Saturday, June 20, 2015

Beginning Ministry with Roma Gypsies

I realized that today we are only six days away from our four month anniversary of living in Romania.  In these four months I have begun to get a much clearer picture of how the Roma Gypsies are viewed by the rest of the culture.  One believer after asking why I was here in Romania responded with, “You are going to work with gypsies,  hmm?  Do you actually know any gypsies?  Because,…. They are kind of known for stealing lots.”  A pastor talked to me about how many of them had migrated to other European countries and finished his explanation with a smile and, “They can keep them!”  When I had told one of my language helpers that I was going to work with them she said, “Watch your pockets!  Ohh dear, watch your pockets!  Why would you want to work with them?”
I have begun to read a book on the History of the Roma in Europe called “Another Dawn, Another Darkness.”  It sheds light on the fact that they have been discriminated again, treated with disdain, treated harshly, tortured and enslaved since as early as the 16th century.  I had thought that France’s recent spree of Roma deportations was a more recent development, but the book shed light on the fact that as early as the fifteenth century  there was “ a proliferation of decrees ordering the banishment and punishment of Gypsies, something that was to become a standard feature of European life right up to the end of the eighteenth century.”  The author records a 1561 edict in France that, “ordered the expulsion of all Gypsies within two months under the penalty of being sent to galleys and corporal punishment.”  Well those same feelings are alive and well today in Europe.  France happens to be a prime example.  Just take a look at these articles and you will get a glimpse.

France sends Roma Gypsies back to Romania

France dismantles Roma camps, deports hundreds

France's 'scandalous' expulsion of Roma camps resumes

France deports record number of Roma

Please be praying for Roma Gypsies across Europe and please pray for us.  Even though we are just on the fringes of starting ministry here in Bucharest, we have already begun to see some of the struggles of ministering to a marginalized people group.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Being Reminded Why I am Here

What is it like for me to live in another country and to learn their language?  Well, imagine being presented with a situation that makes you uncomfortable.  This situation hits you unexpected, and you don’t really know what to do or say. Truthfully, you aren’t really sure what is going on so you just stand there in a blank stare.  After standing there in a dumbfounded awkward silence you finally blurt out some child-like gibberish knowing full well that talking might only serve one purpose: to expose you as different from everyone else around you.  Now apply that situation to everything you do in your life.  Going to the grocery store feels like that.  Taking your kid to play at the park feels like that.  Trying to order food at a restaurant feels like that.  When a street vendor or homeless person tries to talk to you it feels like that. 
That is what language learning and living in Romania has felt like for me.  I never knew how uncomfortable I would feel living in a different culture.  For the first few months it felt impossible to go anywhere without someone asking me a question that I wouldn’t understand.  I never imagined it would be stressful to go to church or to the park.
Last week when I was praying, God looked into my stress and anxiety and said, “Why are you here?  To fit in?  To start a new life?  Why are you here?”    
It was a great reminder to me that I am here because I want to see the body of Christ multiply and communities transformed.  I want to see God glorified.  I didn’t come here to fit in or be comfortable.  I didn’t come here to start a new life.  I came here because I was sent.
Realizing how hard it is for me to be in a foreign place with the temptation to go home caused me to think about what it must have been like for Jesus on earth.  I can’t imagine how much he longed to return to heaven and be by the Father’s side.  Yet He endured.  He loved.  He stayed and completed His task.  So my answer to “Why am I here?” is because of what Christ did.  He endured so I could endure through His strength.  He loved so I could love with His love.  He patiently waited so I could learn from Him how to wait.  He did because He knew I couldn’t.  

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up."     (Hebrews 12:1-3)