Friday, December 25, 2009

Boldog Karacsony!

We wish you a joyous celebration of our Saviour's birth! In Hungary we say "Boldog Karacsony!" or Merry Christmas in English. Our family is enjoying being together to celebrate with the traditions we have made over the years.

This year we have another reason to celebrate. December 2009 marks our 15th year serving as field personnel through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. We are grateful for those who have supported us from the very beginning and those who have joined us along the journey. God continues to guide us in this ministry among the Romany and we look forward to what the future brings. "Joy to the World, the Saviour Reigns!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Twice the Christmas--not necessarily twice as nice

Evangelical believers in Moldova usually celebrate Christmas twice--once on December 25 according to the Western church calendar and again on January 7th according to Orthodox calendar. Does this mean twice the presents? Usually not. According to data provided by Operation Mobilisation, the per capita income in Moldova is less than $500. Keeping warm and fed takes precedence over frivolities like presents. Thank God for sending us all Hope on Christmas, no matter when or how we celebrate it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moldovan Adventure #5--In Praise of Plumbing

Our daughters are greater fans of indoor plumbing than previously. The house we stayed at in Moldova had hot and cold running water (except for that small problem with the pump and the well) and a flush toilet (ditto), but many places we visited did not. Including the pastor's house right there in the "county seat" of Nisporeni. Theirs seemed luxurious, though, compared to some I've visited. Like the one without a light (or even a half-moon cut out of the door) situated sensibly in the far corner of the yard--which happened to be, unsanitarily, uphill from the family well. Such situations are one of the reasons Pastor Petru & Olesea Ciochina are interested in an eco-toilet. Though it's possible to make one from scratch, we'll be bringing a major component on our next visit. Check it out--you might be interested in one yourself!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Church Dedication: Moldova Adventure #4

After ten years of blood, sweat, and tears (lots of tears), the Bethlehem Baptist Church building in Vulcanesti, Moldova, has finally been dedicated. Though there are still some things that need to be done before the building passes final inspection, the congregation (mostly Romany) are worshipping in it. The building itself is a draw. If the lights go on at night, for any reason, people soon gather just to visit and see what’s going on.
Many of you contributed, by volunteering, by praying, by donating funds, by supporting the Offering for Global Missions which keeps us in the field . . . for the long haul. Thank you, one and all.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas in Europe

A very old tradition in Europe comes to life this time of the year. It's the outdoor Christmas market. They can be found, large and small, scattered throughout the cities across Europe. The custom is to walk through the aisles of stalls, gazing at the unusual items, while sipping mulled wine or in Budapest, eating a kalacs. It is a yeast roll baked over coals and flavored with cinnamon, nuts, coconut, or chocolate. European life at it's best!
Recently while strolling through the Budapest market I noticed two Roma men collecting trash. They weren't just collecting it, they were going through it. They were searching for scraps of food or bits they could slavage to use another way, perhaps as income. Times are economically hard right now for many people, including the Romany. Please pray for them as winter comes and they struggle to keep their homes warm. Pray for adequate clothing and good health as we deal with the flu season. Thank you for your faithfulness and devotion of prayer for the Romany.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Count Your Many Blessings...

"Count Your Many Blessings Name Them One by One..." This American holiday is set aside for us to give thanks for the many blessings God has provided over the past year. As the Gypsy Team members celebrate, we will be counting our supporters in our list of blessings. Thank you to those who have prayed regularly for the Roma and ministries among them. Thank you to the volunteers that came to serve along side us. Thank you for the financial gifts given to special projects and especially the gifts given to the Global Missions Offering. The offering is our primary means of support and enables us to be the presence of Christ among the Romany. "Count Your Many Blessings See What God Has Done..."
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you', that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In Bucharest With Ruth & Gypsy Smith

With the Ruth School and the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training School, that is...

The Ruth Center was abuzz with activity this past week. The November session of the Gypsy Smith School was held with 15 leaders from across Romania attending. Glen Adkins taught on worship while Ralph Stocks taught from the gospel of Mark. This marked the 12th session for Sorin and we celebrated with him in a recognition service on Thursday night. That morning Clista Adkins and Tammy Stocks prepared a banquet of snack foods for the GSS students. We laughed when Mona, Project Ruth staff member, had to explain what dip was and demonstrate how to dip veggies and chips. The food was a bit strange but the men gathered around to eat until only crumbs were left. Throughout the week the halls were alive with singing and accordion music.

GSS was not the only show in town, however. Clista and Tammy provided a Staff Appreciation week for the hardworking Project Ruth employees and teachers. The walls were sprinkled with signs of encouragement and thanks for the jobs they do. Each day the staff received a little appreciation gift of fruit, candy, pencils, or a water bottle with a message of love attached. On Tuesday the Ruth School teachers had their own tea time. "All of this is for us?" is the question we heard over and over. The Ruth students helped us by designing pages for booklets for their teachers. There were lots of smiles and hugs were abundant as we passed out decorated baskets of school supplies. The director, Tita, thanked us by saying the staff felt blessed by the attention and enjoyed it. It was our pleasure to encourage them in their vital role of teaching the Roma children of the neighborhood.

As Thanksgiving nears, please join us in thanking God for this ministry and the people who serve through it. Ask Him to continue to send good people to teach and work at Project Ruth. Ask Him to continue to provide the financial resources for its provision.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mission accomplished! . . . ?

Keith Holmes returned to Slovakia this week to work with Shane for one final push to finish the dubbing project for the Ruth Video. They had already done dubbing in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The goal for this visit was to redub a few parts where the script had changed and to complete the Roma version. After a productive day on Monday, Keith and Shane began to worry on Tuesday whether they would be able to complete everything in time! Shane made a few phone calls and thanks to some tremendous help from friends at the Roma School in Kosice, all parts were dubbed and every version of the movie was reviewed before Keith returned home! Praise the Lord!


The events of twenty years ago are echoing across the television as specials remind us of the failure of Communism. The fall of "the Wall" became symbolic of new opportunties throughout Europe. New walls are symbolic that there is more work to be done.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Moldovan Adventure--Part 2--the Birthday Party

One never knows what is going to happen--particularly when one volunteers to go to Moldova.

Willem Jan Oosterkamp, from our home church in the Netherlands, came to give advice on a hydroponic fish-and-vegetable project. He did not expect to end up as one of the honored guests at a Romany birthday party--complete with singing, accordian music, and a regular feast.

As earlier volunteer George Bowling noted, "I told my wife I was eating food that I didn't recognize with people who spoke a language I didn't know. And I was loving it!"

