Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Winter Wind Still Blows

The wind is really blowing here in the Netherlands today. We can feel it through the upstairs windows, which are only single pane. But we are pretty snug in this sturdy brick-and-concrete row house with its clay-tile roof.
Imagine living in this mud-plastered house when winter winds blow! Our partners in Moldova visited this Roma neighborhood last week. They decided to use some of the remaining firewood funds here--not only for firewood, but also to fix windows or doors. So that less firewood is needed in the future.
In the meantime we pray about long-term, sustainable solutions. And we pray that through this small demonstration of Christian compassion the Spirit will begin to blow through these homes with warmth and hope.

Still praying,
Mary

Monday, February 4, 2019

Worth A Thousand Words

I love this picture. No, it's not great photography. But what a story it tells!
The two ladies in the middle had fixed a feast for us in an old Dutch farmhouse. They are sharing the building, with its 11 bedrooms, with about ten other Romany from their village in Moldova plus a few Polish workers. These Poles and Moldovans have temporary contracts to pick tomatoes and other vegetables in the vast greenhouses of North Holland. The days are long, the work is hard, but there is no work in Moldova.
They prepared a feast for us. You can see the remains still on the table:  plates of chicken, bowls of potato salad, fresh cheese, fresh tomatoes, and platters of stuffed vegetables--cabbage, grape leaves, sweet peppers.
We had driven 2 hours from Arnhem, where we live, to this place, on the very tip of the province of North Holland. To be more accurate, the young man in the photo had driven all two hours there (and later all two hours back). He and his wife are also Polish, also guest workers, but in warehouses for the import and export of clothing. Over the past several years they've become like adopted son and daughter to us. They met the Moldovan Roma when the group visited our church in Arnhem, and they wanted to visit with these brothers and sisters in Christ again.
The tall lady on the left made five trips to Moldova for the same purpose. She and other Dutch volunteers stayed in the Moldovan village, visited especially women in their homes to encourage them and pray with them, organized ground-breaking day camps for teen-aged girls.
We broke bread together. We prayed together. We sang together. We shared photos of our families. And we made this family photo.
Still praying,
Mary

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Luggage, Logistics, and Languages

In November, I was asked to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to pick up some new recording equipment for Faith Comes By Hearing projects and to get updated on their new software. Since it wasn’t going to be a long trip, and I wouldn’t need to to take much luggage, I asked the leader of the Iranian group at our church if he needed some more Farsi-language Bibles. He said yes, there were a number of people who needed a Bible. And he asked if I could bring copies of the complete Bible, not just the New Testament. In the past, I have been able to get them at the case price of $8 each in America, while in Europe they cost 20 euros, or $23 each. 

I went online to see if I could order the Bibles and have them sent to the Faith Comes By Hearing offices. I found the website of the publisher, Biblica (formerly the International Bible Society), but discovered that in the 7 or 8 years since I had bought Farsi Bibles, the price had gone up a little bit. I wrote to my colleagues in Albuquerque to see if they could get them without paying the state sales tax. However, on Black Friday Biblica’s webstore, ChurchSource.com, had a sale, so I went ahead and ordered 10 copies, thinking this was all I could fit in my luggage.

When I arrived at the Faith Comes By Hearing offices, I found I had 25 Farsi Bibles instead of 10. My colleagues had contacted friends at Biblica about the Bibles. Their friends had wondered why a ministry that has produced audio Bibles in over 1200 languages wanted printed Farsi Bibles. My colleagues explained that their recording team in Europe (me) had a very active Iranian group in their church in Holland, and would like to take Farsi Bibles back. The good folks at Biblica responded by sending another 15 Bibles to Albuquerque for free.

In order to bring the Bibles back to Holland, I had to fill my wheeled carry-on with the Bibles, put the equipment and my clothes in the larger bag, and check both bags. The airline charged for the extra checked bag, but even so, the total cost for the Bibles was only $8.40 each. And last Sunday the members of the Farsi group at the Baptist Church of Arnhem-Center were thrilled to have 25 new Farsi Bibles.

