Friday, December 8, 2017

The Village Without a Kindergarten: Parents Teaching Children

Did you go to kindergarten? And did you carefully choose a preschool for your children? This is the story of a village in Moldova without either. 
Grandparent and grandchild
The local pastor and his wife are concerned. The children in this Roma village have enough difficulties with school. The children often go with their parents to Russia for part of the year. Instruction in the village school is in Romanian. The children speak Ursari Romani* at home. The village has no kindergarten/preschool. The children have few if any of the educational toys that littered our own living room when our children were young. 
Kindergarten candidates

Some teachers at the school are also concerned. Together, they agreed to try the Parent-Child Club. This program was developed by preschool educators with just such a situation in mind. Parents teach preschool skills to their own children, in their own language. Few if any materials are required. The leaders of the club do not need any previous teaching experience.

This coming Monday, parents will go to school . . . to begin providing their children with the kindergarten/preschool. That's Beloved Community. 

*One of many languages in the Romani (NOT ROMANIAN) language family.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Beloved Community

Mission Bites are great for helping your congregation engage more deeply in missions. Drop these into worship bulletins, newsletters and social media as you promote your church's impact around the world.
Bite 59: A Beloved Community of Believers

"Beloved Community looks like a community of believers in Moldova working together on an oral translation project. Local Romany believer, Catea, learned and retold the story of Mary and Martha from Luke 10:38-42. A Dutch woman living in Romania, an American woman living in Romania, a Romanian-speaking Moldovan and myself, an American living in the Netherlands, all worked alongside Catea. The next day, the women's Bible study discussed the story. Thanks to the teamwork the day before, the women listened to the story in their own language and understood it much better."

- Mary van Rheenen, CBF field personnel in the Netherlands
Be sure to also sign up to receive fellowship! weekly e-newsletter, which includes updates on all the wonderful ministries of CBF and our partners. 

Please let us know how else we can help your church engage more intentionally in missions near and far.  
Grace and Peace, 
Ryan Clark, D.Min. 
Church Engagement Manager
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
770.220.1611  office
404.545.5003  mobile

Friday, November 17, 2017

Roma and Sinti . . . Recording for Roma and Sinti

 How many languages can you sing in? These kids sing in at least three:  Calderash, Sinti, and German. They live in Germany. Calderash and Sinti are both Romani languages they speak at home.

They recorded songs in their home languages to put on a bilingual CD of Bible stories. Their songs split the Sinti version of the Bible stories from the Calderash version.

The tall girl in the middle is the one who inspired all of this. Her mom started reading her Bible stories at bedtime. In German. When she was about the age of the short girl, she asked her mom for a Bible stories in her own language.

Soon there will be a tuneful bilingual CD to go along with the colorful bilingual Bible story book.  Keith's little assistant will be able to hear herself singing those stories in her own language. Or maybe I should say her own languages?

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Recording the part of Jesus in London
Last Sunday we had a mini-harvest festival at our Dutch church. Several people told stories of thankfulness and harvest. This is the one Keith shared.

Sometimes we don't immediately see the fruit of our labor. Back in 2002 I went to London to record the JESUS film in a Romani language we call Western Kalderash.* This Romani language is spoken widely in Western Europe and in North America. 

All versions of the JESUS video are available on the Jesus film website. The website includes the four other Romani versions (one I also recorded), and 1500 other languages from around the world. But recently I discovered that 3 1/2 years ago someone also put the Romani versions on YouTube, where more people can find them. On YouTube we can also see exactly how many people watch a video. One Romani version had 1000 views, another 5000, and another 8000. The Western Kalderash version that I made in 2002 has had almost 30,000 views in 3 1/2 years. (It topped 30,000 this week.) That is more than 23 people per day harvesting a seed that I planted 15 years ago.

*I sometimes refer to it as  Russian Kalderash. Their ancestors sojourned through Russia and still have words of Russian origin in their language.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Laundry is Not Fair!

When do you do the laundry?
We start every week on Tuesdays.
First step is sorting the laundry.

Then we carry the first load up the stairs to the attic (yes, the attic). Our water-saving front-load washer will take 1 1/2 hours for this load of "darks" on cold. Whites, even on the energy-saving setting of 60° C (140° F), take closer to 3 hours.

Next, we'll hang them out to dry--usually inside. As is typical in many Dutch homes, the drying racks hang over the steep, slightly spiral stairwell.

We do have a drier, but only use it for towels and emergencies. Air drying is better for the environment, the energy bill, the clothes, and our sinuses.

Does this seem like a lot of time and trouble to you? It doesn't to me. You see, on Tuesdays, I often think of our Roma sisters in Moldova.

One lady we visited recently was also doing laundry. She lived in this new house on the edge of the village.