We think Willem Jan enjoyed himself, too. And he was also quite helpful when it came to the fish.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!"

Twenty years ago today one of the most significant acts in history took place. The Berlin wall came tumbling down. The Communist governments in the eastern European bloc countries were toppled and freedom reigned. Lately the news has been dominated with first hand accounts of how lives were changed, families reunited, and new governments formed. Even Angela Merkel, the current German chancellor, recounted how she grew up in East Germany and would not be where she is today if not for the wall coming down. CBF's Director of Field Ministries, Jim Smith, and his wife, Becky, were living in Berlin at the time. Jim tells the story of being in East Germany when this was actually happening and pulling up to the infamous "Checkpoint Charlie" that separated east from west. No intense scrutiny, no mirrors looking under the car, what was going on?? Ask Jim to tell the story. It was a day that changed history. Many, many lives were impacted.

Today we are able to freely move into most of these former communist countries and be the presence of Christ among many people who remember when there was no freedom of worship. We have personnel in Hungary, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Ukraine. We have partnerships in Moldova, Romania, Albania, and Bulgaria - just to name a few.

Let's give God thanks for bringing this wall down. Rejoice that those oppressed are now free. However, many continue to live in darkness. Ask Him to provide the people and resources to help spread the Good News of freedom in His love.

photo courtesy of cnn

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moldovan Adventure--Part 1

Going to Moldova is always an adventure. This time the trip there was even more of an adventure than we’d expected.
We were flying from Amsterdam via Budapest to Chisenau, the capital of Moldova, on Malev, Hungarian Airlines. We checked in at the self-check-in kiosk. While dropping our luggage off at the KLM desk (they handle Malev check-in there), the woman at the desk notices that our final destination is Moldova. She pulls up the information and starts reading every line to make sure everything’s in order to get to this country that she’s barely heard of. It just so happens that the passport she’s holding in her hand at the time is our daughter Rebecca’s. She informs us that passports must be valid for 6 months past the time of travel there. We knew we needed to renew our Dutch residents’ permits this summer and planned to check the whole passport thing then. However, the girls’ passports expire in March, only 5 months away. At first she thought none of us could go. Then, when she saw Mary and Keith’s passports were valid for another 5 years, she thought the adults could go but the girls couldn’t.
We quickly began thinking of alternate plans. Fortunately, Keith had the McNary’s phone number on his cell phone. Shane gave him the Stocks’ number in Budapest. Yes, Ralph said, he could pick up the girls if they couldn’t enter Moldova.
The lady behind the desk heard all of this. The girls have legal residence permits for the European Union which includes Hungary. She phoned someone higher up to get permission for us all to fly to Hungary (and then, presumably, we adults would fly further). This was granted, but then she wanted to cancel the girls’ reservations to Moldova. We asked her not to, which led to another 10-minutes of phone calls. She made a note on the computer record that KLM had already told us the girls would not be allowed to fly on to Moldova.
We checked all the bags only to Budapest because some repacking would be necessary if our party split, and we didn’t have time for that there. Safely on the flight to Budapest, Keith discovered Malev’s route flew to Iasi, Romania, near the border with our final destination in Moldova. If necessary, he could fly with the girls to Romania and then cross the border by land. Therefore, Mary would go ahead to Chisenau while Keith and the girls sorted things out in Budapest.
Due to all the time at the check-in in Amsterdam, two of our bags didn’t arrive in Budapest. The two that did, providentially, contained the things Mary needed to repack to go further. Mary headed off to Chisenau while Keith filled out the forms for the missing bags. He then went to the Malev ticket office to explained why three of the party had missed the flight to Chisenau. The lady there reticketed us for the night flight, 9:45 departure, 12:30 arrival. This seems to have deleted the warning note KLM had put on the ticket.
The next flight from Amsterdam had our missing bags. After more paperwork, we took a taxi to Ralph & Tammy’s house for a relaxing evening. At 8 Ralph took us back to the airport. The place looked deserted. Finally, after 20 minutes, someone showed up to open up a desk. Check in was no problem. The passport control in Chisenau stamped all three passports without comment, and all was well.
Moral of the story: check your passports and carry colleagues’ phone numbers.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Found in Translation

When I go to Moldova, I put myself in the hands of God--and the Moldovans. I make plans, but one really never knows what's going to happen. For instance, I am never sure who will translate into Russian or Romanian (or Usari Romani) for me until I actually show up. Sunday, at the church dedication, Dana translated. She translated for me and a group of women last May. Wonderful. Monday, the pastor's wife Olesea translated. Her English is not nearly as good, but the fellowship was fantastic. Monday evening, Marina flew in from Ashville, N.C. via a week in Germany. What a Godsend. She translated for us until Wednesday. Thursday, translators appeared at every appointment in Chisenau, the capital. At an impromptu gathering that evening of the Kalderash Romany brothers, the brothers had arranged for a university professor (teaches English, French, AND German) to translate. And finally, during lunch at the Moldovan Baptist Union, I and our daughters sat next to the Union's official English translator. Keith did his own translating--into German with the German guest sitting across from him. Amen. Works in all languages.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul

CBF realized early in its time the importance of keeping its field personnel healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually. From those thoughts came the CBF member care program. Volunteer counselors are assigned to each field personnel to assist them in their journey of good health. There are also volunteer doctors, pastors, dietitians, and various others who help.

The Gypsy team is blessed to have Judy and Rick Landon as our member care providers. They do an excellent job of keeping up with us and our various ministries. They are always willing to listen and give counsel with encouragement when needed. Through CBF's guidance, the Landons visit our homes yearly or as funds permit, to see in person how we are doing. Recently Judy and Rick made a swing through central and eastern Europe. It was fun to have them since they have been friends of ours, the Stocks, for several years. We talked about many subjects, ate some good Hungarian food, and in the picture provided you can see Rick speaking at one of our Hungarian Gypsy churches.

Thank you Rick and Judy for volunteering to be on our team and being our friends. Thank you CBF for being proactive in caring for our health.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dedication in Church Dedication

The Bethlehem Baptist Church in Vulcanesti, Moldova--the real church, not the building--is getting ready to dedicate their building. They are busy finishing the wiring, sealing the roof, putting up gutters and eave spouts, and painting the interior, all hopefully before the dedication service on Sunday, October 25. They are also praying for the funds to pay for all of this plus the gas line to the building so that they can enjoy heat this winter. We can pray with them!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dubbing Day 3 - in Czech

After a couple of weeks, Keith and Shane have started dubbing again! This time, the work has been to record the Czech voices. Beginning in Děčin, continuing in Litoměřice, and ending in Prague, it has been a busy day. Though a lot of progress was made today, there is still a lot of work to be done tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dubbing Ruth Day 2

Keith and Shane knew that they would not have as many dubbing sessions as they did yesterday. In all, there were four sessions today. The first beginning at 11:00 AM in Spišské Podhradie and ending at 11:00 PM in Košice.

