Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blessed Christmas!

The Gypsy Team of CBF wishes you a joyful celebration of our Savior's birth!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Roma Family Camp

   The last week in August, Shane participated in a Roma Family Camp which was held at Rackova Dolina, Slovakia.  We think there were 116 people present – some of the kids kept moving from room to room so it was hard to tell exactly how many were there – from five different communities in south-central Slovakia.
The camp goal was to bring together families from different communities so that they could hear the Gospel, be encouraged in their spiritual walk with God, and have fun.  From the testimonies which were shared, all the goals were met. 
   Shane spoke twice – once to the men about what Scripture says about being a good husband and once to the group of adults about communication in marriage.  We thank God for our trusted local partners who invited Shane to participate in this camp and for the way they have maintained a focus on ministry with Roma.   

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gypsy Smith School - November 2011

"No room in the inn" is a phrase we hear as Christmas draws near. Last week we were repeating it as we discussed the high attendance of Roma leaders for the Gypsy Smith School. Our dormitory was full and we had to bring in a couple of mattresses for the overflow. It was a nice problem to have and shows how the leaders are hungry for Biblical teaching. Our teachers, Hans Riphagen and Marco de Vos, were from the Baptist Union of The Netherlands. It was a good week as they taught on Christology and Characters of the Old Testament. At the end of the week we celebrated with a graduation service for Loredan who had completed his eight sessions.

During November we take time to count our blessings and we are grateful for the Gypsy Smith School. We are thankful for the students who come eager to learn, the teachers who diligently prepare the lessons, the pray-ers who lift up the sessions, and those that financially support this program. Thank you, God for your provision!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Different Kind of Advent

Each year, the Christmas season starts earlier. Each year, the stress seems greater. Each year, there are new stories of folks (mostly here in the U.S.) who will do unbelievable things to get a popular Christmas gift.

Have we missed something? What's Christmas supposed to be about, anyway? Sure, we know the story - Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Angels and Shepherds... but how did we get from THAT to THIS?

If you haven't yet heard of the Advent Conspiracy (follow this link or click on the picture), we hope you'll check it out. Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All.

Maybe we're straying off-topic a little bit, but since we're still here in the States this year, we have noticed the need for something like this more than ever. And if you're looking for a way to give a gift that counts, there are plenty of ideas in the CBF Gift Catalog (follow this link) - many that benefit the Roma!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giving Thanks...

Though we gather around tables in different countries with different twists on the traditional American Thanksgiving, we have one thing in common.  The Gypsy Team of CBF is counting our blessings and very grateful for the support you have given over the year.  As we look back on previous posts we can see answered prayers, volunteers who served, finances shared, and words of encouragement given.  We thank God for those provisions and we thank you.
"Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow..."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Romany Education

All around Europe there are Christians--Romany and non-Romany--involved in educating Romany children. Wycliffe Poland partners with churches in Ukraine. A Dutch nurse started preschools at the request of her Romany Christian partners in Romania. A former missionary in Latin America begins a preschool in Serbia. Just within our CBF Romany team, we have a long-term partnership with Project Ruth, three sets of short-term personnel at the Gandhi School in Hungary, and another couple, Jon & Tanya Parks, preparing to work in a Romany school in Slovakia.
We recently set up a blogspot so that all these people could more easily network, share information, ask questions, learn from and encourage one another. We welcome posts in any language, to encourage discussion among teachers who are not native-English speakers. Check out the beginnings at:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Week of "Firsts"

Sami, youth minister, leading the music
1st grade played the best!
Recently a team from Boulevard Baptist Church in Anderson, SC spent a week at the Ruth School.  Thanks to their efforts we had a full week of "firsts".  We had our first chapel service where the students learned about the Bible story of Ruth and why the school is named after her. 

The students all received a recorder and learned to play it.  They gave a concert to their parents at the end of the week. (another first - parents open house)
It takes a lot of concentration
The team took the Day Center kids to the zoo and to McDonald's for Happy Meals.  This was a first for the little 5 year olds!  Then it was off to the mountains on a double decker bus for the 1st-3rd graders! This day of "firsts" was topped off with a picnic in the park.

 Our first Sewing Club was fun as the students worked diligently on a fleece scarf project.  They learned to sew straight lines, pin seams, make tassels, and sew on buttons.  They are now eager for cold weather so they can wear their new projects!

Our first Moms' Club of the year was a success with 20 mothers attending.  The school nurse did a program on breast cancer in conjunction with October being awareness month.  One of the team members gave a personal testimony of her survival from breast cancer and some of the mothers were moved to tears.

Yes, it was a week of many firsts - to be followed by 2nds and 3rds as we continue the weekly chapel services, the sewing/craft club, Moms' Club, and the squeaky practicing of recorders.  Thank you Boulevard for a great week!

Friday, October 7, 2011

God Moves in Mysterious Ways . . .

