Saturday, April 30, 2011

Parks in Romania

I find it amazing in a city of over 3 million people there are parks everywhere!  It is one of the great things about Bucharest.  Parks are scattered across the city and are well kept.  They are greatly utilized by the Romanians especially on the weekends.  We take our daily walk through two of them and enjoy people watching while we stroll along.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Romania

Easter morning came early - or so it seemed since Providence has a late night service on Saturday.  We had requested members to bring flowers for the Flowering Cross - a new way to celebrate Easter.    A couple of the ladies and I encouraged people as they arrived to place their flowers on the wooden cross.  And we worked to stick extra ones to fill in the gaps.  It was a dramatic moment when we swung the doors open during one of the morning songs and brought the beautiful cross into the sanctuary.

The music was beautiful with a full vocal choir and a full mandolin choir.  We sang a combination of traditional hymns and newer praise songs.

After the service we went to our friend, Mona's house for a traditional Romanian Easter lunch.  Mona is Cami Bunaciu's sister and an excellent cook.  It was all a wonderful celebration of that our Lord lives!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Don't I Know You?"

In 1996 Ralph and I were still learning a lot about Roma ministry having only been in Hungary for one year.   T Thomas, the pioneer of Gypsy ministry with CBF, came over from France in the "Gypsymobile", a camping van, to pick up Ralph for a swing through Romania and Bulgaria where large numbers of Roma lived.  In Romania they were joined by Romany pastor, Stefan Birnis.  Together the three of them traveled to Bulgaria to visit churches and offer encouragement to the Gypsy believers.  Brother Stefan preached in his Romani language dialect and was understood by the Bulgarian Roma.  It was an amazing moment in time.

Fast forward to 2011.  Last weekend Ralph traveled to the village of Sadova to visit a Gypsy church with our Romanian friend, Boris Caraion.  Imagine the delight when the pastor was introduced.  It was Brother Stefan!  It took a minute for each man to make the connection thanks to little more gray hair and a few more laugh lines.  They had a pleasant reunion fondly recalling those early days.

Thank you God for fun surprises.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obed Hunts Eggs

The children burst into the room to find the eggs

Happily showing off their eggs
"What's an egg hunt?"  Hunting Easter eggs is not a tradition in Romania so it was a new experience for the kids of the Obed Day Center at Project Ruth.  They eagerly decorated their bags and listened to the instructions of the activity.  The weather did not cooperate so the eggs were cleverly hidden in a classroom next door under toys, in boots, inside cups, and on the windowsills.  The children burst into the room and scurried around until each had found seven eggs.  They excitedly asked if the eggs were theirs to keep and one can imagine they were anticipating eating them for lunch or surprising their families with this gift.  The bags were searched for the two prize eggs - a purple one and one with a smiley face.  These lucky children received a chocolate rabbit.  And so no one would feel left out, all the students received chocolate bunnies as a treat.  It was an enjoyable activity and a wonderful way to begin the Easter break from school.  Thank you God for providing fun times.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Have A Heart...

How many hearts do you have?  Alexandrina Nacu has three.  Of course she has the physical one like we all have that pumps blood around the body.  Ms Nacu has a second heart that is filled with love for the students of the Ruth School.  Here she has taught Biology for several years and works hard to make sure her students learn the vital lessons of science.  She commands respect in her classroom and makes lessons interesting with limited supplies.  She is a favorite teacher among the students. 

Recently thanks to the generosity of Carolina Biology Supply in North Carolina, Ms Nacu received a third heart.   When the educational team from Knollwood Baptist Church presented her a heart model during the teacher's inservice, Ms Nacu clapped her hands and exclaimed with joy.  She has long wished for durable, hands-on aids to use for teaching.  She was as excited as a kid at Christmas.  Quickly she took the heart apart and reassembled it, offering a teaching moment to anyone interested in listening.  She was practically giddy!

Thank you God for giving Alexandrina Nacu three hearts, each one valuable in its own way.  Thank you Carolina Biological Supply for the donation and thank you Knollwood Baptist for hauling it over the ocean.  Now the Biology students at the Ruth School will be able to know all about "hearts".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CBF's Global Missions Offering Needs Your Help

The offering that supports the field personnel of CBF is experiencing a deficit.  Please consider a gift to help us keep the promises of being the presence of Christ among the neglected of the world.  If you are from North Carolina your gift will be matched by your state CBF. (See article below)  That's a guaranteed doubling of your investment!  Even Wall Street can't do that!

PO Box 101699
Atlanta, GA  30392-1699

or online at:

(North Carolinians be sure to state your residency.)