After dubbing the Narrator part for the Roma version, Shane and Keith returned to Košice for an afternoon appointment with another Slovak speaker. Fortunately, a guy Shane knew from several years ago was willing to dub one of the smaller parts, leaving only the Slovak Narrator and Boaz parts undubbed.

That's when the kindest of friends came to the rescue. Shane had already arranged for the Slovak Narrator, which will be dubbed on a future visit by Keith. When the Bán family was told that the project still lacked one Slovak voice, they offered to help as soon as they got home from an evening program at church. After arriving back at the Bán's home later, Keith set up his equipment and was able to get the part of Boaz dubbed into Slovak!

In all, twelve parts were recorded on this trip - a full one-third of what is needed to complete the project. Pray for Keith as he travels home to Holland for several days and then as he travels to the Czech Republic to record the Czech voices and more Roma voices. Pray for Shane as he contacts Believers in the Czech Republic who will serve as actors. And praise the Lord for a wonderful experience of working together!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dubbing Ruth Day 1

Over a year ago, Keith Holmes and Shane began discussing the possibility of Keith coming to Slovakia and/or the Czech Republic to work on a media project together. They decided to go with the Testament: The Bible in Animation version of the story of Ruth. Keith had worked with the video before and suggested that it would be a great first project together. After contacting the Slovak Bible Society to be the local partner in this project, it was time to work on the translations.

They decided to use the standardized Roma dialect for Slovakia instead of a regional dialect, feeling there are more pros to using this dialect than there are cons. In addition to Roma language, they decided to include Slovak and Czech languages along with subtitles for each language. This will make the video not only a ministry tool for use in churches, it could also be useful in educational settings.

After getting the script translated into the three different languages, Shane began recuiting an ecumenical group of Believers who were willing to lend their voices to this project. Roma from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Slovaks, and Czechs are all working together to complete this exciting project.

Shane went to Krakow, Poland to pick up Keith yesterday and today they spent all afternoon dubbing the Slovak language version of the video! It was a GREAT beginning. In total, eight of the twelve Slovak parts were recorded today. They will record another two or three tomorrow. They will also travel an hour north-west of Košice to record the narrator for the Roma language version.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gandhi Choir on Tour

If a picture is worth a thousand words, we must have at least a million here! These are pictures of the recent Choir Tour of the Gandhi Roma High School in Pecs, Hungary. The choir is led by CBF field personnel, Glen Adkins with his wife, Clista, serving as his assistant. After looking at the pictures, read the next four posts below this one for the "rest of the story" in Clista's own words. It was a wonderful experience for all involved in so many ways. Thank you for praying and supporting this ministry. (To read all the blog entries you may have to hit "older posts" at the bottom of the page.)

First Leg - Northeast Hungary

It was an interesting time to take a busload of Roma (Gypsy) students and teachers across Hungary and Slovakia. Although we were a bit nervous, given the current climate and recent Roma killings in NE Hungary, we took off in early August with 29 choir members and 9 adults, in a bus provided by many of you, to make the trek across the country on the first leg of the trip. We went to five Roma villages near the Ukraine border; those five communities may never be the same! I don’t know who was more fascinated and surprised—the Gandhi students seeing other Roma who lived in the villages, or the resident Romani welcoming High School students who were actually Gypsies! Evidently, both groups didn’t know that the others really existed. It was like an old homecoming for both groups. The choir members were “heroes” to the villagers, and the students just loved the attention from children and adults, alike.

Thanks to Ralph Stocks, Roma Baptist House-churches were our hosts and invited people and neighbors from their communities. You can see from the pictures that most of the performances were outside in dirt yards and that people gathered inside and outside the fences and against the walls. The Gandhi girls and guys looked wonderful in their traditional or black clothing. The program was a choir performance with some Christian testimony and a little extra Gandhi recruitment thrown into the mix.

The choir was wonderful. Joshua, Sanyi, Szabi, Istvan, and Peti played their instruments like pros. Andi, Andi (a second one), Laura, Peter, Nelli, and Marian all sang outstanding solos even when they were competing against village church bells, roving Gypsy children and adults, and sweltering heat. Nelli and Marian stepped in at the last minute when Klaudia, our original soloist, was robbed the night before the trip and couldn’t accompany us because she had no official “papers”. They went right up to the microphone and sang as if they’d been doing it for months! Trey Harper (Truett Divinity School) also sang one of Klaudia’s solos, so the choir and the audiences had a treat in hearing Trey. At every performance, these girls and guys were just stupendous. People enjoyed the music so much that they clapped, sang along, and danced—even the really old people!

In addition to the captivating music, Ricsi (rising 12th grader) and Szilvi (rising 11th grader) agreed to share their testimonies as believers at each performance. What a gift!! We were amazed how readily they agreed when Glen asked them. To give their testimonies in front of their many non-believing peers was truly courageous for both Ricsi and Szilvi. Their testimonies were brief, strong, and beautiful. I was so proud of them that I almost yelled “Bravo” every time! In addition, Laci (university student, Gandhi graduate/teacher, and translator) spoke of his years at Gandhi and university, and Marika (Roma teacher at Gandhi) spoke about the Gandhi School and the possibilities for Roma children from the NE. Since the performances were packed with parents, teens, and children, perhaps a few of those will find their way to Gandhi somewhere down the road.
After each performance, the church folks wanted to respond, so they sang a few numbers for the choir and served refreshments to all of us. The Gandhi students were wonderful. They visited with people--young and old, gave autographs on programs, held babies, took pictures, recruited young Roma for the school, and ate all of the offered food! After last year’s trip, I shouldn’t have been surprised that they “rose to the occasion” in such remarkable style!

Second Leg - Slovakia

Early on Monday morning, we loaded up the bus and headed out the back roads of Hungary to Slovakia. Shane and Dianne McNary (CBF Field Personnel to Roma in Slovakia) made arrangements for their delightful friend, Jaroslav, to meet us in Kosice, to translate for us, and to guide us around Kosice and Jasov so that the Gandhi Choir could sightsee and sing.

