Monday, April 25, 2016

What The Offering Makes Possible

This post originally appeared on CBF's Blog in a series highlighting ministries supported by the Offering for Global Missions.
Support from the CBF Offering for Global Missions enables us to concentrate on nurturing long-term relationships in local communities. These relationships are not built on promises of long-term funding. We receive no ministry funds from the Offering. What we do receive is funding for our presence – which includes not only living in Slovakia but also provides for us to be able to travel when needed to visit with our local partners.
Dianne McNary (far left) and Danka, Viera and Mina – women from the Jekh Drom nonprofit in Vazec, Slovakia.
Sometimes we have to visit often and over many months or years. Joining in ministry and learning to deal with one another’s cultural baggage takes time and patience. The Offering provides us with the hallowed space to engage with partners in a community at the pace of our host culture. This is an immeasurable gift.
Long-term sustainability is enabled by a long-term presence. 
Should one of the predictions of the imminent end of the world prove true – Jesus’ return, if thatperson is elected president, World War III, or One Direction’s Reunion Tour – we know that we will be safe, living happily in Slovakia for another twenty years. They say that’s how far behind the times we are here. Without testing the end times’ theory, it is true that time here moves at a different pace.
In 2013, we set a goal to assist one local partner establish a preschool for Roma children.  As we formed a plan to coordinate our work together, it was clear that the only way forward in the future would be for the Slovak organization to have a building. Within just a few months of beginning the project with them, we had generous sponsors from across the Fellowship who agreed with the vision of the Slovak group and wanted to support them in either purchasing or building a new building.
Because the CBF Offering for Global Missions provided us with time to study language and culture, because the Offering provided for our stable presence in Slovakia and because of the faithfulness of individuals and churches who generously gave more than their support for the Offering into a project to buy the building we were ready to keep up our part of the partnership agreement with the local Slovak organization. The Americans responded relatively quickly and sacrificially. Then we entered Slovak time.
Believe me, we would have preferred to move the process along more quickly!  Culturally and missiologically, however, we knew this would be a mistake. If the building was to be theirs, they had to decide what was appropriate. We had to wait, though not always patiently, for them to act.
Thankfully, the American donors were willing to stay in relationship with the Slovaks throughout this process. Almost three years after we began the project and two years since we had the funds available, we were able to celebrate with our local partners when they purchased a suitable building!
Engaging in long-term cross-cultural missions is an investment in the Reign of God where the results may never be fully known. We have been blessed to have hosted many short-term ministry teams in the twelve years we have been fully funded by the Offering.
We remind teams that God’s story has been unfolding in Slovakia for at least 1,200 years (to hear the rest of the story, you have to join a team!). A short-term team or even our long-term presence does not introduce God to this place. Lest we be tempted to speak of amazing numbers of conversion stories and Reign of God breakthroughs, we do not seek quick decisions or quick-fix solutions. Instead, the Offering allows us to live in the sacred now, building community-honoring, healthy relationships, and seeing how God moves through different cultures to achieve God’s ends. This is, indeed, an immeasurable gift and an amazing opportunity.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Romany on the Move . . . Back to Moldova

House in process
Two weeks ago we posted prayer requests about Romany who were moving from Moldova to Berlin.  One family had been in the process of building their own house in Moldova before they left for Germany. They got tired of living in tents over there and came back home. 
They were not alone in returning. There's been a reverse migration back to Moldova. The pastor of this family's home church reports that only five church families remain in Berlin. And two of those five want to go back home as soon as it can be arranged.

The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 7 - Thank God!

Thank God for Mira and Sasha Zivanov, CBF field personnel who work in the St. Louis area with immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. These include Romany from Bosnia. The Romany have been most open to this ministry. They participate in ESL classes, worship services, food pantry, and tutoring. Mira and Sasha are themselves immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and can directly relate to the experiences of the people around them.

Praise God for Romany on the move like Pastor Stevo from London. He evangelizes and disciples other Romany at home as well as in Ireland, Toronto, and Los Angeles. Praise God, too, for the witness of Slovak Romany who have started churches in their new homelands.

Thank God for Luton Roma Church, an outreach in England with Romanian Romany immigrants.

Thank God for CBF’s International Team in Europe with units in Belgium, France, and Spain who reach out to all migrants, including Romany.

Praise God for Christians across Europe like Rachel Brunclikova in the Czech Republic who voluntarily tutor Romany students. As she wrote in last year’s prayer guide, “Pray for the Roma students coming each week to the Roma Education Center for tutoring. May we give them not only the knowledge they need to do better in school, but may they also see God’s love through us as we work to help them.”

Thank God for Italian Baptists who used a “Camper of Friendship” to visit Romany throughout Italy. Thank God for Italian Christians called to minister with Romany migrants, many from Romania, who camp under bridges in makeshift shelters.

Praise God for the CBF field personnel who have worked at the all-Romany Gandhi School in Pecs, Hungary for two-to- three years. Three sets of short-term personnel taught English and led other activities at this junior/senior high school. Glen and Clista Adkins were the last short-term field personnel to serve there. They continue to invest in future Romany leaders by bringing teams to lead intensive English camps.