Keith has been recording the New Testament in the Sinti Romany language. The printed version made its debute this spring. We wondered how Sinti, who traditionally oppose having their language written down, would react. A recent message from Germany, where opposition has been particularly strong, states that German Sinti leaders are not only becoming convinced of the need for God's word in their own language (previous attitudes being, "Why do we need that--we can read the Bible in German"), they are also spreading the printed New Testament as language-learning material among their own people. This can only be a God-thing.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

An Unexpected Partner

A couple of days ago, we got our reports from CBF of folks who have contributed in the last month. All the names we recognized… except one, a Mrs. Keatts from a nearby city here in Virginia, who had given us a gift. We searched our contact records to see if we might know her by another name. No luck – we didn’t know Mrs. Keatts, but we wanted to get to know her.
So on Monday, I looked up her phone number and called her. I didn’t know what to expect, but certainly didn’t expect the blessing I received in the next 20 minutes!
Mrs. Keatts is a member of a Baptist church in her city, and each week someone reads the names and assignments of CBF missionaries during the prayer time. Our names caught her attention when some names were being a couple of weeks ago, and she decided she would send a check to us.
In our conversation I learned a lot about Mrs. Keatts. She just turned 80 years old, but she said she preferred to call it “seventy-nine-plus-one… that sounds so much better than eighty, doesn’t it??” I caught her just as she’d come in from working in the yard all morning. She has been a prayer warrior and giver to God’s mission work for decades, and she was particularly glad to hear about our work and the trip we will be taking this coming week. I offered to send our newsletter and she told me not to waste the stamp because she’s having problems with her eyes right now and can’t read very well. I told her I’d send the newsletter anyway, and would pray that God would restore her sight. It was a wonderful, funny and encouraging conversation – an unexpected blessing!
I won’t say how much she gave – suffice to say that it was likely a sizable gift for an 80 year-old to make. She didn’t know why our names caught her ear, but we’re certainly glad she heard God’s voice and answered!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seeing With God's Eyes

Note: This was originally posted by Tanya on our blog on August 7:
This morning in church, Jon’s sermon was about the faith that Peter had to walk on the water (Peter has a bit of a bad rep, but we often forget that he was the only one to even attempt it!). Jon made a connection to the passage in Numbers 13 where the spies are sent into the Promised Land. When they bring their report back, everyone agrees that it is an amazing new land (flowing with milk and honey). While Joshua and Caleb believe that with God’s help they can conquer the people, the other ten are fearful and say ‘we looked like grasshoppers in our own eyes.’
This kind of faith sees life – and ourselves — through God’s eyes, not our own.
With our own eyes, we know we will sink.
With our own eyes, we are small compared to our obstacles.
With my own eyes, I wonder if we will really ever raise the money necessary to follow Gods calling.
But with God’s eyes, everything is different. When Peter started using his own eyes again, he sunk. Because the leaders of Israel saw the land of Canaan with their own eyes, they were forced to wander in the desert another 40 years.
This lesson doesn’t just pertain to someone moving half way around the world. We all have things that God calls us to do every day that take God’s eyes. We must remember the ways that God has already brought us through the wilderness – and longs to lead us into fullness.
May we not wander in the wilderness another 40 years!
May we all see through the eyes of God – and may we be like Caleb and say, “[With God] we can certainly do it!”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Lord Moves in Mysterious Ways

Challenge #1: the heating system in the Bethlehem Baptist Church, Moldova, does not actually warm the building. Last winter, they met somewhere else for worship.
SOLUTION #1: supporters generously gave to the church's building fund.

Challenge #2: what to do to fix the heating situation?
SOLUTION #2: ask energy expert Willem Jan Oosterkamp, from the Netherlands, who recommends a free-standing heater.

Challenge #3: how to get such a thing from here to there.
Challenge #4: friend from Romania needs place to stay for a few days in the Netherlands.
SOLUTION #4: ask Oosterkamps if friend can stay in their spacious house; they agree.
SOLUTION #3 a: tell God that if He wants it there, He needs to provide a way.
SOLUTION #3b: ask Romanian friend for ideas.
SOLUTION #3b: friend offers to take heater back with him and deliver it to the Romanian/Moldovan border.

CONCLUSION: Praise God, the Lord moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ruth School 2011-2012 Year Begins

The 2011-2012 Ruth School year has begun! The students and their parents began to arrive around 8AM to await the opening ceremony on the soccer court. They excitedly lined up by grade with flowers for their teacher in hand. Giggles and shouts of greeting were heard over and over. Our former director, now art teacher, Ms Tita, introduced our new director and 1st grade teacher, Ms Virginia. Each class and their teacher were recognized with applause.
The 4th grade formed an arch way on the front steps of the school. Each class paraded down the sidewalk and into the building through the waving flowers. It was very festive!

In the 1st grade room there were a few tears as parents left their young ones in "big" school for the first time. Ms Virginia reassured them their children would be OK. I was struck by the thought that parents are the same the world over - that first day of 1st grade is traumatic no matter what culture you live in!

It was a wonderful start to a new year. Join us in praying for a great year for all!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sinti New Testament

Wycliffe translator Armin Peter distributing the Sinti New Testament at a tent meeting in France.

Sinti man reading New Testament to his customers.