The Gandhi students were charmed by the city of Kosice, interested in the walking tour of the old city, and fascinated by the Gypsy beggar children who followed us down the street. Although they tried in Hungarian and two dialects of Romani, the students couldn’t ask about these Roma because no one could speak Slovakian! The fascination lasted until the little boys started grabbing at the female students. At that point, I had to step in and take charge. It was an interesting experience.

After lunch and shopping, we traveled to the village of Jasov to sing in a nice Roma school (K-12). The Gandhi students scattered, trying to see everything about this different Roma school before they changed into performance clothes. As they gathered in the dining room of the school for the performance, they wondered why the crowd was so small. The Roma leader (Oto—friend of the McNarys) explained that locals were afraid to venture out into public venues because of anti-Roma incidents in the area. Determined to continue, the choir performed very well. Jaro was a wonderful translator and the small audience responded enthusiastically to the music, so we had a nice afternoon. Then, we were all rewarded with a lovely Slovakian dinner hosted by Oto.

After another warning from Oto about driving with a bus of Roma teens through the Slovakian countryside, we headed directly back into Hungary. I know that I felt a profound sense of relief when we pulled up to the Sarokhaz Pension on the outskirts of Budapest.

Third Leg - Budapest

Tuesday morning, we headed into Budapest to see Hero’s Square, the Citadella, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and West End Mall (always a mall!) Many of the students had never toured Budapest, so this was pretty exciting for the whole group, as you can see from the pictures. However, the highlight of the trip was the boat trip down the Danube. Having never been on boats, lots of the students were pretty reluctant to cross the gangway, but their resistance lasted only until they actually stepped foot onboard. Then they were all smiles. The hour-long sightseeing trip, accompanied by colas and orange-juice punch in cocktail glasses (with
garnishes, no less) served by nice young women, was a roaring success. I don’t know when I have seen young people have more fun and feel more luxurious than those young people on that Legenda Boat for one hour!

After all that luxury, we had to scurry off the boat and race through a harried Burger King meal so that we could climb ten flights of stairs in an ancient graffiti-decorated building to sing the final performance in a dark roof-top club. What seemed like a disaster-waiting-to-happen at 7:00p.m. turned into a totally satisfying performance and perfect ending to the six-day tour. The young adults in the audience loved the music and applauded
enthusiastically at every strategic point. The choir and musicians left feeling justifiably proud of themselves.


There is nothing like loving Roma students. They are effusive and sullen, jubilant and morose, delighted and furious, . . . They are emotional and responsive, and they relate completely. Therefore, when they say “thank you,” they put their hearts into their thanks! So as we hugged each one and said good-bye, we were overwhelmed by their affection and their gratitude. They left Pécs feeling thankful for you. In fact, we felt guilty accepting all of the thanks when many of you are the reason that this trip happened. In ways they have never communicated before, every student made a special effort to say thank you . . . to us and to you.

You were evident all week. If you had the time to go through the pictures, you would see every mission team t-shirt (FBC Huntsville, Campbell Univ. English camp, Northminster Baptist English camp, FBC Greenville, FBC Augusta) — more than once. You would see our chaperone Eszter (Gandhi graduate and Gandhi Social Worker, now) wearing her “Valássz” necklace every day. So thank you. Thank you for your prayers, your gifts, your money, your encouragement, your interest, your enthusiasm, and your time. Without you, this trip would have been only a dream. For many of these students, it was a life-changing and life-affirming experience. A low-budget choir trip around NE Hungary and into Slovakia may seem inconsequential to modern Americans, like a trip around northern South Carolina and into North Carolina. However, it was a priceless opportunity for these students. You gave them a physical, spiritual, and emotional gift that they will remember and talk about for the rest of their lives. They loved it. They have the stories and pictures to prove it! So, thank you!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Credit Crisis--A Moldovan Response

What's a good response to the credit crisis? Move to find work? Well, that's what a lot of the Romany in Vulcanesti, Moldova did. Pastor Petru Ciochina wrote, "Because of the crisis that persists in the country, majority of members were forced to go abroad in Russia and other countries."
Result? "Their departure had to raise discouragement other members."
Response? "Therefore we chose to strengthen fellowship among members. Putting me task to encourage like that Acts 2 says '. . . they devoted themselves to fellowship . . . they were together in one place . . . and taking food (together).'
They meet together one evening a week in different homes. They read the Bible, study the theme "importance of attitude in our lives," share food, and sing.
Some suggest that the credit crisis is the symptom of a moral and spiritual crisis. If so, then perhaps this spiritual, morale, and material response is one of the best?

Monday, August 31, 2009

School Begins

"School Days, School Days, Good Old Golden..." so the song goes. Today and the remainder of the week schools will begin throughout central and eastern Europe. Please join us in praying for the Roma children in this region as they make their ways to the various buildings for elementary and high school. Pray that hearts would soften in the discrimination against them and this would be the year they feel welcomed. Pray for safety in light of the violence against Roma recently in Hungary and Slovakia. Pray the students would realize the advantage an education can mean in their lives and would study seriously. Pray for their parents as many struggle to provide basic school supplies, pay fees, and clothe their children. Pray for the Gandhi Roma High School in Pecs, Hungary as their begin the year with new leadership. Pray the needs and education of the students would be the top priority. Thank you for partnering with us through prayer.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hope comes in the morning

We have recently returned to Slovakia after spending the summer in the United States. It was a joy to visit with many friends and supporters as we shared about what God is doing among the Roma in central Europe. What was especially fun was hearing at the General Assembly in Houston, "Hello! You are my friend on Facebook and now I get to finally meet you!" What a small world we live in.

Of great concern for us was hearing about the increase in anti-Roma sentiment in the area. Though the deadly violence which is becoming more common in other areas has not yet reached Slovakia, recently there have been protests by radical right-wing extremist groups against the Roma living in Slovakia. The rise of these groups poses a real threat.

The English-language newspaper in Slovakia, the Slovak Spectator, recently featured a hopeful interview focusing on the situation of the Roma in Europe. The article, entitled An apology would change everything, provides a glimpse into the history and hopefully future of the Roma in Europe.

Pray for us and all our colleagues as we minister among these hated minorities. Pray that justice will be found for the Roma and that as a people, they continue to grow into valued members of the countries which they call home.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Farewell Andy & Claudia Brockbank

It's a wonderful story and really not ours to tell... Andy Brockbank met Oti Bunaciu, Project Ruth founder, at Oxford. Later Andy would show up on Oti's doorstep, during the early days of Project Ruth, volunteering to help out for 18 months. Now, over 10 years later, with a wife and two sons, Andy is moving on. (Ask Andy or Oti to share the story - it's a great one to hear) Andy has taken a job in London, land of his birth, so he and Claudia, along with Edwin and Phillip have relocated there.

