Friday, December 19, 2014

Encouragement at the Christmas Market

We recently took a little break from our constant traveling to . . . well , , , travel.  Friends in Germany had invited us to visit months ago and we were excited to be able to finally respond.  We loaded the train in Kosice, Slovakia and headed off towards Stuttgart, Germany.  What a blessed time we had.

In addition to connecting with long-time friends, rekindling memories of decades or two ago, we also ran into a family from Kosice.  Though we had met before when Shane had preached at a Roma church in Slovakia, this gave us an opportunity to sit together in their apartment as we shared refreshments, our testimonies and prayer so we could get to know each other better.  As Dezko described himself he said, "We Roma are quick to accept Jesus . . . but then we need someone to always encourage us in our faith."  That wonderful night in Stuttgart was a time of encouragement for us all.  New friendships were made which will last.

With our long-time friends, we visited Christmas markets in Stuttgart, Esslingen, Munich, and Bad Tolz.  That is a lot of Christmas markets!  We enjoyed the seasonal punch, bratwurst, and toasted nuts.  And the people!  It was grand.  Yet, it was the conversations with friends as we strolled through the markets, enjoying the rooftops of the booths especially, which were life-giving and provided lasting memories.  

Gathering with family and friends during this busy holiday season, it is an opportunity for us all to find ways of encouraging each other in our faith.  As you gather with family and friends to observe the holiday season, encourage one another.  Look up for fanciful rooftops and hold tight to those around you.

As part of this season of giving, we encourage you to consider a special gift in support of life-changing ministries around the world.  You can give to the Offering for Global Missions or to a specific ministry you can find in the CBF Gift Catalog.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Word of God made Flesh

Last year during Advent we posted a series of reflections called “Spotting Jesus” in which we reflected on the "Advent" of Jesus around us here and now - where does Jesus appear in our everyday life?  We're continuing that series this year, and the first entry is about East Slovak Romany translation of the New Testament that was published only a couple of months ago.

A month ago, I was blessed to be a part of the celebration for the release of that translation.  At that time I purchased a few of these new Bibles, because I knew I'd have lots of opportunities to share them.  Since then, I’ve been giving copies to a few key people, hoping for both feedback on the translation (which I can’t yet read), and praying for opportunities to purchase and distribute more. 

Any translation is a time-consuming process, and there’s cause to celebrate anytime a new translation is released – most especially into a language which has had few or no translations. Before this I had not taken much time to reflect, to understand just how blessed we are as English speakers to have so many versions of the Bible in our language.  When I was a pastor in Virginia and I encountered some problem while preparing Bible studies and sermons, I could go to the shelf in my office and find at least 10 different translations.  If those didn’t help, I could go to the internet and find dozens more.  I certainly didn’t have to go digging into Bibles in one of my weaker second languages (Spanish or Slovak, for instance) just so I could hear what God has to say.

I expected these people to be interested in these new Bibles.  What I didn’t expect was their surprise, wonder and joy!

“You mean this is in Romanes?  ALL of it is in Romanes?”

“And this is even in OUR Romanes (our local dialect)!”

 [calling someone over] “Have you seen this?  It’s a Bible, in our Roma language!”

I didn’t expect the delight on their faces as they read the words aloud.  Many local Roma are not used to reading their own language, but the translation is written so they can pronounce it as if they were reading Slovak.  When they heard the familiar words coming out of their own mouths, their eyes lit up with joy!

To get theological for a moment, perhaps we don’t often realize what a miracle it is that the Word of God can speak to us in our own language.  In a way it’s a miracle similar to the one that happened so many Christmases ago – that’s what we celebrate, that the Living Word, the Son of God, took on human flesh and expressed God in a human way.  In the same way, anytime you read or hear the Written Word and can understand it, you know that this Ancient Word has taken on English form… and you can know that this Word is speaking directly to YOU.

