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