Young ladies each want to try reading the New Testament in their heart language.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The countdown begins...  The Ruth School starts September 12th.  Teachers report August 29th.  Please begin to pray...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

French and Italian Authorities Aggressively Evict Roma

No Place for Roma: French and Italian Authorities Aggressively Evict Roma

Budapest, Marseille, Rome, 11 August 2011: The Sarkozy Government’s infamous campaign to evict and deport Roma from France, which rose to prominence one year ago, is continuing aggressively. In Marseille, between June and August 2011 alone, a minimum of 500 Roma have been evicted from camps. A large-scale eviction of around 150 people happened just this morning. In a similar vein, Roma in Italy are constantly victimised by ongoing and repeated evictions. The ERRC and its partner organisations sent letters to French and Italian authorities expressing concern about the continuing forced evictions of Romani communities in Rome and Marseille.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Roma Road in Auschwitz-Birkenau

After spending a full month with the five members of the student.go Roma Road team, I am still deciphering some of the conversations we had.  I have done my best to become functional in the local language.  That we spent two weeks in countries other than Slovakia tested my language skills – though Czech is similar enough and Polish is, well, Polish.  However, it wasn’t the ‘foreign’ languages which were the challenge; even the vowel-free Strč prst skrz krk was easy to teach (stick a finger through your neck).  Most trying was the YouTube-inspired short-hand speech most of the team seemed fluent in.

I think I was asleep during the part of training when it was told that I would be carrying on conversations by only quoting Bon Qui Qui or Potter Puppet Pals.  The vaguely familiar “Thee before Thou except after Thine” from Vintage21’s Jesus stirred memories of Vacation Bible School at a fundamentalist church I was bussed to as a child; but any connection with reality was lost when the next phrase included reference to SpongeBob.  The language barrier with the Polish was sometimes less than with the Americans I was ministering with!  That is, until we got to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.

Whether it was the cold rain that began to fall on us as we reached the crematorium or the inscription on black granite reminding us that the site we were looking at was where the ashes of those killed by the Nazi death machine were tossed, silence replaced the YouTube-inspired banter. 

This was the third trip I have made to the Death Camp with a group of students who have come to Slovakia to minister among the Roma people through CBF’s student.go.  Especially this year when our itinerary included a look at the history of the Roma people and visits to sites of historic interest in this area, the visit to Oswiecim, Poland and specifically to the building housing the exhibit Extermination of European Roma was an important stop in the journey to understand who the Roma people are.  Almost none of Roma children we ministered with during three weeks of camps know anything about their history as a people.  They don’t know that their language pre-dates most European languages.  They don’t know that their ancestors arrived in this area over 600 years ago.  They don’t know that in the Czech lands almost 90% of the pre-war population was decimated in Nazi death camps.  They have no idea.
Roma Road Team
Over two days we visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps.  I warned the group about trying to understand everything which happened and about trying to take it all in.  The group was quieter then than during our whole month together.  It’s hard to quip about an “out of the hood program” or quote ‘Jesus’ saying, “I walked on water, I think I can walk through the door” when faced with the naked atrocities of what humans are capable of perpetrating upon one another.  Silence in the face of atrocity may be a natural response, but it is not sufficient.

The oppressive darkness which still weighs on visitors to the Camps can be overwhelming.  But the visit was in vain if it results in silence.  Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate said during his acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway in 1986, never “be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.  We cannot be silent in the face of atrocity.  We must speak to bear witness to the history of atrocity and are compelled by the ever-pressing love of Christ to raise our voices today when fellow human beings suffer.  The world toils in darkness and all creation yearns for a clear witness against it. 

After a still-muted lunch in Wadowice, Poland, birthplace of Karol Wojtyła who went on to become Pope John Paul II, we got back in the car to head on towards Slovakia.  It was still rainy and the roads were sometimes crowded.  Slowly the conversations started up again - tempered by what we’d witnessed, empowered by a conviction not to remain silent, and peppered with postmodern clichés . . . at least we weren’t silent.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Faithful Friends

Magdalena’s question about needing to read the Bible to be able to go to heaven and how she must depend on people to come and read to her was a topic of interest in Cinobana a couple of months ago.  Among other reasons, her eyesight is so poor that she is unable to read.

Hearing about Magdalena, friends from Arkansas responded immediately with a solution.  Faith Comes by Hearing is a partner with CBF to help put Scripture in audio form so that people without access to books, who are illiterate, or for other reasons cannot read can have the Scriptures in their language.  

We received a package from CBF of Arkansas with a solar-powered player that had the Slovak New Testament ready to play.  When we were in Cinobana with the Roma Road Team last week, we presented the player to the fellowship there.  With the blessings that it is for Magdalena and to benefit the whole fellowship, we listened to that night’s Scripture lesson on the player. 

Thank you to faithful friends and for your quick response to the needs of your Sisters and Brothers in Christ.

Worth a Thousand Words
That’s the Cinobana ministry house with a newly completed roof thanks to the generous support of CBF of Missouri and her member churches!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CBF Celebrates 20 Years...