She said she would really like to have a washing machine since doing laundry by hand for all five members of the household was difficult.

I wondered whether she even had running water connected to her house.

And, even if she did, would she be able to pay for the water and electricity a washing machine would take? Would there be room for it in the house?
Was there room for five people in that house?

I think of this woman, as I hang up my own laundry in a well-insulated house with central heating as well as hot and cold running water, all of which we can easily afford. Life is not fair. Laundry is not fair.

But one day she and I may sit down to the same banqueting table dressed in spotless clothes which we will never have to launder!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Three Generations Read One Story

This past Friday Keith had a unique recording experience. He has been working with a Romany church in Germany to record a bilingual children's Bible story book. It all began with this girl. When she was just a toddler, her mother read her Bible stories at bedtime . . . in German. She asked, "Mama, "Aren't there any Bible story books in our language?" Her mother spoke one language; her father another; the child was fluent in both.

Her mother started pasting translations into Romani into German Bible story book. Her grandmother (left) suggested actual translation project. Wycliffe/SIL Bible translators provided technical assistance.  The book has been printed. Now grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter are reading the stories for a CD so that many more children can hear . . . in their own language. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

One Lord, One Faith . . . not yet One Language

Olesea, helping me talk with
Romany sister (in Romanian)
The communion of the saints--the church I grew up in recited this phrase nearly every Sunday as part of the Apostles' Creed. The mission organization I work with now views community as so important that this is one of our mission commitments (see below). Last week in Moldova I saw a beautiful example of cultivating community.
Virginia, their
Romany translator
Usually, when I am there, someone translates the worship services from Romanian for me--the pastor's wife Olesea or a young person like Dana. This helps me be participate in the faith community. But what happens when a Romany pastor preaches in his own language? A Romany woman from the pew behind Olesea and Dana leaned forward and translated for the translators.

Dana, our translator
We cultivate communities of reconciliation and hospitality that serve as instruments, signs and  foretastes of the Kingdom of God.
We bear witness to the gospel through words that invite faith in Jesus and actions that embody the way of Jesus.
We seek to transform systems that suppress the capacity of individuals and communities in order to recognize, claim and celebrate the God-given gifts of all people and places.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Naaman Takes a Bath

These are the kids who heard that first "One Story" translation. They are making a Naaman puppet to remind them of it. The puppet takes a dip seven times in the Jordan River. The second photo shows SIL Roma Service Group guys acting out the story while it is being told in Romani (they understand enough Romani to know what to do when). Here the King of Israel is reading the letter Naaman brought from the King of Syria. King Israel is about to rent his (royal trash bag) robe. And behind Naaman (the post-it notes are his skin disease) you'll see the Jordan River that the actor
is going to dip in seven times. 
The children learned that God has the power to wash us clean. Naaman had to wash seven times (2 Kings 5). We only have to ask Jesus once. 

The kids counted outloud in their own language as "Naaman" dipped down:
  • 1 – yek
  • 2 – duy
  • 3 – trin
  • 4 – shtar
  • 5 – panj
  • 6 – shov
  • 7 – efta*

*Taken from 

Monday, October 9, 2017

One Story - Translation Made Easy?

Do you know a great story teller? This Roma woman is a great story teller. I find her entertaining--and we don't even have any languages in common. And even though she finished 11 grades of school, I suspect she would rather hear a story than read one. This is partly why the Wycliffe/SIL folks who are joining me in Moldova are going to do a trial translation project involving storytelling. They will work with a couple of people, like this lady, to translate several Bible stories into the local language. Then these storytellers will retell the stories in public--a women's Bible study, a mid-week church service, a children's gathering.
This approach has a lot of advantages. First, of course, is that people love to hear stories. Secondly, this particular Romani language has no standardized spelling system. Throw into that mix the fact that this woman would rather read Latin letters (like you are doing now) but prefers to write in Cyrillic letters (which I cannot do--can you?).
I'm looking forward to hearing the results!

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Story of the Bible Story Book

Bedtime stories are important--sometimes far more important than we initially realize. For example, a Sinti Romany* mother was reading Bible stories to her young daughter at bedtime. In German, because they live in Germany. The daughter asked, "Mama, is this in our language, too?" The mother started writing the stories in their language and pasting them into the book. But then the story of the storybook became even more interesting.
This mother is married to a Romany man from a different group who speaks Calderash, an entirely different Romani language. They attend a church with members of both groups. A Calderash mother wanted Bible stories in her own language for her own children. With help from Wycliffe Bible translators and a German Romany organization, this bilingual book was put together in both languages and published.
How do I know all this? Because now these enterprising Romany parents want to record the stories on CD--in both languages--with the church's children's choir singing in between the stories--in both languages. Keith and I visited them last week. This coming week (Friday, 6 October) Keith will be going back to this church in Germany to record one of the moms reading the stories in one of the languages. The rest will follow. Though we are not sure what the ultimate result of that "rest" will be. These parents started with bedtime stories for their own children in their own homes. Their goal is to reach many others in many different places--with CDs, books, songs, YouTube, Facebook, and face-to-face. God knows how far these bedtime stories will go!

