roma of the Ukraine live in absolute poverty as illustrated in the pictures.

As Ralph gazed across an empty lot strewn with trash he noticed a group of boys playing a game. Upon observation it resembled “roller bat” (a game the Stocks boys used to play!). The usual equipment is a baseball bat and a baseball. These boys were using a broken plank for the bat and a short stick for a ball! Ralph can’t wait to return to offer the real thing!

Hungarian Baptist Aid has helped to purchase a sizeable building to be renovated into a church for the Roma community in Mankacs. The building (pictured) was built as a telephone communications center 20 years ago. Under communism there was a good bit of eavesdropping going on from this building. Imagine how with lots of renovation the future sounds emanating from there will be praise songs and conversations with God! The building is in complete disrepair but the vision is for this to serve the Roma community not only as a church but as a kindergarten, bathing and washing center, and a clinic.

Please pray that necessary funds might be found to begin this huge work. There will be many volunteer opportunities associated with this property. “Borst” anyone? There are many needs in this area and we seek to be creative as we attempt to meet those needs and to share the Good News of a God that loves this poverty stricken village. Please pray for God to show the way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Szatmarcseke Roma Baptized

It is always a time of great celebration when new Roma (Gypsy) believers are baptized. Other Roma Christians come from miles, or in our case kilometers, around to be present and participate in the service. They bring a word of encouragement, offer special music or a scripture verse, and rejoice in the new lives of the candidates.

During the summer we always hold our Roma baptisms in the river but over the winter we ask local HBU churches for use of their facility. Last Saturday Ralph went to Nagyvarsany for an afternoon baptismal service of seven Roma from Szatmarcseke. It was the first time for this church to host a Roma group in their church. There are zero Roma living in this particular village dating back two decades to a time of conflict. During that time the local mayor threatened the Roma community and demanded that they leave. Since then due to prejudice and discrimination no Roma are living there. The local pastor and his congregation are not supportive of Roma mission work even outside of their village.

Against this backdrop we held the baptismal service. All went well for a while. The candidates gave testimonies, there was lots of Roma music, each candidate received a Bible and was prayed for by local leaders. Then came time for greetings. This is a tradition and very meaningful as local leaders and churches give encouragement to the new believers. Instead of encouraging the group the local pastor pointed out sin that was still evident in the lives of the new believers (smoking!). Then two of his elders got up and continued to harangue the candidates. Our new believers were stunned by their vehemence but gracefully remained silent.

To his credit, Jozsi Csuhai (Roma Missions Coordinator for Hungarian Baptists) stood and spoke of the prodigal son who returned to his father, filthy and stinking from work with pigs. The father accepted him in his condition and rejoiced that his son had come home. Following the service several of us encouraged our Roma brothers and sisters. Gradually the spirit of celebration returned as they rejoiced that seven more of their brethren had found the Lord!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Gypsy Smith School

March 19-23 is the next session of the Gypsy Smith Training School for Roma (Gypsy) leaders in Romania. Please pray for the men as they gather to learn how to continue to minister among their own people. Pray for Tandy McConnell and David Jordan from the US who will lead each day. Pray for the translator to be energetic and able to quickly recall the right words. Pray for the Roma men attending, not only that the sessions will be helpful, but also that they will experience good fellowship with each other and go home refreshed and renewed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"You're Pretty!"

"You're pretty." Those were the words said with lots of laughs to RALPH (!) at our Roma church this past Sunday. You know you're accepted as part of the group when the others good naturedly tease you and that's what the Roma men were doing. Ralph wore a tie and coat because he was preaching and thought he should look the part. Usually he dresses very casually, as do all the church members. So when Ralph walked in dressed up, the other guys immediately began to give him a hard time and they all enjoyed it immensely. Yes, it was a definite sign that Ralph is one of them.