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship celebrated its 20th anniversary this past week at our annual General Assembly in Tampa, Florida.  It was a wonderful time of remembering our early beginnings and looking toward the future.  Our Gypsy Team also celebrated the comissioning of Jon and Tanya Parks who will join us in ministry among the Romany.  (more on the Parks to come)

Thank you to all who have supported Gypsy Ministries through the years with prayer, service, and giving.  We are looking forward to the next 20 years and what God has in store!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Trips That Make a Difference...

You have the opportunity to see God at work through the ministries of the Fellowship this October. CBF is committed to ministry among the world’s least evangelized and most marginalized people. The Romany are among Europe’s most despised and unwanted people. For nearly two decades CBF field personnel have been sharing Christ’s hope. Now, you can experience ministry firsthand among the Romany people in Eastern Europe. Travel October 7-17 with CBF field personnel and staff to witness how God is changing lives.

Estimated cost: $2,600 (airfare and accommodations)

Destination: Eastern Europe, including Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic

Contact: Jennifer Graham at (678) 313-3999

Friday, June 3, 2011

Report on Medical Mission Trip

In Velka Lomnica, Slovakia, Jana (not her real name) came to the health presentation by Dorothy Cluff, a retired nurse from Viginia.    After the presentation, Jana stayed behind to ask questions about her diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.  With her five-month old child on her hip, Jana shared her fears.  After we answered her questions and encouraged her to follow her doctor’s advice, Jana was still afraid.  So I offered the only thing I had to share – I prayed for peace and healing.  We parted with a hug and a teary smile.
Group near Stara Lubovna, SK
Pray that Jana will be healed and can look forward with hope to the future with her family.
Dorothy came to Slovakia to share during a series of presentations called Healthy Moms - Healthy Children.  A total of 320 women were present for the presentations which took place during one week in eleven different cities.  Praise the Lord for such a good turn out and for the lives which were touched.
Pray a word of thanks for servants like Dorothy Cluff who are hearing and responding to the call to minister among the Roma.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Europe's 8-10 million Roma

"The Good Friday evacuation of 276 Roma women and children shamed the government into banning the hate groups and vigilante civil guardsmen that had been terrorising Gyöngyöspata's Roma population for nearly two months. Furthermore, it thrust the issue of Roma integration to the top of Hungary's (and, by extension, Europe's) social, economic, and political agenda. Future historians may very well refer to the period in question as the ten days that shook the European Union out of its complacency with regard to Europe's 8-10 million Roma ...

If the Roma are to assume their rightful place among Europe's many peoples, the European press must immediately stop portraying Europe's Roma in a manner which panders to popular prejudice and instead portray them in a more dignified light as ordinary human beings facing extraordinary obstacles in their struggle for economic, social and political equality and human dignity." - Richard Field, founder and chairman of the American House Foundation, a US-registered private foundation that is working with Hungarian non-government organisations on issues of poverty, homelessness and social exclusion.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Meeting of the Presidents

This week John Upton, president of the Baptist World Alliance, has been in Romania visiting Project Ruth, Providence Baptist Church, the Baptist Seminary, and meeting several dignitaries. The visit also included a trip to Timisoara for the Romanian Baptist Union meeting.

**Picture:  Oti Bunaciu, president of Project Ruth and president of the Romanian Baptist Union, is seen here presenting a Bible and a book about Baptists to the Romanian president, Traian Basescu while John Upton, president of the Baptist World Alliance looks on.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Testament Recording--Portugal

Keith and his recording partner Arthur Wijnveen returned safely from Portugal last night (11:43 arrival!). The Portuguese Bible Society and all concerned were very, very pleased with the results of the project. This audio recording of a contemporary version of the Portuguese New Testament should be available in a couple of months.

One of our prayer partners on this project had e-mailed that they would be praying for the words that the speakers were recording to have an impact on the actors playing the voices. This was inspired. Arthur and Keith enjoyed working with the professional actors in Portugal . . . but very few of them were believers. Sometimes Keith had to explain the background of the piece the actor was recording. We pray that the Word will have impacted their lives in a positive way.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Faces of Poverty Tour

In March a reporter from the Roma Press Agency in Košice, Slovakia, a cameraman, and Shane went to the United States for a multi-state tour focusing on issues of and solutions to poverty.

Shane kept a journal of the trip.  The schedule they were on prohibited the journal from being posted daily, but you can read about it by following the link below.  Warning - Shane gets carried away sometimes . . . there's twelve pages!
(L-R) Ray Higgins (CBF of Arkansas director), Etela Matová, Shane, Jaroslav 'Jerry' Kerner
Link to read the report:  Faces of Poverty Tour Journal

The documentary should be completed and televised this summer on Slovak national television and perhaps Czech national television too.

Making the grade

A lot of things have changed over the past three years at the ministry center in Cinobaňa, Slovakia.  In partnership with the Lučenec Baptist Church, INNetwork-Slovakia, CBF of Arkansas and CBF of Missouri, a reconstruction effort is now more than halfway completed.  The process has done more than transform an empty building with rotting floors into a vibrant Christ-centered ministry center, it has encouraged a variety of indigenous ministries to flourish.