So these past few days, I’ve spotted Jesus in the faces and voices of people hearing God’s Word in their own native language.   I’ve seen reflections of the Word of God as it has been “incarnated” into the English, Slovak and Roma languages.  It’s an amazing thing to behold… an Advent that we too often overlook.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ashleigh's Goal and student.go

   Through student.go, a ministry of CBF Global Missions which is supported by the Offering for Global Missions, Ashleigh Bugg came to Slovakia this past summer in response to a request we had for a photo journalist.  Ashleigh's assignment was pretty vague - take photos of Roma which show a different side to a much-misunderstood minority.  
Ashleigh graduates this month . . . Oh the Places you will Go!
   We arranged many meetings between Ashleigh and our local partners.  She did a great job interviewing and writing different stories about her experience.  And yes, her photos were great as well.  Over the next several months, many of Ashleigh's photos will begin to appear in different Cooperative Baptist Fellowship publications.  We are thankful to Ashleigh and to student.go for supplementing the ministry among the Roma of Slovakia in such an incredible way.

   If you just can't wait to see Ashleigh's work, you can visit the Presbyterian Student Center at University of Georgia in Athens where a selection of the photographs will be on display for a couple of months.  After the showing in Athens, the photo display will be moved to Birmingham, Alabama where they will be utilized by our partner church, Vestavia Hills Baptist Church.  

   I you just cannot wait, you can see a selection of photos and discover an opportunity to connect with Ashleigh in support of an anti-human trafficking campaign in Slovakia, you can watch this video:  Ashleigh’s Slovak Roma Video

   or you can work through the Prezi found at this link:  Ashleigh’s Slovak Roma Prezi  

   The giving link in the video and Prezi is here:  Ashleigh's Goal

   If you are a student or recent graduate, and of course exceptions are made, you can plan your next semester or summer with student.go here:  student.go

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Roma Christians on BBC--Reality TV Worth Watching

The BBC has produced a short film featuring Luton Roma Church for the weekly Songs of Praise program.  It is being transmitted on Sunday 30 November at 4.15 pm (5:15 PM).   

The Roma believers in Luton, England, are immigrants from Romania. Keith has worked with the pastor there to record an overview of the Biblical story in English (English Bible Stories) and in Kalderash Romani (Kalderash Bible Stories).
This episode of Songs of Praise can be viewed after it has been aired via the BBC website (Songs of Praise).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Contagious Coffeehouse Creativity

Even clothes in Pozan are creative!
Do you think creativity can be contagious? All the creative people we met in Poland seemed to stimulate my own creative juices. Some of them displayed, worked, or performed in Sweet Surrender, a Christian coffee house in Poznan. At the time, the directors of Sweet Surrender were having trouble getting weekly events scheduled. A long (long) time ago, I served as program director for a regional arts center in Illinois which included a weekly coffee house.
I never had a chance to share these ideas with Sweet Surrender, but here they are, free of charge. Who knows--maybe someone else can use them.
  1. Have set items for, say, each week/weekend of the month. The public will learn what to expect, and you will not have to rethink the schedule. You will simply have to fill in the slots.
  2. First slot on the schedule: open mike. This is a no-brainer. It doesn't cost anything and generates interest. Put this on the last weekend of the month, or every 5th Friday, or something like that. 
  3. Meet the Artist--another possible slot, maybe first weekend of every even month. This could be the opening of an exhibit + workshop by a local artist or reception for the artist. It could also be, maybe every quarter, as simple as covering a wall with blank newsprint, putting out jars of crayons or colored pencils, and inviting patrons to be the artists (could also work with paper tableclothes.
  4. Meet the Writer/Writers' night--another possible slot, maybe first weekend of every odd month. Book signing. Local writer reads + talks about the book. Book sold in shop for the rest of the month. Patrons as writers--workshop in writing haiku's, journaling, family memories, etc.; poetry reading by the public (version of open mike).
  5. Readers' theater/storytime--in this slot (perhaps once a month on an afternoon or early evening if storytime is chosen or perhaps alternating--one month Writers; one month story tellers) small drama productions; puppet theater; or story teller. 
  6. Exploring the sacred--invite representatives from different faith traditions to share an aspect of their spiritual tradition. Include every reasonable group in your area. Discussion afterwards. Increases dialogue. Can be jumping-off point for spiritual discussions. Once a quarter? Once a month?
  7. Language night--a lot of coffeehouses offer English lessons or a time for conversational English. But other language nights are also possible.  Polish, in Poland, for people who are trying to learn the local language. German or Russian or Spanish or Korean . . . for people who want to practice as well as for people who just want a chance to speak their own language.
  8. Any art or craft club--a set time where people who like to knit (or carve or crochet or scrapbook or cross-stitch . . .) can just get together, do their thing, learn from each other, etc. Maybe weekly. A church in Raleigh, N.C., has a weekly Arty Party with an artist/teacher available for advice and encouragement. Great fun!
  9. The Sounds of Poznan (or Slovakia or Missouri or . . .)--local musical talent like singer/songwriters.
Would love to hear of your own experiences--and also whether or not you think creativity is contagious.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Polish Art

