Saturday, April 21, 2012

One Girl With a Big Heart + Silly Bandz = Lots of Smiles

Sarah Ramsey had an idea. Silly Bandz (little rubber band size bracelets in many shapes) were fading as a fad. She and her friends had lots and lots because they were fun to trade. What to do when a fashion statement no longer speaks? Sarah decided to collect as many as she could and send them to other children who could appreciate the silly fun of the bands. She was very successful in soliciting her school and church friends. Now, what to do with the several thousand she collected?

Sarah's church, College Park Baptist in Greensboro, NC, is our sending church. And more importantly they have been long time supporters of the Ruth School where we now minister. An email arrived from Sarah's mom, "Would the students at the Ruth School like some Silly Bandz?" With a little help from couriers coming our way from CBF MO we soon had more Silly Bandz than we could count. And Sarah, being so thoughtful, had categorized the Bandz according to their shapes, making it easier to figure out what they were. (I confess I am not very knowledgeable about Silly Bandz.) Now how could we best distribute them?

This past week we had a team from Bonsack Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA doing Club for our students. One day the story was about Joseph and his coat of many colors. Suddenly it all made sense! We couldn't give each child a coat but we could give them multiple bright colored bracelets to wear as a reminder to ask God for help during those difficult times. Each child got 10 and soon they were trading back and forth, grinning from ear to ear. They loved their bracelets!

This is a great example of people working together and God using several groups to bring about a wonderful thing. One girl had the idea to collect bracelets and carried through with it, many contributed to the stock, three men from Missouri carried them across the ocean, and a team of youth distributed them reminding the Ruth Students of God's love for them. Thank you Sarah Ramsey for being the caring young lady you are. Thank you God for working in our lives to bring about such a happy moment.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 7: My Disciples Have Love for One Another

Join us in praising God for the following ways He is at work with the Romany

A young man who graduated from the Ruth School four years earlier returned to school, successfully completed high school, and received a scholarship to Polytechnic Engineering University in October 2011.

A small group of believers in Detva, Slovakia, were touched by the ministry of Romany believers from Cinobana. The group in Detva asked to have regular meetings, modeled after the one in Cinobana. The first meeting took place this past January 25. Praise the Lord for this next phase of the partnership where a successful model of ministry is going to be reproduced in another community.

Women in the Romany village of Vulcanesti, Moldova, have begun making and selling handicrafts.

The Ruth School in Bucharest, Romania, has a new principal, Mrs. Holban. Weekly chapel services started this year for children and staff.

The last two sessions of the Gypsy Smith pastors’ training school have been filled to capacity. More Romany church leaders want to attend the sessions than can be accommodated.

Jon and Tanya Parks have been commissioned to join CBF’s Romany Team. They will be teaching English at a Romany elementary school in Slovakia.

Even though Sinti Romany traditionally oppose having their language written down, Sinti leaders in Germany are not only becoming convinced of the need for God's word in their own language, they are also spreading the printed New Testament as language-learning material among their own people.

An outreach to Romanian Romany immigrants in England is growing. The local pastor is partnering to produce appropriate media materials in this language.

Yet another Student.Go team touched the lives of many Romany children during their ministry this summer.

Various team members faced health issues this past year . . . and can rejoice in on-going healing.

A Romany leader in the Czech Republic shows Christ’s love to others by running a Roma Education Center. A side benefit: increased understanding between Romany and Czech in his home community.

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples,if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 6: Poverty/Transformational Ministries

The first time Keith Holmes visited Romany Christians in Moldova, they asked him if he could help them support their families in a way that honored Christ. After several false starts, three believers received micro-economic development loans. Three years later, none of those businesses still existed.

Believers still dreamed of being positive examples to their non-Christian neighbors. Keith’s wife Mary arranged for micro-economic development loans for two other believers to expand businesses they were already involved with. Due to the economic crisis, one had to leave the country to repay this loan. The other earned enough to support his family, but not enough to buy their own home. He chose to earn more money faster in a way that resulted in his leaving the church. Another training session was organized. Everyone interested in the training had left the country to work abroad.

Over a decade after that first visit, even with no visable success, loving our Romany brothers and sisters means continuing to hope with them and work with them.
Together, we have faith that more is being transformed than meets the eye.

Prayer requests:
-At least three Romany will actually attend the next training session;
-Long-term help to develop employment opportunities in Moldova;
-That each Christian, wherever we live, will use our daily economic choices to show our love for one another—shopping, working, employing, planning, giving.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 5: Education/Training Ministries

The Roma people across Europe face many challenges today–they are pushed to the edges of towns, treated unequally, and many people simply do not understand them. But not all the problems come from other Europeans. The fact is that some of the Roma have lived up to all those negative stereotypes they are known for today. They are mistreated, so they mistreat others … and the cycle continues.

This kind of cycle can be disrupted through education–among Roma and any other marginalized people. Many Roma children never make it to school, or stay for just a few years. The literacy rate among Roma is far below the average for most other European peoples. As a result, few have learned to improve themselves, to resist the mistreatment cycle, or to use their resources wisely. Imagine what could happen when even a small generation of Roma children can break this cycle, setting a powerful example for their people! Make no mistake–education itself is not the answer. But God’s love, along with the patience and compassion of others, can make a huge difference.