If you feel led to pray for this project and want to receive more in depth requests and updates, please contact us.

*There are over 20 different related but distinctly different Romany languages. In this blog, we use "Romany" for the people of these related ethnic groups and "Romani" for the languages.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

More Good News from Moldova

A recent baptismal service in Moldova provided a modern demonstration of this verse Paul wrote centuries ago. Three people from the Roma village of Vulcanesti were baptized together with two people from the Romanian-speaking Baptist church in Nisporeni.
For we were all


whether Jews or Gentiles,
slave or free--

by one Spirit

and we were all given 


one Spirit to drink. 

I Corinthians 12:13 (NIV)

Friday, September 1, 2017

Good News from Moldova!

Last summer Pastor Petru Ciochina sent us this photo from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Moldova. The Lord had been working in people's lives. An unexpected number had begun attending church regularly and making a commitment to follow Jesus.

This summer Petru sent us this photo. He wrote: There is a change in the work of Vulcanesti by the involvement of God and His Spirit. People come in large numbers at all the meetings of the church in Vulcanesti. They are willing to listen to the word of God and singing worship. 

Praise God! He is at work!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Met on the Way . . . Sinti Past & Present

We recently returned from three months in the States. Before we left, we had an unexpected though very welcomed visit from two Sinti believers, Sabina and her cousin. The Sinti have been in Western Europe longer than any other Romany group. Sabina and her cousin are very aware of their heritage. They actively disciple and evangelize other Romany. Sabina is also active in advocating for Romany in other ways. For instance, she was asked to share about Sinti history and current experiences at the Hauge Talks.
The Hague Talks "set peace and justice in motion." This presentation was to a group of international students. Sabina, like most adult Sinti I have met, can converse in several different languages. On this occasion, she spoke in English and sang in her native language.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Student.Go - Met on the Way Part 4

Co-workers sometimes show up in the strangest places. We met the Student.Go intern who will be working with Keith in Spain, for instance, in a Cracker Barrel in Monroe, Louisiana.* We were eating there with some of Keith's cousins and some of the cousin's kids. Scott Knight is one of those kids, though he isn't a kid anymore. He is a young adult with a good background in Spanish language and an interest in so many things that he hasn't yet finished college.

This  last part reminded Keith of himself at that age. Keith felt led to ask if Scott would be interested in helping on his next recording for Faith Comes By Hearing. The next recording project, in Spain, will be of a contemporary translation of the Spanish New Testament called La Palabra.
Recordings of this already exist . . . in Latin American Spanish. There is even a greater difference between European Spanish and Latin American Spanish than there is between British English and North American English.
More Cousins at Cracker Barrel

Keith, Scott, and the rest of the La Palabra team hope to begin recording in Madrid in early October.

Scott has already begun fund-raising for his trip. His goal is to raise his $3,000 travel costs. If you feel led to contribute, donations can be made via Madrid Missions.

If you feel led to be part of his prayer team, leave a comment on the same page or contact us.

Are you are interested in applying for a Student.Go missions internship yourself? CONTACT:  STUDENT.GO@CBF.NET.

*For those of you who are not Americans, Cracker Barrel is a restaurant chain found mainly in the Southern U.S. And this one might have been in West Monroe.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Change that Changes

Going to Malawi, Africa

Can one person change the world? with change?
While we were staying in Beulah, we met two elderly sisters who had traveled clear across Texas to visit the Faith Comes By Hearing offices. One of them, Alice Walker, had set up The Widow's Mite Ministry*.   She collected pocket change to purchase Proclaimers. 
Loading Scripture onto Proclaimers
Proclaimers are nearly indestructible little digital players. Each one is loaded with an audio version of Scripture (usually the New Testament), is powerful enough to be heard by a group of 300, and can be powered through its own solar panel. Every Proclaimer also come equipped with a battery that works for up to 15 hours and can be recharged by the solar panel, a hand crank, or electrical cord.
Alice had collected enough donations, sometimes one coin at a time, to purchase and send out dozens of Proclaimers. She and her sister were very excited about finally visiting the place where these little machines were loaded with one of hundreds of audio recordings and sent literally around the world. Alice's sister hadn't just come along for the ride. She drove because Alice is legally blind.

