Thursday, December 18, 2014

Called to Love the Roma

Wishing for a Clearer Call

     After two years of working to raise up a team of financial partners I found myself doubting if  God was actually calling our family to Romania, but Christ took my doubt and replaced it with faith in Him. Waiting caused me to seek Him more intently, and He has clearly been validating our call.  This blog is the story of how God has been speaking to us and encouraging us to continue towards serving the least loved in Romania.
  While attending pre-field training with ReachGlobal I heard another missionary’s testimony of how God called Him to serve in a foreign country. The Lord had used a Bible passage to break this man’s heart for those living in spiritual darkness and told him, “You are to go to those living in this darkness just as I came to rescue you from yours.” This man then explained how God made it crystal clear where he was to serve and the people he was to love.
     That night as my wife and I discussed the day, I said, “I wish I had a clearer calling from God.” The Spirit of God used that thought to set in motion a lot of prayerful consideration of what God wanted for our family’s future. During this time, we read the book Experiencing God. Our hearts were struck by the phrase “look for where God is at work and join Him.”
     We began to pray, “What are you saying to us? Where are you at work in us?” We had been traveling around the US for over eighteen months, speaking at churches and trying to raise a team of financial partners so that we could serve in Romania. We had a lot of money that still needed to be raised and had run out of people and churches to contact. We were in the middle of a season of waiting and did not know why.

God's Word Speaks

God then took us to Isaiah 61:1-2:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

     My wife and I realized that He had taken us to this passage many times over the last year and a half, but we hadn’t spent the time in silence to hear what it meant for us. We set aside a week to listen, and God spoke.  He used that time in silence to remind us of our survey trip to Romania. While on a public transportation tram we saw a young Roma girl selling flowers on a tram. All of the Romanians on the tram turned their backs to her as she walked down the aisle with the flowers she was selling. One Romanian bought some flowers from her but paid over his shoulder so he wouldn’t have to look her in the face. Jamie and I were shocked because we had not known of the extreme prejudice and discrimination that took place against the Roma people.
     The Roma are known for being thieves and prostitutes-- the bottom rung of society. The majority of Europeans have despised the Roma for centuries. In many European countries they were even gassed with the Jews during the Holocaust. Modern anti-Roma feelings are clearly demonstrated through a 2012 Swiss newspaper article about Roma immigration entitled, “The Roma are coming: They come, they steal and they go".  
     When Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years ago He told a parable of a Pharisees praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). If Jesus were to come to Europe today, I think he would hear, “God, thank you that you did not make me a Roma gypsy.”
     After God reminded me of what we witnessed in Romania He said to me, “Jesus came for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and those who mourn. Mark, I am sending you to love the unlovely, the looked down upon, the despised of society, the prostitutes and sinners. I am sending you to the Roma.”
     Reading further in Isaiah 61 we see what God’s plans are for the poor and despised: “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor… For I, the Lord, love justice…. Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed” (Isaiah 61:7-9). We believe that the Lord is going to take the Roma from being the most unloved and despised people on the continent to being a people that everyone will realize the Lord has blessed. The exciting thing is: He has already begun to do it!

More Confirmation

     That same week we were praying through Isaiah 61, we began to hear stories of what God is doing amongst the Roma in Romania. Simply put, the Spirit of God is at work drawing large numbers of Roma to Himself. Entire communities in the countryside are being transformed. One community closed all its bars because the Roma stopped drinking when they met Christ. It is not just limited to Romania; God is at work all over Europe. In October Newsweek ran an article titled, “How the Roma are Becoming Europe’s New Moral Army". The article tells of Roma coming to Christ in large numbers; it tells of revival. The people who have been shamed as thieves and looked down upon for centuries are becoming the moral compass for the continent. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. Their old life is gone; and a new life has begun! We see God giving the Roma this new identity: followers of Christ and precious children of God.
     In one week of prayer God had put the pieces together in my mind. I had always wondered why God was sending us to Europe after my wife and I took missionary training to specifically work with animists, those involved in witchcraft, and illiterate people. Many of the Roma fit all of those categories. In my quest to have a clearer call from God I was given a love for a despised people, affirmation that His Spirit is already at work, and a promise of the blessed future they will have in our Heavenly Father’s family.

One Last Step

     Lord willing, we would like to move to Romania by February to join God’s work among the Roma people. God has proved 77% of our monthly financial need. If you feel the Spirit of God impressing on you to join in His work amongst the Roma please prayerfully consider partnering with us and signing up for our ministry newsletter.

This blog post is going to be posted on ReachGlobal's blog next week.  If you want to read more about the Roma people please click to visit the blog!

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