While not an official member, though we always thought of him as one, the Gypsy Team will miss Andy. During his term of service Project Ruth grew offering education to the 8th grade; moved into a new building; began skill training; opened a medical clinic; hosted many, many volunteers; and so much more. The Gypsy Smith School for Leadership Training was expanded and Andy assisted with this as well. He gave of himself tirelessly keeping the Ruth office running, the finances straight, managing the public relations, and the list goes on.

Thank you Andy for your years of service and for being the presence of Christ among the Roma of Romania. Andy and Claudia, God's blessing on you as you begin your new life. Until we meet again...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Prayer Request - Gandhi Tour

Prayer Supporters - Please be in prayer for the Stocks and the Adkins as we tour with the Gandhi Choir over an extended weekend. Here are the requests in Clista's words:

"The Gandhi choir trip begins tomorrow (Friday, August 7th) . We are going to Slovakia and NE Hungary where there are a few small Roma house churches, many Roma, and lots of anti-Roma racism. We are thankful that Ralph and Tammy Stocks are back in Hungary and will accompany us! Please pray for this trip as the choir sings in these Roma villages. Please pray for the student who will share her Christian testimony (very brave in front of her non-believing peers). Please pray for the students as they hear testimonies from Roma in the Roma churches. Please pray for Glen as he leads this trip and for me as I try to help him. We want to be the loving witnesses of what it means to be followers of Jesus in everything that we do and say."

Also pray for safe travels, good health, and that the Roma gathered in the mission churches will have their hearts touched. Pray for the logistics of the trip to work smoothly. Pray that a good time will be experienced by all and above all else God will be glorified.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Emerywood Youth in Ujleta & Pocsaj, Hungary

The Roma kids of Pocsaj and Ujleta will have many happy memories from the summer of 2009 thanks to the youth team from Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, NC. The temperatures were sweltering but the energy levels were high. Love was shown through interactive Bible stories, lots of singing, jumping rope, football (soccer) playing, yummy snacks, colorful crafts, and in many, many more ways. The Youth incorporated the Roma kids into the Bible stories. One day the "sick man" being carried to Jesus by his friends was giggling so hard they nearly dropped him! The lepers being healed by Jesus were gasping, limping, and having a grand ole time pretending to be sick. It was fun to watch. Craft time was a hit too as the children intently made their bracelets or puppets and they eagerly showed them off. One afternoon a group of American girls set up a coloring station under the shade trees for the little ones and soon found themselves painting the fingernails of the Roma moms! During the recreation time football (soccer) was a big hit. The Roma teens were eager to challenge the American teens. Luckily Emerywood sent some of their best athletes so the games were evenly matched. It was hard at the end of the week to say good-bye. There were lots of hugs, smiles, and a few tears.

Besides the Backyard Bible Clubs they did, the Emerywood gang tasted lots of yummy (well, opinions were mixed) Hungarian food, rode public transportation like pros, sat in the town square in the evenings like Hungarians, toured Budapest, and experienced a lot of new things - so different from the US culture.

We are grateful to the youth for giving of themselves to the little ones of Ujleta and Pocsaj - for being the presence of Christ in both villages. We are grateful to their parents and Emerywood Baptist Church for sending them. Thank you. To God Be the Glory.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stocks New Home

As of August 21 when the landlord finishes the refurbishing we will officially live in the XVI district of Budapest. Thank you for your prayers that we quickly find the right house. Our prayers were answered with this 'twin' or what we call a duplex on a quiet street near the main highway that allows quick access to travel to the various Roma missions. We appreciate your support and concern. PTL!

Romany in the 21st Century

Sinti Romany don't like their language written down--but they DO like to hear it. Some eons ago we recorded the Joseph stories from Genesis onto cassette tape. Now we're bringing that into the 21st century by adding illustrations and putting the segments on YouTube. You can check out the first two at I thought I'd get the last three done pretty quickly, but I've run into a few snags . . . and my shoulder hurts. According to the physical therapist, I've got "frozen shoulder syndrome." According to sources on the Internet, it could take up to 2 years to thaw. I'm opting for treatment!

Around Pentecost, Mary had coffee in a Sinti woonwagon (house trailer). The hostess was complaining to her cousins about her husband. "We've got this new laptop, and he says I shouldn't be on it. 'Internet isn't for Gypsies.'" The woman clearly didn't agree. We don't, either. Next time we're in that particular camp (trailer park), we're going to give her the link to the Joseph stories in her language on YouTube. There's a lot of other Gypsies posting things on Internet, too, including two Keith created from children's books for The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Drivers License Extended!

Thank you for praying for our drivers license and the process of renewing them. There were a few glitches but overall it went smoothly. We know the power of prayer! Please continue to pray for our house search.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Visiting Supporters

While in Romania we would liaise with supporters and visitors from all over the globe, primarily England and the US. Now that we have returned to the US it has been our pleasure to travel and visit many of the people we met while in Romania.

Smithfield Baptist Church came to Romania in July 2008. They were a team of 15 people coming to Project Ruth to do various tasks. During their time we become very close and were extended an invitation once we return to the States. We honored that invitation and spent 4 days in Smithfield.

While there we shared during Sunday school about Project Ruth, enjoyed a meal with the team (most of them) and participated for 2 nights at Vacation Bible. Oh and I can’t forget to mention that we tried Smithfield ham for the first time.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Land of the Magyars - Welcome Back!

After nearly 11 months on the field, a college graduation, a seminary graduation, lots of opportunities to tell the story of ministry among the Gypsies and several family crisi (is that the plural of crisis?) Ralph and I have arrived back in Hungary. (They call themselves Magyar.) It was a good off-field assignment and it was difficult to say good-bye. We are energized and ready to see what God has in store for us and the Roma ministry. First on the agenda is finding a place to live. Please pray we can find a new apartment quickly. Also pray as we begin the process of renewing our Hungarian drivers licenses. Pray it will go smoothly and quickly too. It's good to be back!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

GA Day 2 - Same Song, Second Verse

Day 2 dawned early with many of us attending breakfast meetings to tell the stories of ministry among the Gypsies. Throughout the day we rotated manning our booth and attending various breakout sessions. As evening came we said good-bye to Shane and Dianne on their way to a family reunion. The worship service was wonderful as we again concentrated on the Good Samaritan and who are our neighbors. With a multicultural flair we sang and shared the Lord's Supper. I, Tammy, shared about an experience last summer when a group of Latino youth came from Virginia to provide a backyard Bible Club for Roma children. David Harding, CBF field personnel, shared of the need for clean water and the efforts in Ethiopia to provide wells. The CBF college experience called Student.GO was showcased as well. Following a reception in the exhibition hall, we packed up the Gypsy Ministry Booth and said our good-byes.