Quechua language, heading to South America

*Jesus pointed to a widow who gave two mites, the smallest coins. She had given more than anyone else because she had given all she had to live on. Luke 21:1-4.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Beulah . . . Stayed on the Way

Did you ever sing some song about Beulah land in church? And wonder what on earth (or in heaven) Beulah might be? Isaiah 62:4 uses the term to describe Israel as "married" or "espoued." Various writers, including John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress use the name for a refreshing place between earth and Heaven. We visited Beulah Ministries in New Mexico on our trek around the U.S. this summer and found it to be just such a place. Our photo scarcely shows how idyllic it is.
Christians come here from around the globe for rest, reflection, or to simply wait upon the Lord. We were there as guests of Faith Comes By Hearing. Beulah Ministries is separate from Faith Comes By Hearing, though the Jackson family were instrumental in starting both. Annette and Jerry Jackson did not intend to settle near Albuquerque, New Mexico. They did, however, intend to radically follow Christ. This is where their own pilgrimage led them. They currently live in an apartment attached to the Beulah guesthouse. If you go there, you can enjoy Annette's flower garden in person. Jerry may make you an amazing breakfast. And--unless you try hard not to--you will leave refreshed.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Water Keeper--Met on the Way

Have you ever stayed in a motel with one of those free continental breakfasts? We've gotten well acquainted with those, but we have not always mastered the art of opening the plastic packets that often accompany such breakfasts. So at a small motel in Colorado, a man at the next table offered to assist. He had on a T-shirt about being a Waterkeeper. Members of the Waterkeeper Alliance work to preserve and improve the water in their areas. He told us that, thanks to cracking, some people in Alabama have so much methane in their water system that they can light the water that comes out of their tap. Clean water isn't something to be taken for granted.
We discovered this first-hand in a village in Moldova. We were staying in someone's home where the main water source was a well like this one. We had some hand-wash to do, and did it in a basin on the edge of the well. The Romany woman who was looking after the house where we stayed got very, very upset. The basin of laundry water might have tipped into the well and made the water unclean.* We didn't grow up with wells and didn't know any better.
There are over 300 official Waterkeepers around the globe.  And, thank God, there are many, many more unofficial ones.

*We were washing things that go on the lower half of the body. That part of the body is considered unclean among many Romany groups. So this may have made the well ritually unclean as well as literally unclean.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Met On The Way--Part 1

Bernadette, left, with translator Dona, right
Keith and I have been trekking around the U.S.A. since April 17. We've heard extraordinary stories along the way, including this one about  our long-term friend Bernadette. Here she is enjoying a meal at a Romany home in Moldova.That's fitting, since she has served so many meals herself. When the flood waters hit Baton Rouge, LA, last August, Bernadette and her sister Nora Beth sprung into action. Bernadette's table seats 14. Every night they filled that table with people who had been flooded out. Bernadette told us those people either walked in the door crying or burst into tears sometime during the evening. It was a relief for them to find a dry haven and sympathetic listeners.
Friends from as far away donated towards the dinners.  At one point, her sister asked, "How long are we going to keep fixing supper like this?"
"As long as we can," Bernadette replied.
After two months, Bernadette and her sister went down to about two nights a week. They stopped counting dinners served (not diners but dinners) at 94. Extraordinary the things that ordinary Christians do!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

For Moms and other interested parties--Parent-Child Club

Did your mom read to you? Did she show you how to work puzzles? Did she give you crayons and coloring books? Did she play games with you? Let's back up a step--did she have games to play with you, crayons to give you, and books to read to you?
These moms don't. But they can teach their children all those literacy-related things your mom taught you through a Parent-Child Club.

What is the Parent-Child Club?
Fun activities that help children learn. Young children participate together with an older person from their family. This person could be a mother, grandma, an aunt, a sister or a father, uncle, brother or grandfather.

Why use the child’s first language as much as possible? 
Children learn best in their own language, partly because they feel more at ease when their own language is spoken. Also, it improves a person’s sense of self-worth when their language is considered important enough to be used in activities like this.

These photos are from the first field trial. We would like to do at least two more this coming year. Interested in helping? Or leading one yourself? Let us know! 
Activities: available at Davar Parent-Child Club.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Searching for More than a Pink Ribbon

How many people do you know who've had breast cancer? In recent years three close friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Scary. They went through various treatments and surgeries. Thanks to modern medicine and lots of prayer, they have all been declared cancer free.

Maricica's sister with child
Maricica had breast cancer, too. Unlike my cancer-surviving friends, Maricica happened to have been born into a Romany family in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe. Her family did not have enough money to pay for the necessary operations. In the words of her pastor, "after some great pain she died." This 35-year-old mother left four children. Her mother now looks after them as best she can.
We're praying for someone who can do community/economic development among Romany in countries like Moldova. So that families like Maricica's can pay for necessary operations, and children like Maricica's can have a cancer survivor as a mother instead of being victims of cancer themselves.