Thank God for people like you, who support Romany on the Move through prayer!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 6 - As You Go

From Shane and Dianne McNary, Slovakia and Czech Republic:

When leading members move in search of better jobs, it can be devastating for a local church.  It can also be discouraging to disciple members for positions of leadership only to have to start over again when they move away.  Stereotypically, Roma are always on the move.  Practically and missiologically, Roma expat communities from Central and Eastern Europe are having an incredible impact on the church wherever they go.

A pastor friend lamented the fact that so many of their leaders were leaving, there were more members living outside of Slovakia than they had still in the country!  Similarly, a Czech pastor struggled in his attempt to recruit potential leaders for their church, only wanting to invest in the lives of those who made a promise not to move abroad in search of a better life.  A Slovak Roma pastor told of how they chose a family from the church to send to England as missionaries so they could plant a church for Roma living there.

One pastor tells how a new church plant began when a group of Slovak and Polish Roma found the church’s services online.  The expat Roma who lived in Ireland reached out to the Slovak Roma church to see if there was any way they could help lead them in planting a new church.  Utilizing technology, the Slovak church leaders and the leaders of the church in Ireland teleconferenced regularly for prayer, instruction, and encouragement.  Once established, the Roma church in Ireland continues their relationship with their mother congregation in Slovakia even though they were never part of the local congregation.

What we call The Great Commission emphasizes the truth that “as (we) are going,” we are to make disciples.  For many Roma on the move in search of better opportunities, the truth of the Commission is experienced again and again as they plant new churches across Western Europe.

In your prayers:

  • Pray for churches in Slovakia and the Czech Republic as they reimagine themselves as missionary-training centers for all their members.
  • Pray for new Roma church plants in countries across Western Europe – that they would also reach out to non-Roma in their new homes and not only to other Roma.
  • Pray for all migrants, whether in search of jobs or fleeing wars, that God will continue to speak and guide them as they are on the move.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 5 - Moving On

From Keith Holmes and Mary van Rheenen in the Netherlands:

The Ursari Romany in Moldova used to earn a living as bear trainers. They would move from place to place, entertaining the locals with their dancing bears. When Moldova became part of the USSR, they were forced to settle down. But once Communism ended, they lost whatever jobs they had in Moldova. They were forced to be on the move again. Some moved seasonally to Ukraine to work in the fields. They then took their pay--sacks of sugar beets—to Moscow to sell. When border controls and customs fees made this too difficult, many of the non-Christians switched to begging at both Orthodox and Muslim religious places and festivals. Others went as far as Siberia, buying and selling in local markets. Some, particularly the believers, longed to stay at home, in their own village, to build the church there and provide stability for their children. Several applied for loans with Christian micro-economic development organizations. None resulted in permanent, full-time income.

Now a number of these very families are on the move again. Recently, Russia began imposing significant fines on beggars. Those who begged came back to Moldova. They heard that Germany was accepting refugees. Believers and non-believers began a mass exodus, taking their entire families with them. There were 200 children registered at the village school. The pastor estimates that there are now only 20 left. Will the Germans eventually send them back? Will they get tired of living in tents in refugee centers and come back on their own? Or move elsewhere? Only the good Lord knows. He goes with us wherever we—or our Romany brothers and sisters—go.

In your prayers:

  • Pray that Christian Romany will share their faith wherever they go; 
  • Pray for spiritual support for those who emigrate in search of work; 
  • Pray for spiritual and economic support for those who stay.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 4 - Hopeful Future

From Jon & Tanya Parks in Kosice, Slovakia:

Do you remember your high school prom? For many of us, proms and high school graduation are memorable rites of passage, events that mark the end of one chapter in life and the beginning of a new one. Slovak students have a similar event that’s a combination of prom and graduation. They dress in formalwear and gather to share a meal with their parents, classmates and teachers. The graduates wear a green ribbon to mark their upcoming graduation. They observe time-honored traditions and share publicly their hopes and dreams for the future.

Just a few weeks ago, a group of students gathered for one of these events near the city of Kezmarok. This particular gathering was even more special because of the students themselves. All 12 are Roma. Together, they make up the largest graduating class of Roma students in Slovak history.

Roma in Slovakia face many challenges in education. Some arrive in first grade having spoken only Romani at home. They must learn a new language to even survive in school. With these and other challenges, many drop out. Very few even begin high school level. Only a handful of Roma in Slovakia graduate from secondary school . . . much less with the opportunity to study at university or professional school. That’s why this group is unique. They all have plans to continue their education. Some of them, talented dancers and musicians, hope to study music. Others want to improve their Roma communities and plan to study social work. A couple even hope to study toward Christian ministry.

In a region with 90% or higher unemployment among Roma, an event like this is truly a reason to celebrate! These students will have the opportunity to show the world what Roma can accomplish.  They’re truly Roma on the move!