We met a lot of artists in Poznan, Poland, and we brought some of that art home with us. Kasia Daszynska gave us one of her special paintings on glass. Kuba gave us a fascinating discovery book of art in Poznan (here you see Keith and his brother Ted using the book on a walking tour of the city). And one of the first people we recorded, a professional theater photographer, gave us a book of his photography. I'm afraid my own photograph of Jacka Kulma (recording the parts of in the New Testament which quote prophets from the Old Testament) does not do justice to this talented gentleman.
In the course of this recording project, we came to know other painters, actors, musicians, and artisans with many different talents. Some were "voices," some were "proof-listeners," some provided studio space for the recording. We pray they continue to enrich other's lives as much as they have already enriched ours.
Photo by Jacka Kulma--not by me!!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Celebration in Sabinov

Some photos from the celebration yesterday, where people from around the world gathered to dedicate and bless the translation and publication of the New Testament into Eastern Slovak Romani.

At least 300 people were present at the celebration last night, which was held at the Apostolic Church in Sabinov, Slovakia.  There were songs of praise, prayers of dedication, sermons and many readings from the new translation.  During a time of fellowship, people from around the world hugged and shook hands, celebrating the work of many people - and a mighty God - in the creation of this translation that will serve so many Roma in this part of the world.

One Roma pastor from a nearby village summed up the feelings of those present.  With great emotion but a strong voice he said: We Roma are only a small nation.  We're not much, really just a spot on the map.  But small as we are, now we have God's Word in our own language!  I'm so thankful!

The first hard copies of the New Testament (see photo at right) were sold during the event for a small price, and these printed copies are already spreading across Eastern Slovakia.  A website URL kept popping up on slideshows, handouts and bumper stickers - links to the recorded copy, which may be even more significant than the printed copies, since many Roma in the area can't read it for themselves.

Great things are happening among the Roma in Slovakia - thanks be to God!
A group of pastors and translators join all those present in praying God's blessing on this new translation.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


To the left, you see what the New Testament in Eastern Slovak Romani looked like this past spring--separate books of the Bible from a computer print-out in school binders. If you were in Sabinov, Slovakia, today (November 8), you could celebrate the dedication of the published version in a Roma-speaking church. There are an estimated 500,000 speakers of this Romani language in Slovakia, Ukraine, and nearby areas. 
It is a celebration, too, of cooperation within the world-wide body of Christ. Every Tribe, Every Nation provided funding for the printing of 15,000 copies. Word for the World Slovakia coordinated the translation. The Slovak Bible Society has added the Romani translation to their web page at and hope to publish a bilingual Romani–Slovak New Testament in 2015. And own Keith Holmes, of the CBF Romany Team did an audio recording of this New Testament via Faith Comes by Hearing (available on their web page at, Slovak-Romani, Carpathian, in both audio and print forms).

