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."