One example of the flourishing ministries is the after-school study center.  Students from the community come to the center to have a safe place with warmth in winter and lights year round to do their homework.  The plan was to place one computer in the center with internet access to assist the students.  However God had something else in mind!

Thanks to a donation of several used computers from a school in Košice, Slovakia and the volunteer labor of a Slovak friend, we were able to place four computers in the center for less than the price of one new computer.
Sending an email to a friend
When we were installing the last computer, Pupo, a Roma from Cinobana whose wife Olinka coordinates the after school program at the center talked about the positive impact of having the computers.  "The teachers are now praising our children.  They are getting better grades." he said as he watched his daughter sign onto the computer to check her email.  

Praise the Lord for partnerships which are making a difference in the lives of Roma in Slovakia.  
Praise the Lord for creative networking which can turn used computers ready to be discarded into tools to help Roma students study.
Praise the Lord for parents like Pupo and Olinka whose service to Christ include an after school ministry to neighborhood children.
Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Resourcing . . . Brazil?

There are thousands, perhaps millions of Romany (Gypsies) in Latin America. This past week, a Wycliffe Bible Translator in Brazil contacted us. They were thinking of beginning a translation project in Calon, the variety of Romani that was spoken in Spain and Portugal. The language has reportedly died out on the Iberian pennisula, though the Romany there are still very much in evidence, dancing flamingo and being Romany. We were able to link the translator with a Romany pastor in Argentina who helped translate the New Testament into a version of Kalderash Romani there. The Argentinian is aquainted with a Calo Romany priest in Brazil who had begun translating the New Testament some years ago. Hopefully all of these connections will bear fruit. “Resource coordinator” is our job title; this is how it sometimes plays out . . . in ways which we will not directly see, through contacts we have never personally met, via networking which has occurred over the last decade and a half. God bless the Romany in Brazil!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obed Hunts Eggs

"Where are the eggs?"

"Look what we found!"
"What's an egg hunt?" Hunting Easter eggs is not a tradition in Romania so it was a new experience for the kids of the Obed Day Center at Project Ruth. They eagerly decorated their bags and listened to the instructions of the activity. The weather did not cooperate so the eggs were cleverly hidden in a classroom next door under toys, in boots, inside cups, and on the windowsills. The children burst into the room and scurried around until each had found seven eggs. They excitedly asked if the eggs were theirs to keep and one can imagine they were anticipating eating them for lunch or surprising their families with this gift. The bags were searched for the two prize eggs - a purple one and one with a smiley face. These lucky children received a chocolate rabbit. And so no one would feel left out, all the students received chocolate bunnies as a treat. It was an enjoyable activity and a wonderful way to begin the Easter break from school. Thank you God for providing fun times.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 6

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,
because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
I John 4:4, NIV

Join us in praising God for this truth and for the ways He is at work for and among the Romany.

The Roma Education Fund provides support to talented Roma university students across Hungary—and helps shatter stereotypes.

The January session of the Gypsy Smith School was a huge success--20 were expected but 24 attended. The Gypsy Smith School is a leadership training for Roma church leaders held four times a year in Bucharest, Romania.

A hundred years ago one of the greatest evangelists in Britain was Romany—Gypsy (Rodney) Smith.

The two women working with Romany in Italy use most of their financial resources to feed and clothe children who live in make shift houses under bridges and overpasses. When the police chase them away, these Christians search until they find them again.

This past Christmas the International School in Kosice, Slovakia had a food drive to emphasize the importance of concern for others and provided food for at least 10 Roma families.

This year Project Ruth took a new step in their quest to break the cycles of poverty through education by beginning a preschool class in a Roma neighborhood in Bucharest, Romania.

Through her hobby of making and selling cards, a Dutch woman is providing tuition for a Romany student to attend the Moldovan Bible College.

Bethlehem Baptist Church in Moldova tried for more than 6 years to get electricity. The fee was $300--a month's wages for some people. The whole church dedicated themselves to two days of prayer and fasting. The whole sum was provided.

Laszlo, a retired Hungarian business-man, supports the Roma Baptist Church in Csobanka Sunday after Sunday, despite member-ship ups and downs, weather conditions, often the lack of a musician, through teaching, preaching, praying, and serving as treasurer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 7

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,
because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
I John 4:4, NIV

Join us in praising God for this truth and for the ways He is at work for and among the Romany.

The Roma Education Fund provides support to talented Roma university students across Hungary—and helps shatter stereotypes.

The January session of the Gypsy Smith School was a huge success--20 were expected but 24 attended. The Gypsy Smith School is a leadership training for Roma church leaders held four times a year in Bucharest, Romania.

A hundred years ago one of the greatest evangelists in Britain was Romany—Gypsy (Rodney) Smith.

The two women working with Romany in Italy use most of their financial resources to feed and clothe children who live in make shift houses under bridges and overpasses. When the police chase them away, these Christians search until they find them again.

This past Christmas the International School in Kosice, Slovakia, had a food drive to emphasize the importance of concern for others and provided food for at least 10 Roma families.

This year Project Ruth took a new step in their quest to break the cycles of poverty through education by beginning a preschool class in a Roma neighborhood in Bucharest, Romania.