In their recent newsletter, Word for the World Bible translators Pierre and Lisa Van Vurren write: 
At the Hlinné church we have begun listening to three chapters a week in Romani and having small group discussions. It is transforming for those Roma who cannot read. Those who can read have better comprehension and deeper understanding. Some are recognizing that their language has value. 
An audio recording serves as an additional check for a written translation. Corrections are always found in the course of an audio recording. We are grateful for this opportunity to contribute to making the New Testament available to speakers (and listeners) of Eastern Slovak Romani.

Truly, there is much to celebrate!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New Respect for CBF Colleagues

Ted, Bev, & Keith
Last year this time Keith and I spent a couple of months in Poznan, Poland. He and our daughter Ellen were working on a recording project with Faith Comes by Hearing. With great difficulty, I learned the Polish word for thank you (dziękuję). I did not learn much more Polish than that, though I would sometimes amuse myself by collecting unpronounceable-looking Polish words like wszystkich, przy, and gdyż. You would have to ask Keith's brother Ted or his sister-in-law Bev what these words mean. (They work as church planters in Warsaw.)
Poznan (Ellen, too)
I came away from this experience with a new respect for our colleagues who have learned Slavic languages. Rachel Brunclikova is fluent in both Czech and Slovak. Diane and Shane McNary work in Slovak. Jon and Tanya Parks can make their way in Slovak and are daily learning more. Former CBF Romany Team members Frank and Cindy Dawson still speak Russian.
Kudos to you all--and to all of our readers who have taken the plunge to learn another language!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What Difference Does a Volunteer Make?

Els, Girls' Camp 2014
Short-term teams--is that time and money well spent? Like most things, that all depends on what the team does, how they do it, how they connect with the local ministry, and how relationship- rather than result-oriented the team is. A team member from the Baptist churches in Arnhem, the Netherlands, has been going to a Roma village in Moldova for the past 4 years (see blog post, August 15, 2013, for instance).
Els with village guests, 2013
Els, Children's work, 2011

Today, October 2014, a doctor visited the children in this village because of the connections Els could make between the pastor, Petru Ciochina, and a Moldovan health outreach, Emmanuel Christian Medical Association. Well-child check-ups are not in the household budgets of most of the Roma families in the village. Els made a difference when she was in the village. She continues to make a difference even after going home.

Have you been part of a volunteer team?
What have your volunteer experiences been like?
And how might you make a lasting contribution?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Healthcare and Cultural Awareness

Prior to moving to Slovakia, I worked as a Registered Nurse in several different areas: Critical Care, Labor & Delivery, Home Health, and Nursing Instructor to name a few. Nursing provided me with a comfortable income and a way to support myself and my family.  Even though I don’t work in the same capacity as before moving to Slovakia, I still consider myself a nurse and maintain my license. Healthcare education is one of the ministry areas I am involved with in our work here in Slovakia.  Staying up-to-date is important.   

Taking vitals on a 2008 trip to India to learn from friends and colleagues
While looking for required CEUs online, I came across an offering entitled Moving Past Stereotypes with the Roma.  Even though it did not offer a lot of new information for me, it is good to know there is information out there directly related to work with Roma.  Being sensitive to the cultural differences and needs of an ethnic group is just one way to build relationships. 

I am also looking forward to the next article and review which is about how awareness of cultural context of the patience influences their care - from mental health to pain management, women's health to effective communication with patients who have limited English communication skills. Cultural Competence for Today's Health Care Professionals can provide this missionary/nurse with excellent tools to use in ministry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Right in Front of your Nose

Back when I was in college I spent two summers in Kodiak, Alaska, as a student missionary. The pastor of that church had gone to New Orleans seminary. One day, while he was going through the line in the seminary cafeteria, he asked the African-American woman serving him if she knew Jesus. She stopped, put down the big serving spoon, and said, "Yes I do, but in the four years I have worked here you are the first person who has ever asked."