Until next year.... (In Charlotte, NC, June 24-25 - mark your calendars!)

Friday, July 3, 2009

CBF General Assembly - Day 1

Day 1 was filled with lots of talking and "catching up". Our CBF Gypsy Ministries booth has a strategic location on the walk-through as people make their way to the large group sessions. We are able to see so many prayer supporters, past volunteers, old acquaintances, and those interested in knowing more about Gypsy ministry. We team members present rotated through the booth greeting everyone. When not on official duty the rest of us attended breakout sessions and other functions. Ralph and I attended the Bible study on the Good Samaritan led by Dorisanne Cooper, pastor from Waco. She made us think of the familiar story in new ways. The evening worship was up-lifting and inspiring. It was amazing to see all the fantastic things being done by CBF in the name of Christ. The day ended with a concert by the very talented Kyle Matthews of FBC, Greenville, SC. What a Fellowship!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

CBF Commissioning

The theme of the General Assembly this year is "Welcome to Your Neighborhood." The commissioning of new CBF field personnel centered on the story of the Good Samaritian and who was a good neighbor. The setting of South Main Baptist Church was beautiful with its stained glass windows and full, robed choir. Gypsy Team personnel assisted in the commissioning with Glen Adkins using his musical gifts and Shane McNary leading in a responsive prayer. The introductions of the new field personnel were interspersed with special music, litanies, and recognitions. The offertory music with an interpretive dance was a worshipful experience of sight and sound.

The evening concluded with Rob Nash, Coordinator of Global Missions, challenging not only the new personnel, but each and every one of us. He encouraged us to engage in the 21st century. We need to listen to the Global church, partner and network with congregations, and think outside of our box.

Who are our neighbors? What kind of neighbor am I?

Houston - T minus one and counting

CBF General Assemblies are like big family reunions. On this day before the Assembly officially begins people are gathering to meet, set-up, organize, and the many other tasks involved in a big meeting. It is amazing to sit in the lobby and watch people arrive. They are often greeted with hugs, smiles, handshakes, pats on the backs, and, since we're in Texas, "Howdys".

The Gypsy Team members quickly met to catch up and assemble our ministry booth. So if you're in Houston, ya'll come by and see us.

Tonight we look forward to the commissioning service of the newest field personnel. Always a meaningful and exciting time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Houston, We Have A......Fellowship!

Houston bound! CBF's annual General Assembly is being held July 2nd & 3rd at the convention center in Houston, TX. It is a great opportunity to worship, fellowship, meet new people, reacquaint with old friends, thank supporters, buy something unique at the silent auction or missions marketplace, and just have a rootin', tootin' (as the Texans would say) good time! If you are attending come by the Gypsy Ministries booth and say howdy. We'll have new pictures to show, new stories to tell, and the latest newsletter to share. The Adkins, Craigs, McNarys, and Stocks will be hanging around along with our stateside prayer coordinators, Linda and Bruce Salmon. Hope to see ya'll there!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Until We Met Again... Craigs Complete Assignment

Tomorrow, June 15th, Wes and Susan Craig, serving as Global Service Corps workers to Project Ruth in Bucharest, Romania, board the plane marking an end to their three years of ministry there. Susan and Wes jumped boldly into their assignment despite a new language, different culture, and without knowing anyone there. They embraced all that was new and different, forging new friendships, and making a difference among those around them. Relationship building is key to a good ministry and the Craigs were excellent at it, leaving behind many sad friends as they say good-bye.

Wes and Susan strengthened the ministry partnership CBF has with Project Ruth through increasing and improving communication with other partners. They expanded the networks throughout the USA and among the Romanian Romany. They facilitated great experiences for volunteers coming to work among the neglected. The Craigs eagerly grasped new opportunities.

Through Susan's administrative skills the office of Project Ruth was strengthened and organized. Wes stepped in to network and recruit teachers and students for the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training School. He followed up to encourage the students in the new knowledge they had obtained. It is not possible to list all the wonderful things they did while serving in Bucharest.

For the CBF Gypsy Team they were a breath of fresh air. Their youthful enthusiasm added to our discussion and strategy sessions. To say nothing of the late night card games! We all enjoyed their easy-going personalities and curiosity to explore new places. Wes and Susan will be greatly missed by our team.

As Wes and Susan make their way to Texas, closing this chapter in their lives and opening the next, please join us in praying that they will see clearly the next step God has for them. Ask Him to provide employment opportunities and meet their daily needs. Offer praise for their willingness to serve Him and the outstanding job they did.

The Craigs are eager and willing to share their stories of life at Project Ruth. Please contact them to come and be with your church, SS class, missions group, or anyone else interested in Romany ministry.

Wes and Susan, thank you for serving among the unreached of the world.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lifelong Learning - Goal Reached

CBF greatly encourages its personnel to continue to have learning experiences along their life journeys. Ralph completed one of his on May 30th when he received a Masters of Divinity from CBF partner school, The Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond in Virginia. BTSR was willing to work with Ralph as he studied long distance through internet classes and as he scheduled on-site classes during our off-field assignment times. We are grateful for the support from CBF, BTSR, our family, friends, and Gypsy Ministry supporters. All played a part in getting down the path. Thank you! To God Be the Glory!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Just in time for Pentecost

Hello, I’m Keith Holmes. I tend to be a very enthusiastic person. One of the things I’m enthusiastic about right now is the book of Acts on DVD in the Sinti/Manouche language. Part of the reason I’m enthusiastic is that it’s finally done!