Through her hobby of making and selling cards, a Dutch woman is providing tuition for a Romany student to attend the Moldovan Bible College.

Bethlehem Baptist Church in Moldova tried for more than 6 years to get electricity. The fee was $300--a month's wages for some people. The whole church dedicated themselves to two days of prayer and fasting. The whole sum was provided.

Laszlo, a retired Hungarian business-man, supports the Roma Baptist Church in Csobanka Sunday after Sunday, despite member-ship ups and downs, weather conditions, often the lack of a musician, through teaching, preaching, praying, and serving as treasurer.

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 6

This past summer I attended my first baptism of Roma believers. All five of them had come to know Christ through the efforts of the OASIS Ministry of the BETHEL House of Christian Help in Litomerice, Czech Republic. We drove through Terezin, where one of the Nazi concentration camps was located, on the way to the baptism.

The sun was shining; it was warm and the perfect day for baptism in a river. As I walked down the old stone steps to the river, I remember thinking that it was an interesting choice of location for the event. It wasn’t until we were leaving that the true significance of the site became clear to me. Although Terezin was not considered one of the death camps, it was complete with gas chambers and cremation ovens and over 30,000 people lost their lives there.

Reading the memorial statue by the river, I realized that this beautiful place was where the Nazis dumped the ashes from the cremation ovens. What had once been a place of death and darkness was now a place of rebirth and light. God truly is greater than even the darkest moments in history.

--Pray that the new Roma believers in Litomerice will continue to grow in their faith and witness.

--Pray for the new cooking class outreach to Roma girls in Litomerice.

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 5

Following a failed marriage for each of them Tibi and Natasha fell in love. At about the same time Natasha, a believer, led Tibi to the Lord. With Natasha’s help Tibi learned to read for the first time and the Bible became his book of choice. He matured rapidly in his faith and his reading ability.

However, they faced a dilemma. Unemployment amongst Roma in Hungary hovers between 80-90% and they struggled in a depressed area of the country. Each could secure seasonal work for three months at a time but nothing was guaranteed year-round. In a strange quirk the social welfare system allows two single adults, even living together, to draw more in benefits than a married couple living together. Even with these meager benefits survival was a daily struggle.

A greater struggle ensued as they came to understand God’s design for marriage and family stability. With a new conviction of their maturing faith they were married. Even though they faced more severe hardships economically they knew they were doing the right thing. Their example of sacrifice to follow God’s will has impacted other Roma couples in the same circumstances.

--Pray that Christian marriages will withstand the economic pressures placed upon them by an uncaring social welfare policy.
--Pray that Roma will find work year-round so that they can provide for their families through honest work and live morally.
--Pray that Tibi and Natasha will experience God’s blessings for their obedience to his teachings.

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 4

Sister Luise (Louisa)* began an outreach to Sinti children in her native Germany. One Sinti father became very angry with her because his child subsequently refused to lie for him. He found a way to have Sister Luise declared “unclean.” She had filled in briefly for someone at a hospital reception desk, and in Sinti culture blood (and by extension hospital work) makes one unclean.
Since Sister Luise could no longer have direct contact with Sinti, she began making and sending cards with Scripture verses in German, then Bible story booklets, then Bible story booklets with Sinti text pasted over the German . . . which eventually led to establishing Romanes Arbeit Marburg, a German organization that supports Wycliffe Bible Translators working in Sinti . . . which eventually led to:

3 published books of the Bible;
3 Scripture audio-recordings;
6 Christian DVDs dubbed into the Sinti language;
7 segments of Bible stories available on YouTube;
2 children’s Scripture coloring books.
As of today, the entire New Testament with Psalms is available in print and recording of the audio version is 50% completed. Truly, greater is He that was in Sister Luise than he that is in the world.

--Praise for Sinti believers who have helped make and distribute culturally-appropriate Christian media;
--Prayer for the use and distribution of the New Testament to evangelize and disciple Sinti Romany.

*Sister Luise was a diaconess, a sort of Protestant nun. The diaconess movement has started hospitals, engaged in social work, and is active in missions.

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 3

Though he grew up in a children’s home, Pavel is excited to return to Roma settlements to share the restoring hope of Christ. There he met Richard who told about the emotional, spiritual and even physical burdens he bears because of his work in a very poor Roma community.

“I don’t know how I could work in these places without faith, without Jesus’ power,” Pavel responded to Richard. “You can’t continue in this type of work without Jesus.” This conversation took place between two very different Roma men who are both involved in meeting the needs of Roma in north-central Slovakia.

In a later conversation, Richard shared how his son giggles that after all these years his strong, retired military father has started going to church to pray. Richard has found a place to restore himself through prayer and to experience the hope of Jesus.

--Pray for Pavel who was baptized in early 2011 as he continues to grow in the faith and as he discovers God’s will for his life.
--Pray for Richard and that God would continue to reveal Himself as a source of hope and restoration.
--Pray for the Roma of Slovakia and for all those who bring the Light to their dark world.

Greater Is He--Week of Prayer, Day 2

No matter where they live in Europe the Roma people hear the taunts, insults and ridicule. “You are dirty, worthless and lazy. You will never amount to anything.” They face discrimination from nationals in education, employment, housing and medical care.