Recently I was in Bulgaria for a week-long Wycliffe Romani team meeting at a Christian conference center. While I was in Bulgaria, I also wanted to meet with the Adventist Publishing House “New Life.”  Twenty years ago they had published O Neevo Zaveti, a translation of the New Testament in one of the Romani languages spoken in Bulgaria, and I wanted to talk with them about recording the whole New Testament with our partners, Faith Comes By Hearing.

Towards the end of the week I discovered that Mladen, a young Roma man who worked at the conference center, could speak some English. Everyone knew he was a Christian because he always had his Bulgarian Bible with him and in the evening he played the guitar and sang Christian songs with the rest of the musicians in our group. One morning at breakfast I showed him my copy of O Neevo Zaveti and asked him if he could read it. He could, and he was very excited to see it. One of the Wycliffe team members nearby told him that this was a meeting of Bible translators working in the Romani languages. He said, "THAT'S what you are doing here?" 

The translator asked him what his favorite verse was. John 3:16. I turned to it, and he read it out loud with only a bit of hesitation. He asked if he could have the book. I told him he could borrow it, but I need it for a meeting on Monday. An hour later, at the morning coffee break, he came up to us and read out loud the whole story of Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee and the woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears. I asked him if this was exactly his dialect, or just near his dialect, and what did he think of the quality of the translation. He said it was definitely his dialect, but he had encountered 2 or 3 words he was not familiar with. He would have to study it more to judge the quality of the translation.

On Monday the head of Wycliffe’s Bulgaria Romani team and I went to New Life Publishing House to discuss recording O Neevo Zaveti. The assistant director we spoke with was very enthusiastic about the idea since many Roma do not read. However, there are a few problems. When it was printed in 1995, it was still back in the days of little 3.5” floppy discs. The disc apparently went to the printing house and never returned. The translator was working on the Old Testament and was nearing completion when he passed away. They have electronic files for the Old Testament, but not for the New. During the meeting we talked by phone with a Roma pastor who had helped with the distribution of the printed version twenty years ago. He explained that the translation was in rather bookish, formal speech which was not widely accepted by people as normal conversational Romani. This explains Mladen’s reaction.

We now need to decide whether to record this New Testament as it is or if the Wycliffe team should use it as a basis for revision. In either case, the first step is to get it back in digital form. Please pray for wisdom for the Wycliffe team and for us in this matter.

One thing has already been made clear so far:  Do not neglect to engage in conversation with the people right in front of your nose. Just like Mladen, they might be the person God intends to be a blessing to you--or for you to be a blessing to them.

Keith Holmes

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A week filled with interruptions

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.” C.S. Lewis

Day One
Finished Project
   Water interrupted the planned outdoor work of the short-term mission team from Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) - Heartland.  Rain kept us away for one day from a beautification project planned at the community cemetery in Vazec, Slovakia.  Our local partner, Jekh Drom, planned the project to coincide with the team's visit.  The team worked along side of unemployed women who were sent by the local labor office.  The goal was to beautify the memorial to a group of fallen soldiers and partisans who lost their lives defending the city from Nazis at the end of World War II and to add new greenery at the front entrance of the chapel in the cemetery.