State CBF challenges churches for global missions

By Norman Jameson, Associated Baptist Press
Monday, April 11, 2011

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (ABP) -- Saying Fellowship Baptists need to “keep the promises” made to missionaries and the neglected peoples they serve, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina has issued a $100,000 challenge on behalf of the CBF Offering for Global Missions.

In the 13 weeks between the North Carolina CBF general assembly in Asheville and the national CBF general assembly in Tampa, Fla., CBFNC will match every dollar given from a North Carolina church or individual to the global missions offering, up to $100,000.

With the offering at just 50 percent of its $5.5 million goal through March and beneath the hovering threat of having to recall missionaries, North Carolina CBF Executive Coordinator Larry Hovis said: “We decided on the challenge to encourage North Carolina Fellowship Baptists to redouble their efforts in supporting the offering. Ultimately it is supporting people struggling to be the presence of Christ among some of the most neglected people groups in the world.”

“Twenty years ago, Fellowship Baptists made a commitment to the marginalized and least evangelized,” Hovis said in making the challenge announcement. “We agreed to tackle the global missions enterprise as ‘cooperative’ Baptists engaging in global missions together, agreeing to pool our resources so that the poor may be fed, clothed, housed, medically treated, educated, given economic opportunities and introduced to Jesus Christ. The Fellowship cannot make good on those promises to the most neglected with contributions from partnering congregations continuing to decline.”

CBF national receives the missions offering through September. Controller Larry Hurst said gifts to the offering income are about where they have been the past few years at this point in the calendar, but that rate has left the offering a half million dollars short of goal. CBF Executive Director Daniel Vestal warned last June that continuing offering shortfalls could result in recalling missionaries.

North Carolina is typically near the top among state CBF fellowships in supporting the Offering for Global Missions. The challenge reflects both the state’s commitment to global missions and receipts that solidly exceeded their operations budget. Hovis said the fiscal year runs April 1 through March 31, and this year churches oversubscribed the budget, leaving a fund balance to use for the challenge gift.

“By offering the challenge we are not just encouraging people to give but saying, ‘We’re going to lead the way,’” Hovis said. He said he believes a successful offering is the difference between missions personnel coming home and being able to send additional workers to the field.

CBF leaders at the national level are promoting this year’s missions offering by calling on Baptists to “keep the promise” made both to fully-funded field personnel and the marginalized people they serve.

“North Carolina CBF has been a significant partner in global missions from the very beginning,” said Rob Nash, CBF coordinator of global missions. “For CBFNC to come to the plate with this kind of challenge grant means that we’re going to be able to overcome this deficit funding we’ve experienced over the past couple years. It will enable us to keep our field personnel in places of ministry to which God has called them.

Hovis said while the missions support “lifeline has frayed,” he believes CBF senses the support of congregations “in a myriad of ways that is encouraging to them.” He does not believe the mission offering struggles to meet goal is the byproduct of anything other than the economy and the struggles of congregations to meet their own budgets.

Vestal said last year that he finds it “puzzling” that churches don’t give more to the Offering for Global Missions.

“I am totally puzzled,” he said at the June meeting of his Coordinating Council. “I am confused. I don’t understand why churches don’t give to the Offering for Global Missions. Every dime goes either to pay a missionary’s salary or project or living ministries of a missionary.”


Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Greater is He--Week of Prayer, Day 7 - Praises!

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,
because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
I John 4:4, NIV

Join us in praising God for this truth and for the ways He is at work for and among the Romany.

The Roma Education Fund provides support to talented Roma university students across Hungary—and helps shatter stereotypes.

The January session of the Gypsy Smith School was a huge success--20 were expected but 24 attended. The Gypsy Smith School is a leadership training for Roma church leaders held four times a year in Bucharest, Romania.

A hundred years ago one of the greatest evangelists in Britain was Romany—Gypsy (Rodney) Smith.

The two women working with Romany in Italy use most of their financial resources to feed and clothe children who live in make shift houses under bridges and overpasses. When the police chase them away, these Christians search until they find them again.

This past Christmas the International School in Kosice, Slovakia, had a food drive to emphasize the importance of concern for others and provided food for at least 10 Roma families.

This year Project Ruth took a new step in their quest to break the cycles of poverty through education by beginning a preschool class in a Roma neighborhood in Bucharest, Romania.

Through her hobby of making and selling cards, a Dutch woman is providing tuition for a Romany student to attend the Moldovan Bible College.

Bethlehem Baptist Church in Moldova tried for more than 6 years to get electricity. The fee was $300--a month's wages for some people. The whole church dedicated themselves to two days of prayer and fasting. The whole sum was provided.

