FBC Greenville partners with Stocks to provide church for Roma congregation
By Patricia Heys
ATLANTA – When a new communion table was presented to the Roma church in Kekcse, Hungary, fingerprints and smudges covered the tabletop.
On the previous Sunday, the table had been blessed by members of First Baptist Church of Greenville, S.C., who laid their hands upon it as they prayed. First Baptist member Danny Butcher built the table, which the South Carolina church gave as a gift to the Roma congregation.
“First Baptist and the mission team felt the table was a symbolic way to share Christ's love that goes beyond financial support and physical improvements to the church,” Butcher said. “The emotions of the moment were of amazement that all of the details in designing, building and transporting the table came together, and that God made it happen.”
The Romany people are a minority in Hungary, who experience discrimination not only socially but by government systems and religious bodies as well. For Roma congregations like the one in Kekcse, which had outgrown the house it was meeting in, there are many hurdles to finding a building for worship.
Ralph and Tammy Stocks, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions field personnel serving in Hungary, connected First Baptist with the congregation in Kekcse, and last year the South Carolina church helped purchase a church building.
With the Stocks facilitating the partnership, First Baptist members have not only invested financially in the Roma church, but have invested emotionally and spiritually. This spring, 13 First Baptist members spent a week in Kekcse renovating the church building – pouring concrete pads, constructing a fence and outhouse, adding a new roof – and building relationships. During their week in Hungary, First Baptist members led worship at four Roma churches.
“The experience cannot be expressed adequately in words or pictures,” said First Baptist member David Causey. “One must experience this sort of partnership ‘hands-on’ to fully grasp the emotional and physical needs of the Roma people. Ralph and Tammy prepared us exceptionally well, and it was important to have some sense of context going in.”The partnership with the Kekcse congregation was not the first one for First Baptist in Hungary. The Stocks also facilitated a partnership between First Baptist and the Gandhi School, a school for Romany children in Pecs, Hungary.
“We saw a need for the Roma to worship in a building they could call their own,” said church member Jim Childress, who has made several trips to Hungary. “The partnership in Kekcse provided another means for church members with specific skills to minister to the Romany people. If you go there and you work for a week or even a day, it comes to you very quickly how little the Romany have and ever hope to have.”
Glen Adkins, First Baptist’s current music minister, also traveled to Kekcse. Adkins and his wife, Clista, will be commissioned at the CBF General Assembly in June to serve at the Gandhi School.
“A partnership is about more than bricks and mortar,” said Ralph Stocks. “The result of the week was not only new construction, 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.”
To learn how your church can partner with the Stocks or other field personnel around the world, contact Karen Gilbert at (800) 352-8741 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.