  The CBF-Heartland team was interrupted a few times by laughter and then by singing when they hosted an evening with a local group of retirees.  Whether it was the line dancing to the tune of Boot Skootin' Boogie or the full-bellied singing during the chorus of Delilah when Harold Phillips played on the accordion, everyone had a tremendous time.  One of the four Anna's present interrupted once to let us know that we should visit the local school to see the Vazec Room.  It was filled with items she had sewn in the traditional Vazec design.
Retirees Group Singing for the team
   Danka, member of the local non-profit we work with, then interrupted the school director's summer vacation to request that the director open the school and give the team a tour of the room.  We learned that not only had Anna had provided the fabric samples, she had also provided the school with her own wedding photo and a framed copy of Slovenka magazine from last century which included Anna on the front cover!  Good thing we did interrupt the school director's summer.  Since the school was shut down and no one would be there until late August, our little interruption saved the school tens of thousands of dollars in repairs from the water which was leaking from upstairs through the ceiling into the cafeteria!  The director called later and thanked Danka for insisting that the team from CBF-Heartland visit the school before the leak had done more damage.
Finished product of the sewing group
   One of the moms who was part of the sewing project (and for the record, there was one father present too - a widower who is raising two children) had her week of fun and fellowship interrupted when she had to miss a day to go for a job interview.  As we were preparing to leave, she walked quickly down the hill from the bus stop and greeted us all with a huge smile.  Out of hundreds who applied for jobs, forty were selected and she was one of them!  No one minded having our departure for dinner interrupted as we shared hugs and congratulations.
   And finally, dinner was interrupted.  Before Danka could serve the incredibly delicious meal she had prepared for the team, Harold, on behalf of CBF-Heartland presented Jekh Drom with a symbolic check representing their generous support for the Samuel Project - a multi-year partnership between CBF Field Personnel Dianne and Shane McNary and the local non-profit Jekh Drom to address the educational and hygiene needs of an impoverished Roma community in Vazec.  Afterwards, Clara Youngblood presented Danka, Martina (president of Jekh Drom), Harold and Gwen Phillips, and Dianne and Shane McNary with beautiful prayer quilts made by a group in her church, Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City.

CBF Heartland symbol of support
Clara presenting Danka her beautiful prayer quilt
   Thanks be to God for the many interruptions we had this week; it was in those interruptions where our lives found meaning as we experienced the presence of Christ.  

Monday, August 4, 2014


Have you ever tried crocheting? Crocheting is a
traditional art in this Roma village in the Republic of Moldova, but no one thought the current generation of girls would be at all interested in learning it. Nina, a woman who sells some of her crocheted creations, had tried to interest some of them. She reported no success. Yet she was willing to try again at a day camp for teenaged and pre-teen girls in her local Baptist church. The day camp focuses on introducing the girls to Jesus and God's profound love for them as well as empowering them personally. To everyone's surprise, several girls eagerly volunteered to learn. No one was prouder then they were when they successfully completed the decorative flowers Nina taught them to crochet. Unless, of course, it was Nina herself.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Don't Run with Scissors...

Have you ever thought about learning to use scissors? Most of us learned in early childhood how to take those blunt-ended slivers of silver with bright plastic handles, and a piece of construction paper, to craft a work of art. We would proudly take this master piece home to our moms to be displayed in a prominent place, probably the refrigerator.  It's a childhood activity we take for granted.

This week while doing Club (VBS style activities) I helped two young girls who had no idea how to use scissors.  The sisters, about 7 and 10 years old, just sat and stared at the construction paper, crayons, and scissors they had been given.  They quickly looked at what the other kids were doing and drew something similar on their papers.  The next step was cutting and both girls were puzzled.  "Can you help me?"  With a little coaching and practice the girls soon got the hang of it.  They happily began cutting multiple scraps of paper and speaking rapidly to each other about their new found skill - using scissors.

This scenario underscores why the need for education among the Roma is so important.  These girls live in the poor section of town where the local school is known to be sub-par.  More than likely their parents do not support them in their education because they see no need for it or because they are consumed with the daily struggle of providing for their family.  The exact reasons for these girls' lack of education is unknown but what is known is that there are many more like them.

Reposted from the Stocks Report - visit their website at

Monday, July 28, 2014

There's More Than One Way . . .