And yet the God who loves them collectively and individually has touched the hearts of Romanian Baptists and has overcome the harsh rhetoric and treatment normally experienced by Roma children. Last year the 8th grade class of the Ruth School graduated all 12 of its Roma students and each one successfully re-entered public education at the secondary level.

The message those kids received was, “You are a child of God and worthy of love!” The God who touches people’s hearts and moves them to overpower discrimination is greater than the one who fosters hate (I John. 4:4).

--Pray that graduates of the Ruth School who re-enter Romanian public education will experience success and will have enough self-esteem to overcome discrimination from fellow students.
--Pray that teachers at the Ruth School will instill in their Roma students a strong sense of God’s love for them and exhibit good cross-cultural skills in teaching them.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Greater Is He That Is in Us--Week of Prayer, Day 1

The position of the 6-11 million Romany (Gypsies) living around the world is not be particularly encouraging. The Romany originated in northwestern India centuries ago and have since spread to every inhabitable continent on earth. While their number includes university professors, preachers, journalists, successful artists, and governmental leaders, it also includes villages with practically 100% unemployment. News snippets like these remain depressingly common:
Systemic segregation of Romani children in education continues. . .

A 2010 US State Department report discusses the overrepresentation of Roma as victims of trafficking . . . .

“Standards Do Not Apply: Inadequate Housing in Romani Communities”

“. . . anti-Romani violence has remained a serious and even an increasing problem . . .”

We (CBF's Romany Team) invite you to pray with us this week and see, as we have, that “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."

--Thank God for the hope offered through Jesus Christ, the son, and the transforming power provided through the Holy Spirit.
--Pray for the Romany—and other Christians near them—to view their lives from God’s perspective, and not the world’s.

Note: Romany, Romani, and Roma are all common terms for the same group.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scholarships breaking the cycle of poverty

“I knew that I had a serious problem (coming up with the money) and then prayed for help. I didn’t tell anyone. The next morning, the email came about the scholarship,” Jarka shared with joy. She and two other women had just received word that we would be able to provide a scholarship for them to complete their education, thanks to a grant from the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission.

For Roma who did not complete, but later want to return to finish their education, the fees they must pay are too often prohibitive. For the three women we were able to provide scholarships to, the opportunity to complete their education is the one avenue for them to gain or keep their employment and to provide for their families. By breaking the cycle of poverty through education, the lives of these families are transformed.
Pray for Jarka, Etela, and Vierka as they complete their education and move on to a life without poverty.

Thank you to the churches that support the Texas Baptist World Hunger Offering for providing this life-changing gift.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dedication of Sinti Romani New Testament

This past Sunday was a big day for Sinti Romany believers. After 25 years of work by dozens of people, both Sinti and non-Sinti, the printed New Testament in their language was dedicated in Marburg, Germany. As one Sinti believer said as part of the ceremony, "We have never had anything that was ours. We have never had our own country or our own government. But now we have something that is ours--the New Testament in our language. Hitler cannot take it away from us. The devil cannot take it away from us. It is ours." Many Sinti died in concentration camps during W.W. II. It was extraordinary to worship with both German and Sinti Christians on this special day.
Photo: Kennedy and Otta, two of the many Sinti who helped with the translation project, talk with a visitor from Wycliffe Bible Translators. Otta holds a copy of the New Testament in her hands.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gypsy Team Meeting

Our team usually meets twice a year - once electronically through the miracle of web-conferencing and once face to face. Since we all live in Europe we can take advantage of very cut-rate European airlines and going during the off-season. Recently we, along with families, gathered in Palermo, Italy for 4 days. We were joined by our Team Coordinator, Becky Smith and CBF's new Member Care Coordinator, Tere Canzoneri.

We spent our time reporting on what is happening in the Romany (Gypsy) ministries in our areas. We planned strategy for continuing to share the Good News. We networked and shared stories. We took turns praying for each other and giving devotional thoughts. We shared meals and enjoyed spending time together. It was a great time and we were all refreshed.
We are thankful for God's provision allowing us to serve Him in our areas.  Thank you for your partnership of praying, serving, and giving.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Loss Of A Friend

On March 9th Project Ruth and all of its friends and supporters said farewell to a dear friend. Vasile Moceanu passed away from cancer on that day. Many will remember him as the first face they met upon arriving in Bucharest as he worked as the official driver for Project Ruth for many years. Every team of volunteers and every GSS/TCM teacher had the privilege of meeting this humble servant of God. A skilled driver with a detailed knowledge of the streets of Bucharest Morceanu safely delivered all such visitors to their many destinations. Although he spoke little English visitors were warmly welcomed by Moceanu with a handshake or kiss on the cheek.

Moceanu was a delight to the children of the Ruth School. He regularly delivered lunch to the children attending Obed Day Center and his pockets often held pieces of candy for the Roma children. While he waited in the van for staff or visitors to complete their errands you would often find Moceanu reading his Bible. He was recognized in his family and his church for his steadfast belief in God. His faith stood firmly throughout his final days and he was a strong witness of God’s love to the many friends and church family who gathered at his bedside daily.