But let me give a bit of background. My wife Mary van Rheenen and I serve as resource coordinators for the Romany Team. The main resource I coordinate is media materials in Romani languages. More than 20 different dialects and languages are spoken in Europe. Two years ago we put out the DVD of the Jesus video in 8 languages (5 of them Romani). I and a couple of other guys took it down to a pilgrimage in Southern France to distribute. The Wycliffe translator I was working with (one of the guys) said, "Okay, what now?" I said, "I don’t know." He said, "Well, I’ve seen this Acts thing in German . . .. "

The first recording of Acts was somewhere around September of 2007. We’ve been working off and on about this thing for about 100 years. We took the published version of the Acts video/DVD and put Sinti voices into. First we worked on the voice of Luke, who narrates the thing. Then we started chasing down other voices for big parts (like Paul) and little parts (like Lydia). We recorded these in church basements and people’s homes. Back in my own home, I mixed the voices in with the background music & effects (sometimes putting in effects where, for instance, laughter was missing). Then, after years of recording and mixing, we had a preview which resulted in more recording of corrections. Finally, the finished DVD is ready. Just in time, oddly enough, for Pentecost. Come to think of it, maybe that’s God’s timing. I hope to show it this weekend at an annual Sinti Pentecost tent meeting here in the Netherlands.

Here's a sample of Peter preaching at Pentacost.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Update from Slovakia & the Czech Republic

Greetings from Košice (CO-sheet-say), Slovakia and the McNary family – Dianne, Shane, Taylor and Allie! Addressing health conditions and poverty issues in the Roma community is one way we minister. For the past year, the focus of this ministry has been on developing and expanding the use of health information. In partnership with an all-Roma school in Košice, Dianne has developed a series of health brochures addressing a variety of basic community health issues. The information is presented in both Slovak and Romani languages. Dianne prepares a presentation for the students at the school which covers each topic. There is also a colorful bulletin board which helps reinforce the information throughout the month.

We partner with several organizations to confront the dire poverty which is so prevalent among the Roma. By strategically and creatively investing the hunger funds available, not only have we seen progress in the battle against poverty, we have also seen an expanded Christian witness.

At the all-Roma school in Košice, gifts from individuals and state organizations provide funds to provide a warm meal each day during the week before families receive their social welfare benefits. The majority of the students at the school live in the dilapidated, segregated part of Košice called Lunik 9.

We partner with Heifer Slovakia, the local branch of Heifer International which is based in Little Rock, Arkansas to transform Roma communities by enabling them to participate in the Heifer programs to combat poverty. We are negotiating a partnership with Heifer Slovakia and a farm in Rudlov (ROOD-low), Slovakia to expand the impact of this farm among the Roma in the neighboring communities. In addition, we are working directly with the Rudlov farm on a program to teach Roma how to set up a garden at their own homes to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for their families.

Sponsoring the meals for BTC Sinaj (Bible Training Center Sinai), which offers quarterly training for Roma ministers and church workers in Slovakia, has enabled BTC to expand their impact. More people have been able to attend since the meals are no longer included in their costs.

Through a partnership with long-time ministry friends in Litoměřice (there’s not a sound in English for the ř), Czech Republic, hunger funds have enabled a summer Bible camp for Roma youth. Short-term volunteers from churches in the United States and Europe will share the hope and grace of Christ during a week-long camp.

Slideshow includes photos from the ministries mentioned above. We appreciate your prayers, your gifts, and your partnership in carrying the Gospel to Roma communities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learning About Roma (Gypsies)

My husband, Ralph, and I serve among the Romany of Hungary. However for the last nine months we have been in the USA on off-field assignment. During this time we have had a number of goals to accomplish. One of our primary activities has been to speak to churches and groups about the way the Lord is moving among the Roma. We tell the stories of life and God's love.

This past weekend, I, Tammy, was privileged to be apart of the Women's Missionary Union of Virginia's (WMU) Mom and Me weekend. Nearly 1000 1st-5th grade girls and their mothers gathered at the Eagle Eyrie Baptist Conference Center in Lynchburg, VA to learn about missions and have a good time together. The theme of the weekend was "Magnificent Moldova" and the offering the girls gave will be sent to the Ruth School for Romany children in Bucharest, Romania.

I enjoyed being with the young girls and helping to plant seeds that they too might one day be called to be the presence of Christ somewhere in the world. I was once in their shoes, having learned about missions as a young girl growing up in a Baptist church. It was an opportunity for me to give back and I was grateful. And it was a lot of fun!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

From the Gandhi School in Pecs, Hungary

Hello. We’re Glen and Clista Adkins, CBF Field Personnel (missionaries) in southern Hungary working with Roma teens and adults at the Gandhi School, a residential high-school for Roma students in Pecs. I, Clista, teach and tutor English and Glen leads a choir and works with musical students in different ways. Along with Hungarian friends from our local Hungarian Baptist Church, Glen and I lead a Bible Club on Monday nights and do lots of other activities at the school.
We’ve been here 20 months. After serving as ministers in Baptist churches for over 30 years, we felt God guide us to service with these folks while we were here at Gandhi with a mission team from First Baptist Greenville, SC. [Lesson: Be careful when you are with a short-term mission team! God might use it to change your life.] So, after a long process, we sold our house, gave away lots of “stuff”, placed the remaining things with our daughter in Dallas, and moved to Pecs. Now we live in a flat on the main walking street in Pecs (Kiraly Utca, means “King Street”) and spend most of our time at the Gandhi School with many delightful Roma (Gypsy) teenagers.
On this blog, we will include stories and pictures of our work and of the many churches and mission teams who come to work in this ministry. Recently, Glen recorded a CD with the 16-month-old Gandhi choir.

Choir Makes a CD!
March was the red-letter month for the Gandhi Korus (Choir). On Tuesday, March 10th, after weeks and weeks of preparation by Glen, we—Glen, Tamas, Jozsef Orsos (Roma teacher), and I—ferried the students from the school to the Pecsi Baptista Templom (Pecs Baptist Church) to record 15 songs for a CD. The church graciously agreed to allow the group to record in the sanctuary, and Tamas Gobl, our friend there, helped us ferry the kids and manage the afternoon! (At our request, he also gave a little testimony about faith and the baptistery, which completely fascinated the students!)
Glen went early with Annamaria (translator and assistant), the musicians and instruments (Joshua, Sanyi, Szabi, Istvan, E.T.), and a few of the soloists (Klaudia, Peter, Laura, and Andi). They were met by a very nice recording engineer (Gabor) who worked with them to record solo parts and a number by the guys! When the rest of the choir arrived, the sanctuary really started rocking! The students were nervous and excited and ready to do their very best, and they did! Their irrepressible energy would explode after every number, as soon as Glen dropped his hands—guitars playing, kids laughing and singing, kannas (milkjugs) pounding . . . Then, as soon as Glen said, “CSENDES” (quiet), there was instant silence. They waited for the cue and started the music. It was amazing! We were so proud of their determination.
You can see video and pictures of the process. Glen asked two people (Almos, a teacher, and Ricsi, a student) to video and one (me) to photograph the process. The pictures and videos are as fun as the singing. The process really took over 5 hours to complete, so the students got tired, but they tried to maintain their high energy level to make it through 15 songs. Of course, we had to take the inevitable smoke breaks. (Tamas pointed them to a place in the parking lot for the smoking!) At the midpoint, we served them colas, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, rice crispy treats (actually corn flake treats), and jelly beans—good ol’ American kid treats—to give them a sugar high and get them going again. They seemed to like the eating as much as the singing.
At 5:30 they sang the final song. After one repeat, the CD was done! To celebrate, we ferried them to a local restaurant for a celebration meal. Glen had pre-arranged the meal with the owners and they were ready for the group. I’m not sure that many had ever eaten at a restaurant where they were served by waiters, but they did well and were on their best behavior. The waiters were cheerful and helpful, and the students left the restaurant tired but happy.
Now, Glen is spending hours with Gabor (sound engineer) editing the songs. You can hear a few of the results on youtube. Please continue to pray for Glen, the choir, and this process as this CD may open many doors for the students and the school.
Below is a video of the Gandhi School Choir singing "Gelem, gelem," (translated "We must go
on") the International Gypsy Hymn.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Catherine Hasty's Spring Break at the Ruth School

