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.