Dutch volunteer showing contribution to Petru
Though I have never skinned a cat, I frequently tell my children that there's more than one way to do so.* There's more than one way to contribute to spreading the Gospel, too. Stichting** Hands to Serve does so by taking donations from people (laptops, cars, greeting cards, blenders . . .), repairing items as needed (laptops, cars . . .), and making them available free of charge to missionaries. A member of our recent Dutch team to Moldova did so by contacting Stichting Hands to Serve for a laptop. The computer our partner in Romany outreach in Moldova had been using no longer worked, and he could not afford to replace it. But not only did the Dutch team member contact Stichting Hands to serve, he drove across the country (admittedly a small country) to pick up the laptop and then hand-delivered it to Petru Ciochina in Moldova. Since this is the only computer available to the church Petru serves and since in additional to all the other uses a pastor/missionary has for a computer,  Petru also uses his to Skype chat with Roma church members working abroad (as well as me, by the way), this definitely is one way to contribute to spreading the Gospel. What's one way you've done so recently?

*American idiom meaning that there's more than one way to do something.
**Stichting = Foundation or Organization.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Purifying Love

Nicole with one of her ponies
   In a small village in west-central Slovakia, a transformation of lives is taking place.  Dreams are becoming reality.  The change began several years ago when Anna began to spend her free time helping out at a center for special-needs children.  Through relationships Anna made, she became aware of the number of Roma children who are never adopted from the state-run orphanages in Slovakia.  Anna had dreamed about having a child of her own.  That's when she met Nicole.

   Nicole's birth mother left her when she was just a few hours old at a baby-receiving center in the Czech Republic.  Though Nicole had no family, it was determined that she was Slovak and she was shipped off to an orphanage in Slovakia.  Anna fell in love with the then two-month-old Nicole and in time decided to adopt her.  A caring mother plus a child in need of a family.  It was a dream come true.
   But the decision to love and adopt Nicole was costly for Anna.  Nicole is Roma, minority Slovak; Anna is majority Slovak.  Anna spoke honestly about how her closest friend - a friend for whom Anna had been the witness at her wedding, godmother to her children, life-long pals - cursed her for adopting a "gyspy" child.  Convinced that a relationship with Anna would some how contaminate her own life because of the darker-skinned infant, she cut off all contact and refuses to acknowledge her former friend.

As Anna shared this heart breaking story, she looked over at Nicole and said, "What could a small child do to change my life?  She changed everything.  I am richer now than before . . . she has purified my life."  Love has a way of doing that.

Anna and Nicole now live on a farm with lots of ponies, miniature horses, cows, and goats.  They occasionally host days where other ethnically-mixed adoptive families or families with special-needs children can come and enjoy a day on a magical farm.  "What kid does not love a pony?" Anna asked as we strolled across the pasture to where the horses were pinned.  Their dream of a permanent playground and a magical farm is still only a dream . . . a dream which one day may come true.

(Nicole and Anna are not their real names, but the story and the farm is real.  We'll keep in touch with them and see what doors God may open.)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lots of Fruit in Moldova

By their fruits, you will know them, Jesus said, and once again real life proves His words to be true. One of the Dutch volunteers who went on the recent two-week trip to Moldova bore almost immediate fruit. About 10 years ago she and her husband returned from missionary work in a country which was so challenging that it should not be named here. About 6 weeks before going to Moldova, she and her husband began learning a bit of Romanian online. When they arrived at the airport in Chisinau, they were able to carry on a rudimentary conversation with the Roma man who’d come to pick them up (aided, admittedly, by the French which every Dutch person is required to study; French and Romanian are related languages).  The same sort of thing happened in the Roma village, where she was quickly carrying babies and making friends with a little Roma girl who climbed up onto her lap during the worship service. When we went to visit another Roma village for the first time, in less than 5 minutes two little old Roma ladies sitting on the main street invited her to sit down between them. After a while, she, her husband, and the volunteer who spoke fluent Romanian went on down the street to explore further. They ended up being invited in for a cup of coffee with a couple of  Roma women who turned out to be the key believers in that village.

This woman is not a flamboyant extrovert. She is petite, quiet, shuns the limelight, and just lets Christ live through her. She bears a lot of fruit.