Laszlo, a retired Hungarian business-man, supports the Roma Baptist Church in Csobanka Sunday after Sunday, despite member-ship ups and downs, weather conditions, often the lack of a musician, through teaching, preaching, praying, and serving as treasurer.

Friday, April 8, 2011

International Roma Day

Today is International Roma Day. 

This statement comes from the National Roma Center (NRC) in Kumanovo, Macedonia, "This year marks four decades since the First Roma Congress was held in London, and besides the fact that the movement for improvement of the situation of the Roma community has improved, the lives of millions Roma throughout Europe have not been visibly improved. The Roma community is faced with extremely low conditions for normal living and migrates in order to look for stability and normal development. NRC appeals to all Governments responsible for the lives of millions of Roma citizens, decrease migration, by offering stability."

The NRC offers five areas of needed action:
1. Offering Roma civil status so they can obtain ID cards
2. Improving employment opportunities
3. Assisting to improve living conditions and housing
4. Providing health care
5. Providing education - this is one of the bright spots noted by the NRC.  Educational opportunities have improved greatly but still need to be increased.

Our team is working in many of these areas to help improve the lives of the Roma in the countries where we serve.  Please consider being an advocate for the Romany.  Partner with us through praying, giving, and serving.

Greater is He--Week of Prayer, Day 6

This past summer I attended my first baptism of Roma believers. All five of them had come to know Christ through the efforts of the OASIS Ministry of the BETHEL House of Christian Help in Litomerice, Czech Republic. We drove through Terezin, where one of the Nazi concentration camps was located, on the way to the baptism.

The sun was shining; it was warm and the perfect day for baptism in a river. As I walked down the old stone steps to the river, I remember thinking that it was an interesting choice of location for the event. It wasn’t until we were leaving that the true significance of the site became clear to me. Although Terezin was not considered one of the death camps, it was complete with gas chambers and cremation ovens and over 30,000 people lost their lives there.

Reading the memorial statue by the river, I realized that this beautiful place was where the Nazis dumped the ashes from the cremation ovens. What had once been a place of death and darkness was now a place of rebirth and light. God truly is greater than even the darkest moments in history.

--Pray that the new Roma believers in Litomerice will continue to grow in their faith and witness.

--Pray for the new cooking class outreach to Roma girls in Litomerice.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Greater is He--Week of Prayer, Day 5

Following a failed marriage for each of them Tibi and Natasha fell in love. At about the same time Natasha, a believer, led Tibi to the Lord. With Natasha’s help Tibi learned to read for the first time and the Bible became his book of choice. He matured rapidly in his faith and his reading ability.

However, they faced a dilemma. Unemployment amongst Roma in Hungary hovers between 80-90% and they struggled in a depressed area of the country. Each could secure seasonal work for three months at a time but nothing was guaranteed year-round. In a strange quirk the social welfare system allows two single adults, even living together, to draw more in benefits than a married couple living together. Even with these meager benefits survival was a daily struggle.

A greater struggle ensued as they came to understand God’s design for marriage and family stability. With a new conviction of their maturing faith they were married. Even though they faced more severe hardships economically they knew they were doing the right thing. Their example of sacrifice to follow God’s will has impacted other Roma couples in the same circumstances.

--Pray that Christian marriages will withstand the economic pressures placed upon them by an uncaring social welfare policy.

--Pray that Roma will find work year-round so that they can provide for their families through honest work and live morally.

--Pray that Tibi and Natasha will experience God’s blessings for their obedience to his teachings.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Greater is He--Week of Prayer, Day 4

Sister Luise (Louisa)* began an outreach to Sinti children in her native Germany. One Sinti father became very angry with her because his child subsequently refused to lie for him. He found a way to have Sister Luise declared “unclean.” She had filled in briefly for someone at a hospital reception desk, and in Sinti culture blood (and by extension hospital work) makes one unclean.

Since Sister Luise could no longer have direct contact with Sinti, she began making and sending cards with Scripture verses in German, then Bible story booklets, then Bible story booklets with Sinti text pasted over the German . . . which eventually led to establishing Romanes Arbeit Marburg, a German organization that supports Wycliffe Bible Translators working in Sinti . . . which eventually led to:

3 published books of the Bible;
3 Scripture audio-recordings;
6 Christian DVDs dubbed into the Sinti language;
7 segments of Bible stories available on YouTube;
2 children’s Scripture coloring books.

As of today, the entire New Testament with Psalms is available in print and recording of the audio version is 50% completed. Truly, greater is He that was in Sister Luise than he that is in the world.

--Praise for Sinti believers who have helped make and distribute culturally-appropriate Christian media;

--Prayer for the use and distribution of the New Testament to evangelize and disciple Sinti Romany.