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Warm Christmas

A German colleague of ours helps support a soup kitchen in Balti, Moldova. One of their regular clients froze to death in her home last week. This is why our church in the Netherlands cooperated with a Sinti and Roma church in Germany to provide firewood for 14 vulnerable families in two different Roma villages in Moldova.
This is aid--giving immediate help. Aid is dangerous, long-term. It is giving people fish rather than working along side of them to catch--or raise--fish. Aid can foster dependency; healthy development fosters their own sense of worth. Aid can rob people of initiative; transformational development empowers people to solve their own problems with their own resources. Aid is not sustainable; it ends when the outside supply of funds and goods ends. Transformational development continues, for lasting change, even when I am no longer around to send money to Moldova or explain the need to potential donors.
In the past, we've passed on firewood funds for a few vulnerable families in the village of Vulcanesti, but for all these reasons I have been reluctant to get involved in aid. I was surprised when our Dutch church decided to take up yet another collection for firewood. This year, they have designated half of their Christmas Thanksgiving Offering for firewood.
Also this year, a Moldovan businessman and a Roma entrepreneur have begun working together on a business plan.
Immediate help . . . long-term transformation . . . Merry Christmas, one and all!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

And the Word Became . . .

What is your favorite version of the Word? There are a lot of different English translations of John 1. One of our daughters' favorites is the back-translation of the Kalderash Romani New Testament. Before it was corrected, John 1:1 read, "Before there was anything, there was a sofa . . . ."

Now the corrected version is available through Amazon.fr (France) as well as the French Bible Society.  Romani-language Scripture is becoming more and more accessible.

Some people prefer to hear the Word. For instance, the Eastern Slovak Romani version of the New Testament can be heard through the Bible.is website. Keith recorded this several years ago. Because some people prefer to hear AND read the Word, he has done the sample you see above. This is not the only YouTube option Faith Comes By Hearing uses. They are also dubbing this video version.

The Lutheran pastor in Iceland that Keith has been meeting with this past week was enthusiastic about this last option. He thought it would really help to get the young people in his catechism classes into the Word.

Amazon, YouTube, there are a lot of different ways to connect with the Word. My personal favorite is the very first one:  "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!"

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

No Flowers on Sinterklaas

I went out to trim out the nasturtium vines which had finally wilted from frost. The nasturtiums came up like weeds this past spring. Throughout the growing season, I had painstakingly woven the vines through and over two and a half sections of the weathered fence between us and the neighbors. Even this late in the year, December 5, only a few had withered.
But I found myself, once I'd started, pulling down everything. I wrenched every last one of them out from between the fencing and jerked them up by the roots. Even the ones still blooming--deep orange, creamy yellow, cheerful pumpkin--ended up buried in the compost pile or heaped on the dormant flowerbeds. All this uncharacteristic destruction gave me a fierce satisfaction. Half-way through, I realized why.
December 5 is a big holiday in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas and his sidekick Zwarte Piet bring presents to all the boys and girls. Families gather to play games and share jokes. It's a time of warmth and laughter and good fun. Maybe it was too big a holiday for the man down the block. Maybe that's why he killed himself last year on Sinterklaas. And maybe that's why his teen-aged daughter went into hysterics on the front lawn after she found him. The goodhearted neighbor tried to get the girl into her house. When we heard the commotion, I went over to help. The neighbor got the girl's cell phone, stepped outside, and began calling the girls' family members. Other neighbors came, but they also left. I stayed with this grieving girl I did not really know. I stayed once the police woman came. I stayed until the rest of the girl's family finally showed up. And because I did not really know them, I do not really know anything else.
Now I do know, though, why I woke up with such a tension headache this morning and why I ripped out all those nasturtiums. They'll grow again next spring.
Thank God death no longer has the last word. Not even such a death on such a day.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Between Babel and Pentecost . . .

Fifteen of our Romany friends from Moldova are working just two hours away from us. They are picking tomatoes in the greenhouses in province of North Holland. Two hours isn't far to, say, a Texan, but here it's half-way across the country. And we have no language in common with our friends. About a month ago, we thought we had a Russian interpreter lined up to go with us, but that fell through the day before we had set to go. We prayed that the Lord would provide and set out anyway.
And the Lord did. Our friends work through a Polish employment agency. They found a young Pole who spoke good English. And one of them speaks good Polish. We had a good time together and invited them to visit us.
Polish friends in the center of  Moldovan friends,
Baptist Church Arnhem-Centrum
So a couple of weeks ago nine of them piled in a van and drove the two hours to Arnhem to  hear Keith preach.* We had lined up translators for the worship service and the lunch following. But what about the rest of the afternoon? Our Polish friends also came to hear Keith speak. During lunch, they sat next to one of the Moldovans who had worked in Poland for 8 or 9 years. So our Polish friends joined the party for the rest of the afternoon and evening, supplying sweets, a guitar, and translation. Who knew that Polish would turn out to be the new lingua franca?


*Missions Sunday. Our Romany friends also sang.