Saturday, March 3, 2018

Stacking Stones

Little piles of rocks—have you seen these around, maybe on a hike or on a trip? I’ve seen them in the States, in the mountains of Switzerland, and now in the desert in Egypt. (We needed some sunshine, and the price for the package get-away to Egypt was very right.) Who, I wondered, would stop to make a decorative stack of rocks in the middle of absolutely nowhere?

If God is for us
who can be against us.
Banner in Sinti Church
 The Israelites used to pile up big stacks of rocks after God had done something like part the Jordan River so they could cross on dry land.  when their children asked about that stack, they would remember to retell the story. Our Sinti Romany friends do something similar. They don’t pile up stones here and there—but they do regularly share their own sacred stories. Here is one of them.

A Sinti woman whom we'll call "Anna" already had a number of children. She and her husband were expecting yet another one. The doctors told her that this baby endangered her health; the birth would be problematic. She and her husband prayed. As they prayed, God revealed to her that the baby would not die but be born healthy. The baby would be a boy and grow up to be an evangelist.

Keith and I know that "baby." He did grow up and is a preacher who does freely share the Good News with other Sinti, both in the Netherlands and in neighboring countries.

What sacred stories do you have to share?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Be Warmed . . . Or At Least Filled . . . .

We visited Silvia (not her real name) on a chilly day just before the onset of winter. Her small, one-story home was wedged in between large mansions-in-progress. Romany who work abroad save their money for their children by building as much house as their money can buy. Silvia could not afford to go abroad in search of work. She and her family could not afford to move somewhere warmer for the winter. And they could not afford to buy wood to heat their home for the nine months that Moldovans need to heat their homes. 

So while we were visiting with a food packet*, another family member came back from picking up fallen limbs in the woods. The forest ranger allows poor people to pick up whatever has fallen. Perhaps the food and our prayers will also help keep this family warm in the months ahead.

Writing those words, though, immediately brings James 2:16 to mind. Do you know someone who can take those prayers one step further? 

*(Food packets funded by Texas Hunger Offering.)
** (Y)ou shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? James 2:16 CEV

Friday, January 26, 2018

In With A Bang!

I tend to think of Dutch people as relatively calm. Perhaps that's why they let off so much steam on New Year's Eve. Retailers are only allowed to sell 25 kilos per customer. That's over 50 pounds! What would you do with 50 pounds of fireworks? In a neighborhood of row houses like this one? A Dutch news source estimated that people had spent even more this year than last year on fireworks when retailers reported firework sales of €68 million ($84 million US). That's a hefty chunk of change! 

Sign says: "Temporarily out of service"
It is legal to set off fireworks from 6 PM on December 30 til 2 AM on January 1. But at least a day before that time all of the neighborhood mail drop-off boxes  have been temporarily "boarded up." No letters can go in the slot; no fireworks can, either. The mayor of our town was very pleased with the results. This year there was only €492 worth of firework damage ($611). The mailbox and the bus stops in our neighborhood came through unscathed. And on New Year's Eve our household enjoyed an excellent fireworks display that lasted for nearly an hour. Only cost to us:  an over-the-counter medicine to calm down the cats.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where the Workers are not Few

The man on the far right, like many others in the Republic of Moldova, is looking for work. He wants to support his new wife and help his extended family. The last paying job he had was at a KFC in Krakow, Poland. But you can't always trust the people who arrange jobs over the border for you. Sometimes the jobs don't last. Sometimes you don't get paid in a timely way. Sometimes you don't get paid at all.

There used to be work at home. These two women worked in a sewing factory. They would be glad to get work like that again. But after the fall of communism, jobs like that somehow disappeared.

This woman's son,* like many others in the Republic of Moldova, has often gone abroad to work: Spain, Russia, east Africa, southeast Asia. Unlike the first man, he was able to get a good education and can earn a good salary. (Growing up in the capital city with well-educated parents--rather than in a Romany village with village-educated parents--does tend to increase one's life chances.) He thinks almost any manufacturing concern has a chance at profit in Moldova since almost everything is currently imported. He is giving the business of increasing employment at home a good think. Let us know if you're interested and able to think with him. Maybe, just maybe, there will be work at home . . . sometime soon . . . .

*The lady in the suit jacket. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Translation For The Translator

Missions Bite 65: Translation for the translator 

"One Sunday in Moldova I saw a beautiful example of cultivating Beloved Community. Usually, when I am there, someone translates the worship services from Romanian for me--the pastor's wife Olesea or a young person like Dana. This helps me participate in the faith community. But what happens when a Romany pastor preaches in his own language? A Romany woman from the pew behind Olesea and Dana leaned forward and translated for the translators."

- Mary van Rheenen, CBF field personnel in the Netherlands 

Be sure to also sign up to receive fellowship! weekly e-newsletter, which includes updates on all the wonderful ministries of CBF and our partners. 

Please let us know how else we can help your church engage more intentionally in missions near and far.  
Grace and Peace, 
Ryan Clark, D.Min. 
Church Engagement Manager
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
770.220.1611  office
404.545.5003  mobile

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Village Without a Kindergarten: Parents Teaching Children

Did you go to kindergarten? And did you carefully choose a preschool for your children? This is the story of a village in Moldova without either. 
Grandparent and grandchild
The local pastor and his wife are concerned. The children in this Roma village have enough difficulties with school. The children often go with their parents to Russia for part of the year. Instruction in the village school is in Romanian. The children speak Ursari Romani* at home. The village has no kindergarten/preschool. The children have few if any of the educational toys that littered our own living room when our children were young. 
Kindergarten candidates

Some teachers at the school are also concerned. Together, they agreed to try the Parent-Child Club. This program was developed by preschool educators with just such a situation in mind. Parents teach preschool skills to their own children, in their own language. Few if any materials are required. The leaders of the club do not need any previous teaching experience.

This coming Monday, parents will go to school . . . to begin providing their children with the kindergarten/preschool. That's Beloved Community. 

*One of many languages in the Romani (NOT ROMANIAN) language family.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Beloved Community

Mission Bites are great for helping your congregation engage more deeply in missions. Drop these into worship bulletins, newsletters and social media as you promote your church's impact around the world.
Bite 59: A Beloved Community of Believers

"Beloved Community looks like a community of believers in Moldova working together on an oral translation project. Local Romany believer, Catea, learned and retold the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. A Dutch woman living in Romania, an American woman living in Romania, a Romanian-speaking Moldovan and myself, an American living in the Netherlands, all worked alongside Catea. The next day, the women's Bible study discussed the story. Thanks to the teamwork the day before, the women listened to the story in their own language and understood it much better."

- Mary van Rheenen, CBF field personnel in the Netherlands
Be sure to also sign up to receive fellowship! weekly e-newsletter, which includes updates on all the wonderful ministries of CBF and our partners. 

Please let us know how else we can help your church engage more intentionally in missions near and far.  
Grace and Peace, 
Ryan Clark, D.Min. 
Church Engagement Manager
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
770.220.1611  office
404.545.5003  mobile