Saturday, May 26, 2007

If You Build It, They Will Come...

"If you build it, they will come." That saying originally applied to a baseball field built in a corn field. We have reversed the order as the quick growth of house churches among the Roma has ushered in the challenge of providing adequate facilities for these groups to worship in. We were blest in late April through a volunteer team from FBC-Greenville, SC, that helped renovate a property in Kekcse, to give that congregation a more secure and more practical meeting place. The church would like to stucco the exterior of the building this summer and then they will have an outstanding worship center. There is a group of Hungarian Baptist men who have volunteered to do the labor for free. This is a great opportunity to build relationships between Hungarian and Gypsy believers.

We have decided to build an addition to the home of the leader in the village of Szatmarcseke. This May a group of Gypsy men traveled there to help build the extension that will allow some 30-40 people to gather and worship. It is rewarding to see fellow believers who have construction skills come together to provide this building ministry.

God is bringing healing out of tragedy in the village of Olaszliszke. Last November a Hungarian school teacher was driving his daughter through this village when he collided with a young Gypsy child playing in the street. It turned out that the child received a glancing blow and in shock veered off into safety. Nearby Gypsy adults assumed the worst when they heard the screams of the other children and rushed to street, dragged the hapless driver from the car and beat him to death. Many have been arrested and are awaiting trial. The Gypsy community stood condemned and in shock from the mob mentality. Jozsi Olah, a Gypsy evangelist, sensed their great grief and quickly went to offer consolation and the assurance of God's forgiveness. A house church sprang up and has grown to 40 in a few short months. A cross was erected at the scene of the accident while residents of the house there have offered to sell the house to the church. We are currently in the process of securing this property in the hopes that a church there will help to bring healing to this hurting community.

Property has been purchased in Retkozberencs ('Berencs) that includes two buildings. Although in bad shape the larger building can be renovated into a suitable worship center. Some roofing repair will need to be done, an exterior wall or two torn down and extensive plastering and painting on both exterior and interior walls. This property lies on the main street of the village in easy walking distance of the Gypsy residents. Funds for purchasing the property and renovation materials have been provided by FBC-Greenville and other individuals.
We are looking for property to purchase in the village of Ujleta. A congregation of 25 is in need of a small house suitable for holding that size group. Please pray that we will be able to locate an affordable piece of property in a good location to help this house church continue to grow.

We are also partnering with Hungarian Baptist Aid to help as we can with renovating a building in the Ukraine into a worship center/community service center for the Roma of the area.

God is working among the Roma in Hungary as they grow in their faith and share the Good News with their fellow Romany. He is answering their prayers and helping them to have places of refuge from what the world. We are grateful to Him and to those who partner with us to provide these safe havens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My latest project is creating picture collages for the Roma churches. The Roma believers, like most of us, enjoy looking at pictures of themselves. So I have made several collages of important events in the church lives. It is fun for both of us. Who would have thought when I hauled all that scrapbooking stuff across the ocean that I would end up using it in ministry??

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

When is a Brick More Than a Brick? (FBC, Greenville, SC partnership)

A partnership is about more than bricks and mortar. Thirteen men from FBC-Greenville traveled to Kekcse, Hungary the last week of April and put aside their trowels, shovels and wheelbarrows whenever approached by curious Gypsy kids or adults wishing to communicate. The result of the week was not only a new fence surrounding the church, a new concrete pad for outdoor activities, new guttering, a new outdoor toilet and new roofing but new and personal relationships with Roma church members as well as community residents. Every team member took with them faces and names that they will long remember and for whom they will often say prayers.

Having previously provided the funding to buy a used house, FBC-Greenville sent a skilled team to renovate the church property. The Roma folks willingly joined in the labor with women and girls carrying buckets of water for the cement mixer, kids hammering nails into the new WC, young men shoveling the gravel and cement mix into the mixer. Ladies prepared typical Roma meals for lunch for the hungry crew and the leftovers provided meals for nearby residents who were struggling to buy food at the end of the month.

The team also led worship in four Roma churches with testimonies, preaching and blue-grass music including guitars, a banjo and a dobro. One highlight among many was the presentation of a communion table, hand-crafted by team member Danny Butcher. Clapping and shrieks of joy accompanied the unveiling! This table had been dedicated the previous Sunday in the worship service at FBC-Greenville. There were many fingerprints and smudges following that dedication in Greenville as members prayed over the table but Danny chose not to wipe them off – deciding instead to let the Kekcse Roma know how much love and prayer accompanied the gift.

The bags of team members were lighter on the return flight what with having giving away hats, work gloves and tool belts. There were some scraped knuckles, sore muscles and sunburned arms. Most of all there was a sense of joy at having joined with Roma Christians from Kekcse and local CBF field personnel to strengthen the witness of God’s love in a remote village in eastern Hungary. That’s partnership!