In your prayers:

  • Thank God for this group of dedicated young Roma!
  • Pray for them as they explore the possibilities for the future.
  • Pray for educators in Slovakia as they look for new ways to help inspire and educate Roma students.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 3 - Moving Forward

From Ralph and Tammy Stocks in Bucharest, Romania:

from L to R – Sorin Badragan (Dean of Seminary, Bebe Prica, Oti Bunaciu
(former Dean of Seminary), Ralph Stocks (CBF Field Personnel)
Meet Bebe Prica, a Roma pastor serving a church in tiny Badila, Romania! We first met Bebe when he enrolled for the Gypsy Smith School of Leadership Training.  He has a quiet, unassuming personality that quickly drew other GSS students to him. Upon completing that two-year program and with the approval of the Romanian Baptist Union, Bebe was ordained. He continued and completed his studies in the undergraduate program at the seminary. Look today and you will find that he now is studying for his Masters at the seminary!

In addition to his own leadership, Bebe seeks to train believers by initiating one-day seminars led by other pastors. His church hosted a visiting youth choir whose concert drew many from their community. The children and youth in the church warmed quickly to volunteer teams coming to lead VBS-type activities.

When the norm is for Roma men to progress no further than the 8th grade academically, Bebe has far surpassed that standard to excel in his quest for religious education. He is beloved by his church and community and exhibits how his personal faith has impelled him to traverse cultural norms as he serves his Lord!

In your prayers:

  • Praise God for leaders like Bebe Prica.
  • Pray for more Roma men to follow his example.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Week of Prayer Day 2 - Moved to Help

From Jeff and Alicia Lee in Skopje, Macedonia:

Pastor Toni, as he’s known to most, volunteers at the refugee transit camp on the border with Serbia four days a week. He boils eggs and passes out fruit, clothes and other supplies to the thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees who pass through each day. After a long week in the camp he travels an hour from his home just outside of Macedonia’s capital city to the small town of Sveti Nikole. There he spends his weekend leading a growing house church of Macedonian and Roma believers and another small church in an impoverished village nearby.

He works tirelessly to meet these congregations’ spiritual needs. But over the years he grew frustrated that there wasn’t much he could do to meet the physical needs of his parishioners. His family lives on the very meager salary his wife earns. From time to time he also earns a little bit from his church work. But even when he gives more than he can afford, there are still many unmet needs. He began to consider how the church could do more, more to meet the physical needs of the church-goers and the community around them. When Toni learned of our interest and background in agricultural ministry opportunities he was ready to pitch his idea: A farm. God’s Farm, to be precise.

With land acquired by the church Toni dreamed of starting God’s farm. He hoped to use proceeds from the farm to help the church provide for the practical needs of the members and the community. Toni developed a plan. With a grant from Texas Hunger Funds we helped Toni purchase livestock. In time, the farm will be a tool for further ministry among the congregations Pastor Toni leads.

Join us in praying for the further success of God’s Farm, the growth of the churches in Sveti Nikole, and for Pastor Toni and his family as they continue to serve where God has called them.

Prayer requests:

  • the further success of God’s Farm;
  • the growth of churches in Sveti Nikole;
  • Pastor Toni and his family as they continue to serve where God has called them.

Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Week of Prayer for the Romany People

Each year in conjunction with International Romani* Day (April 8), CBF Romany Ministries sponsors a week of prayer for the Romany people.  At this time we release a prayer guide featuring stories and pictures from our various ministries.  Throughout the next few days we'll be posting stories here, and we invite you to read along, to be inspired by what God is doing, and to join us in prayer for God's kingdom to come among the Romany people.

The theme for this year's week of prayer is Romany on the Move.

If you’re very familiar with the Romany people, you’ll probably think “on the move” is an appropriate phrase to describe them! After all, for centuries many Roma lived a nomadic lifestyle, moving in groups from place to place wherever their services were needed. Even today, some Roma will move themselves and their family from one place to another in search of better opportunities.

But there’s another sense in which Roma are “on the move” – they are making strides socially, politically, and in advancing God’s kingdom.

The Roma are Europe’s largest ethnic minority, an estimated 10-12 million people with their own distinct history, languages and cultural traditions. But while many Europeans are becoming more culturally open and sensitive, the general attitude toward Roma people is a glaring exception. Many Roma people still experience prejudice and social exclusion, and some live in deep generational poverty.

But there are positive signs. In some places Roma are beginning to find better jobs, receive better education, and improve their communities. And when they do have to leave home, many of them take their deep faith with them. New congregations are popping up all over the globe, because these Roma on the move are planting the seeds of God’s Good News everywhere they go!

In these pages you’ll hear the stories of Roma from around the world who are on the move. Join us during the 2016 Week of Prayer for Roma, as we give thanks for how God is moving among the Roma, and discover how God calls each of us to walk alongside them as they find their place in God’s kingdom.

Maybe you or your group would like to join us in the week of prayer - the prayer guide is undated, so you can use it anytime.  We're also providing a link here to the PDF versions of the guide (see below) that can be printed and used at home or at church.  Please contact us if you have any questions or ideas about using the guide.

*Romani, Romany, and Roma are all names used to refer to this people group.