*Sister Luise was a diaconess, a sort of Protestant nun. The diaconess movement has started hospitals, engaged in social work, and is active in missions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Greater is He--Week of Prayer, Day 3

Though he grew up in a children’s home, Pavel is excited to return to Roma settlements to share the restoring hope of Christ. There he met Richard who told about the emotional, spiritual and even physical burdens he bears because of his work in a very poor Roma community.

“I don’t know how I could work in these places without faith, without Jesus’ power,” Pavel responded to Richard. “You can’t continue in this type of work without Jesus.” This conversation took place between two very different Roma men who are both involved in meeting the needs of Roma in north-central Slovakia.

In a later conversation, Richard shared how his son giggles that after all these years his strong, retired military father has started going to church to pray. Richard has found a place to restore himself through prayer and to experience the hope of Jesus.

--Pray for Pavel who was baptized in early 2011 as he continues to grow in the faith and as he discovers God’s will for his life.

--Pray for Richard and that God would continue to reveal Himself as a source of hope and restoration.

--Pray for the Roma of Slovakia and for all those who bring the Light to their dark world.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Greater is He - Week of Prayer, Day 2

No matter where they live in Europe the Roma people hear the taunts, insults and ridicule. “You are dirty, worthless and lazy. You will never amount to anything.” They face discrimination from nationals in education, employment, housing and medical care.

And yet the God who loves them collectively and individually has touched the hearts of Romanian Baptists and has overcome the harsh rhetoric and treatment normally experienced by Roma children. Last year the 8th grade class of the Ruth School graduated all 12 of its Roma students and each one successfully re-entered public education at the secondary level.

The message those kids received was, “You are a child of God and worthy of love!” The God who touches people’s hearts and moves them to overpower discrimination is greater than the one who fosters hate (I John. 4:4).

--Pray that graduates of the Ruth School who re-enter Romanian public education will experience success and will have enough self-esteem to overcome discrimination from fellow students.

--Pray that teachers at the Ruth School will instill in their Roma students a strong sense of God’s love for them and exhibit good cross-cultural skills in teaching them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greater is He That Is in Us--Week of Prayer, Day 1

Beginning today our CBF Gypsy Team invites you to pray for the Romany (Gypsies) every day this week using the guide we will post daily.  This can also be viewed at

The position of the 6-11 million Romany (Gypsies) living around the world is not be particularly encouraging. The Romany originated in northwestern India centuries ago and have since spread to every inhabitable continent on earth. While their number includes university professors, preachers, journalists, successful artists, and governmental leaders, it also includes villages with practically 100% unemployment. News snippets like these remain depressingly common:

Systemic segregation of Romani children in education continues. . .

A 2010 US State Department report discusses the overrepresentation of Roma as victims of trafficking . . . .

“Standards Do Not Apply: Inadequate Housing in Romani Communities”

“. . . anti-Romani violence has remained a serious and even an increasing problem . . .”

We (CBF's Romany Team) invite you to pray with us this week and see, as we have, that “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."

--Thank God for the hope offered through Jesus Christ, the son, and the transforming power provided through the Holy Spirit.

--Pray for the Romany—and other Christians near them—to view their lives from God’s perspective, and not the world’s.

Note: Romany, Romani, and Roma are all common terms for the same group

Teaching Teachers # 2

Obed Day teacher, Angela, making paper dolls
Wow!  Look at the fun stuff!
The inservice started with instructions on how to make paper dolls.  As the teachers worked to follow the directions the point was made how children can struggle at different levels when given directions.  This was followed by a lengthy discussion on behavioral problems and positive reinforcement.  As two of the Knollwood team acted out the difficulties that can be seen in the classroom, several of the teachers laughed and said they knew those children personally!  The Ruth teachers were given a plan of action for several of the common problems observed in classrooms. 

The teachers were next treated to 'hands-on' demonstrations of the many classroom aids brought by the team.  The staff's eyes lit up as they realized the things were theirs to enjoy and use with their students.  Thank you Knollwood for making that happen!

Good-byes were said and email addresses exchanged.  Teachers who were feeling the tiredness that comes as the school year draws to a close were re-energized for the last 2 months.  They had new ideas and plans for the coming year.  It was a learning experience for all.

Olympics Closing Ceremonies

The Olympics at the Ruth School officially came to a close with ceremonies held during lunch on Thursday, March 31.  The students were treated to a hot dog lunch and video highlights of the week.  Each "country" was called forward so all the participants could receive a medal, hugs, and high fives from the Knollwood team.  The students were quite proud of their medals and showed them off.  Lastly the Olympic flame was extinguished and the students were led in cheers of "All for one and one for all" as they made their way out the door.  It was a resounding way to end the week!