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!

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