Prayer requests:
-For schools that teach and train Roma students – for persistence and for necessary resources
-For parents to have open hearts to allow their children to stay in school.
-For educated Roma leaders to set examples for their people, living lives that will soften the hearts of those who hate and fear them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day 4: Justice and Peace Making

Discrimination against the Roma has taken many forms throughout history. One of the most shocking is the forced sterilization of women. In 2004, the European Roma Rights Centre expressed suspicion that Romany women underwent forced sterilization in Czechoslovakia and later the Czech Republic between the years of 1971 and 1991.

It is estimated that as many as 1000 women were forced or coerced into signing documents which authorized medical workers to terminate their fertility. Under a decree valid until 1991, 10,000 crowns could be paid out if a woman underwent such an operation.

In 2009 the Czech government apologized for the sterilizations and recently the government’s Council for Human Rights has recommended compensation be paid to these women. Although these steps toward justice are welcome, there are many more that need to be taken.

Prayer requests:
-Pray for the Roma women who are seeking compensation. May they find not only justice, but also peace in the process.
-Pray for those who seek justice for the Roma.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 3: Healthcare Ministries

In May 2011, Dorothy Cluff, short term volunteer from Orange Baptist Church, Orange, VA, shared with Roma women girls how unique and special they are. Using her experience as a nursing educator, Dorothy presented programs on women’s health and pregnancy to over 300 women in north central Slovakia. Taking the time to answer individual questions, hold a hand or say a prayer allowed her to show God’s love to this despised people. After the success of this first program, we were asked what else we could share and when we could come again.
The week of 30 April – 4 May 2012 will be the next session focusing on chronic health issues like hypertension and diabetes. Dianne McNary, CBF field personnel, who is also a nurse will be the presenter.

Prayer requests:
-Preparations for upcoming session 30 April- 4 May in 8 villages in north-central Slovakia.
-Volunteers to share their love and expertise.
-Opportunities to share God’s love with individuals during this time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day 2: Church Starts and Faith Sharing

Sergio, an 18-year-old Roma, lay in the hospital ward thinking of death. He was admitted with severe burns following an accident at home. As a week passed two of his ward-mates succumbed to death with burn injuries. Sergio was sure he would follow the same path. Yet he had been to church a couple of times and knew about God’s love for him. In complete humility he asked God to forgive him in his final days. God forgave him and healed him!
Sergio shared this testimony with a hushed audience of middle-school Roma at the Ruth School in Bucharest. Upon his release from the hospital Sergio joined the local church and professed his faith and invited his father to join him. Nowadays Sergio leads the youth group at church and is attending the Gypsy Smith School for ministry training. Sergio serves by sharing the love of God he has felt and received in his heart.

Prayer requests:
--Pray for Sergio as his calling to church leadership develops
-Pray for students at the Ruth School to accept Christ as their Savior from hearing testimonies of other Roma testifying to the love of God
-Pray that graduates of the Ruth School who re-enter Romanian public education will experience success and 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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Disciples Have Love for One Another

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

A lot of people don’t love Gypsies. Even in the supposedly tolerant Netherlands a prominent politician is attacking “Romanian & Bulgarian immigrants,” i.e. Romany. But Christians aren’t supposed to be like “a lot of people.” We’re supposed to be like Christ and love each other without first weighing costs vs. potential benefits.

But face it, there aren’t a lot of obvious benefits to loving one another when the other is Gypsy. As economic conditions worsen, so does the position of minorities like the Romany. Do you and I dare love people targeted by legally elected Neo-Nazis? If we do, what does that love look like? Firstly, that love looks communal. We love one another. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Romany Team work within communities of missional practice to share Christ’s love with Romany. This week of prayer will highlight some of those missional communities to explore ways we can “have love for one another.”

Prayer requests:
--Teach us to receive as well as give love, Romany as well as non-Romany;
--Show us how to we need to love in the face of rising hate, and give us the courage to act out that love;
--Thank You for giving us the living example and the on-going power to love.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ministry of Education

During a recent visit to the Roma school in Kosice, Director Anna Koptova gifted us with the first copy of the new Slovak-Romani Dictionary which she co-authored.  This dialect of Romani is spoken in north-central Slovakia and was codified by the Slovak government in 2008.  What an honor it is to support the important work of educating young minds.  Impacting the next generation by being the presence of Christian is the responsibility and honor for those called to serve in educational ministries.

If you are interested in educating young minds, there are opportunities for you to serve alongside of CBF Global Field Personnel around the world.  To find your place of service, check out the opportunities for short-term ministry in Education on the CBF website by following this link:  Education

- Pray for Anna Koptova as she leads the Roma Gymnazium in Kosice.
- Pray for the Ziga family - two children are to graduate this year from the Gymnazium but they are having problems getting citizenship papers from Slovakia (they have joint citizenship in the Czech Republic) and this can keep them from graduating.
- Pray for Tanya and Jon Parks as they prepare to relocate to Kosice this summer to begin their ministry.