The Project Ruth family grieves the loss of our dear friend but rejoices that he has found wholeness and peace and complete joy in the presence of God our Father.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Say What?!?!


Posted by: ValeryNovoselsky on the Romano Liloro web site of Roma news

"Last month, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared Roma issues a priority for the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union. He promised to work towards a “functioning Roma strategy” at EU-wide level to improve social inclusion of Roma citizens. While the Prime Minister’s pledge to enhance Roma rights across the EU is commendable, the rhetoric has done little to console Hungary’s Roma, who continue to face discrimination, including in the form of hate crime. They have been waiting for justice to be served and for Hungarian officials to lead by example when it comes to addressing the daily struggles of Roma at home. Setting aside its high rhetoric in support of Roma rights across Europe, there is much that Hungary’s government could do at home ... It’s time for the government to prove that Hungary is serious about standing up for its Roma citizens at home as it pursues initiatives at the EU level." - Paul LeGendre, Director, Fighting Discrimination Program.

**It is the opinion of Ralph and Tammy, after 15 years living in Hungary and continued communication with Roma friends, that the Hungarian government is saying, "Do as I say, not as I do." They are "talking the talk" but from what we've observed certainly NOT "walking the walk." Join us in prayer that this will change.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wedding Bells

When an invitation to pray turned into a request for a wedding sermon, of course Shane agreed.  

Stefan and Lisa's daughter Ruska was getting married; but Feri the groom's family did not speak Slovak.  In what has become a familiar tag-team, Stefan and Shane conducted the wedding service with Shane preaching in Slovak and Stefan translating into Romani.

Not only was it an incredible honor to be asked, today's wedding was testimony to the power of personal relationships as the basis for ministry partnership.  Join us in saying a special prayer for Feri and Ruska, the newlyweds.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Shattering Stereotypes Through Education

Shattering Stereotypes Through Education

Through the Romaversitas program, the Roma Education Fund provides financial and educational support to talented Roma university students across Hungary. More importantly, the Romaversitas program is helping to shatter stereotypes. Zoltan, Aliz, Dezso and Erzsebet are enrolled in Romaversitas; in addition to being Roma, they are also aspiring astrophysicists, professors, filmmakers, and architects.

*CBF field personnel partner with several different schools and projects to foster education among the Roma.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Media on the Move

Last month Keith went to England to record the 30-minute Ruth DVD in Western Kalderash. He finished recording in three days, came home, mixed it, and sent it off to be "proofread" by the Kalderash-speaking church in London.

This month Keith begins to record the approximately ten-hour audio New Testament in Sinti Romani. He and recording partner Arthur Wijnveen will start tomorrow, February 9, in Hamelin, Germany. I am not going to ask them to bring back any rat-shaped breads (see photo!). We are going to ask you to support this project with lots and lots of prayer. As we have seen time and time again in recording projects, prayer makes a huge difference. They are going to begin with the voice of "Paul," generally 70-hours' worth of recording. They will be recording at different places in Germany and the Netherlands. They hope to be finished by the end of March. Perhaps this recording will go as smoothly as Ruth in London . . . . We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gypsy Smith School - January Session

The January session of the Gypsy Smith School** was a huge success! We expected about 20 leaders and had 24 attend! We were scrambling around making beds to accommodate the extra numbers - always a nice problem to solve.

Our leaders, Warren Hoffman, pastor of 3rd Baptist Church in St Louis, and Terrell Carter, interim youth pastor at 3rd and Networking Coordinator for CBF MO, taught on communion, worship elements, and the New Testament. Harold Phillips, Coordinator of CBF MO, accompanied the Missouri leaders but sadly returned to the USA after the first day due to the death of his father.

The weather was cold and blistery outside but the fellowship and camaraderie was warm and inviting inside. It was a wonderful week of training and building of relationships. Please join us in giving God thanks for his blessings.

*Pictured: Warren Hoffman with students.
**What is the Gypsy Smith School? It is a leadership training for Roma (Gypsy) church leaders held four times a year through Project Ruth in Bucharest, Romania.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Different Pair of Glasses

First, I couldn't see things far away. That required one kind of corrective lenses. Then, a few years ago, I couldn't see things close up. That called for a different kind of corrective lenses. Now, I need "computer glasses" because the screen is just the wrong distance for either near or far portion of my regular glasses. Different problems call for different solutions.

This morning, before I picked up this newest pair, Keith was telling me how Romany he had stayed with in London had visited Romany in Romania and been shocked by the behavior of some of the Romanian Romany. The poor treatment of children, for instance, went against traditional Romany culture. Keith wanted to find out what made the Romanian Romany act that way--to look at the situation from their point of view. What forces prompted them to deviate from the strict code of Romany conduct? Only by understanding the cause could one attempt a remedy.

In my case, the computer glasses are working fine to type this blog. But I'll have to switch to the other pair if I want to read the bulletin board 18 inches further away. Different problems call for different solutions. Thankfully, the optician knew what to do about this one. I'm wondering what the Great Physician has to say about some of these other ones.