Project Ruth receives a number of groups during the summer. These groups usually organize Vactation Bible School for kids from the Ruth School and surrounding neighborhood. Very few teenagers have the opportunity to visit the Ruth School during the school year. This year Catherine Hasty decided to spend her spring break at the Ruth School while her dad, Tim, came to Bucharest on business (training Romanian custom officials). Catherine's first visit was with the Acteen group from FBC Aiken, S.C., but this time she was serving alone as she participated in various classes during the mornings and spending time with Romanian youth from Providence Church in the afternoons.

Catherine (back row - middle) with 6th Grade Class

Catherine said, "I am an elementary education major, so I really enjoyed seeing what classes are like in another country...Even though this trip was a lot different, it was just as meaningful and something I will always remember!" Project Ruth is thankful for students like Catherine who love to serve and to be apart of the children's lives at the Ruth School.
You can read more from Catherine from her daily journal on facebook by clicking here.
For more opportunities on serving at the Ruth School, during the school term or summer, contact Project Ruth at

Monday, March 2, 2009

Gypsy Smith Visits Western Romania

Last October, Alex and I (Wes) visited two Roma churches in two different villages in western Romania in order to share with them about the opportunity for their leaders to attend the Gypsy Smith School in Bucharest. Even though they have already sent some leaders to Bucharest, they asked us if we would be willing to hold a three day course in one of their villages. Due to the distance from Bucharest (12 hours by train), this would allow many more students to attend. We agreed and for the first time GSS was held in a location other than Bucharest. There were twelve church leaders from surrounding villages in attendance for the Biblical Interpretation & Application course.

As wonderful as it was being with these Roma church leaders, what was even more encouraging was the special baptismal service for three Roma. Despite the 30-degree weather outside and no heater inside, people gathered together to witness the first baptisms in their village. The three Roma could have waited until spring, but they refused to wait. They couldn’t wait. They wanted to be baptized as soon as possible and I was honored to be there to witness such an enthusiastic expression of faith.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Greetings from the Gypsy team!

Welcome to the CBF Gypsy Ministries Blog! As you can see on the left side of this blog, our team has members in Holland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia, and all of us work in various capacities with the Roma people in our respective countries. This blog will be a record of the ministry of each team member and of the team as a whole: we'll try to update the blog at least once a week, and we'll have a rotation of authors, so each team member will take a turn. At our team meeting in Spain last month, I volunteered (or WAS volunteered, I can't remember which! :D) to write the first post, so, here we go.

I'm Elaine Childs, the newest and shortest-term member of the team. I arrived in Croatia on July 30, 2008, to work with Karmen Horvat, a missionary with the Child Evangelism Fellowship, and to help coordinate the partnership that my home church has with the Baptist Union of Croatia. There are many gypsy villages in this part of Croatia, and Karmen holds Five-Day clubs and Good News Clubs in three or four of them (the number of villages we meet in on a weekly basis is always changing we have to have a home to host us). I assist her, and I help organize other short-term mission trips.

My home church, First Baptist Knoxville, has sent several short-term mission teams to work with Karmen, and I came along with the 2007 youth trip as a chaperone. I fell in love with Croatia at first sight, and when Karmen told our group about how her ministry needs workers, I began to wonder if I was called to come back for a slightly more long-term stay: one year. After a lot of prayer, and several conversations with ministers at my church, I felt like God was confirming my initial sense of call.

I feel very blessed. Around the time when I was baptized (age 11), I was SO afraid that if I gave my life to God, He'd make me go be a missionary in Africa! But here I am, living in a beautiful country that I love and doing the most rewarding work I've ever done. I get to talk about Jesus with all of these adorable children!

I have my own ministry blog at where you can read more about what Karmen and I do on a day-to-day basis. I'm going to take the liberty of pasting part of my first entry because I think it summarizes my perspective on missions. After seven months "on the field," I would certainly reword the last sentence a bit because I've learned for REAL, not just in theory, that everything, absolutely everything, has to be surrendered to God's plan and power and not just "left to take care of itself." But the basic analogy is a lesson that I have to try and remember every single day that I go into one of these villages.

"The title of this blog might seem odd because I am going to Croatia as First Baptist Church's missionary, not as a lace-maker. But I'm an English teacher, so it helps me to think of things in terms of analogies and symbols! A passage I read this spring in W. B. Yeats's Autobiographies has been on my mind for several months, and it seems appropriate for the work I'm going to do. The poet wrote that, as a young man trying to make his living in London:

I was always planning some great gesture...More than thirty years have passed and I have seen no forcible young man of letters brave the metropolis without some like stimulant; and all after two or three, or twelve or fifteen years, according to obstinacy, have understood that we achieve, if we do achieve, in little sedentary stitches as though we were making lace.

I like that quotation because I'm a lot like the "forcible young man of letters" who wants big gestures and huge successes. But, in reality, most of life's achievements come about because we make one tiny stitch at a time, and eventually something complete comes out of it.

Coincidentally, I found out that Croatia has been famous for centuries for its Pag lace. Each piece of lace is one-of-a-kind because the lace-maker doesn't use a pattern or a plan: she simply starts work and allows the lace to take its own unique shape. So that's why I think of my year in Croatia as a year of lace-making: I'm going to focus on making tiny stitches and allow the eventual pattern to take care of itself."