Saturday, July 14, 2018

What I Saw in Moldova--Families!

Families sometimes include several generations . . . 
. . . as well as pets . . .

. . . or neighbors . . .

Families may live in their own home . . .

. . .  or be invited to share the home of a friend . . . 

And some families delight in one another!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Different Kind of Food

Remember this lady (Every Mother's Child, post in May)? I visited her last October. Pastor Petru Ciochina and I brought her a food packet. (Thanks to all of you who contribute to the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering.) Her roof leaked.
Last month I was in the Republic of Moldova again. Before we could bring around food packets again, we were asked to come and pray with this lady. Her family expected her to die. She hadn't eaten anything for a month, they told us. She lay curled up on a couch and periodically asked for a drink of water. In her own Romani language.
We talked with her about the home God had prepared for her, and that He invited everyone to go there. We don't have to do anything but put our trust in Jesus. We prayed for her.
Then, when we brought around food packets, we came by  again. Since we knew she couldn't eat anything, we brought her a small gift and prayed for her again. A number of you also prayed for her. Later, Roma Christians from the church came, too. The pastor and his wife brought her some geranium plants, to replace the ones that had frozen (in her kitchen windowsill!) during the cold snap in January.
A couple of days ago, when I called the pastor and his wife, I asked about this aged lady. Was she still alive?
Oh, yes. She was up, eating again, and moving around her house. Her family, who had all been pretty sure she was about to die, asked the pastor what happened. Well, it certainly wasn't any food packet that made the difference!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What I Saw in Moldova: Romany interested in Scripture Media

Pastor Petru & Olesea Ciochina had driven me an hour north to the town of Calarasi to visit a children's home. The team of German Romany who are going with me to Moldova in September want to connect with an orphanage. We had a nice tour, but concluded this was not the place for them to work.
Then we tried to visit a Romany girl from Vulcanesti who had married someone in Calarasi. She was in Vulcanesti! But another Romany woman turned up in front of her home. And become some of the Romany in Calarasi recognized Petru (white pants; right), they invited us to their house.

 After tea and general conversation, we started talking about faith. Most of the people in Calarasi had originally come from Vulcanesti. Some of their parents had become Christians there. Sometimes someone came by with a guitar to sing songs and read the Bible with them.
Ah, did they know that the New Testament was online in several Romani dialects? No, but they wanted to see and hear it.
The young man quickly got me online through his cell phone. We moved from the Scripture website (Bible.Is) to various Romani versions of the Jesus film on YouTube to the Facebook page of Scripture in a dialect very similar to their own.
This Facebook page also had video versions of each chapter in Galatians. This would not be the most fascinating material to me, but I have read and heard Scripture in my heart language all of my life. These folks had not. The lady on my right listened to one chapter after another.
Then she made sure that the young man copied all of these links for her. She wanted to be sure to find them all again!

The Cost of Corruption

You may be wondering why there are book bags hanging on the flagpoles of these Dutch homes. Like many European countries, the Netherlands has standardized exams that all students must pass to receive their (high school) diploma. Kids in each of these houses passed. And it is an achievement everyone on the street may know about! 
What has that got to do with corruption? A friend in a former East-block country asked us to pray for the young (Roma) Christian leader there who had gone back to take their country's version of these exams. The young man really wanted to pass so that he could go to Bible school. The legislator from his district approached him. The young man could be assured of receiving a diploma. Cost in cash:  a little over $200; cost in character . . . ?
Another friend in the same country, a talented school teacher, was willing to teach in predominantly Roma villages. She met with good success. But even though her placement test scores were higher than any other candidates', her contract was not renewed. Instead, it went to the niece of one of the local V.I.P.s.--who was far more interested in employment than actually in teaching. What did that cost, in terms of the students' future?
And why is there so little work in the Republic of Moldova. A third of the working population has gone abroad ( Often leaving children behind with grandparents, neighbors, or no one. 
Labor would be available in Moldova, and relatively cheap. And it is possible to do business there--if, as a Moldovan friend pointed out--you are willing to "share." 
On my recent visit there, I met a different Roma young man. He had legitimately earned his high school diploma and was studying further. He was also connected with the Centrul National Anticoruptie (National Anti-corruption Center).  Let us pray for those who fight corruption, those who suffer from it, and those who are tempted by it. And let us be willing to pay the cost of countering it.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

DAVAR: Bridging to Literacy - Also in Romanian

DAVAR Start Games provide a fun bridge to literacy programs. The Start Games  had been posted on the DAVAR website pretty much in the order that they had been written. Our colleague Alina Ivan Molla recently put these in a better sequence from a learning/teaching point of view.

She drew on years of teaching experience in Romania in both Roma villages, experimental schools, and her own highly praised kindergarten. (In fact, even a year after she has married and moved to Sweden, the parents of her former pupils are still begging her to reopen!)

I drew on days of patient, cautious cutting and pasting to rearrange first the English, and now finally the Romanian Start Games into this new, improved order. The PDF downloads are not yet there, but the text is. This blog post celebrates that milestone!

Now for the MATH GAMES and PARENT-CHILD CLUB in English . . . and Romanian . . . .

Copii sau adulți, indiferent de vârstă, învățământ și practică abilitățile necesare însușirii cititului și scrisului.

Oferă o punte spre cunoaștere, prin programe, o activitate și jocuri care vor asigura asimilarea cunoștințelor necesare în învățarea cititului, scrisului și gândirii matematice. Să atrag pe copii în procesul de învățare prin aceste activități și jocuri și să-i ajute să descoperim că învățarea academică este mult mai ușoară și mai distractivă decât au experimentat ei (probabil) anterior.

Este eficient și bine cunoscut principiul didactic, de a folosi ceea ce se cunoaște, pentru a explica necunoscutul. Atunci când elevii folosesc limbajul și mijloacele, pe care elevii le cunosc, în predarea temelor noi, elevii se vor simți respectați și în egală măsură motivați să învețe. Aceasta va crea mediul pozitiv necesar de capacitate de a acumula noi abilități și de a învăța noi concepte.
Chiar dacă au depășit vârsta preșcolară și anii de școală primară, oamenii încă pot învăța să citească și să scrie.Pentru ca persoana să deprindă cititul și scrisul mai întâi ar trebui să învețe anumite deprinderi; exercițiul este vital pentru a dezvolta partea secvențială a creierului, care este implicată și contribuie la procesul de învățare a materialelor școlare.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Language is Flowing III

Some claim that music is the universal language. In this case, it certainly was. None of the five people in this photo speak the same language at home. But they all sang together with gusto.
Left to right:  Romanian Romany; Bulgarian Romany; Romanian Moldovan; Moldovan Romany; English-speaking Australian.

Song:  tune known to many Christian Romany; Romani words close enough in all three dialects to sing along.

Location: recent Rroma Workers Network conference in Hungarian-speaking part of Romania. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Languages Are Flying II

This was the most complicated situation at the Rroma Workers conference this past week. The first man spoke in Hungarian. The second man translated into Romanian. The third man translated into English. We all understood.

Communication with a Romany brother from Bulgaria was actually more straight-forward. He spoke English to me; Russian/Bulgarian to Petru from Moldova; Russian and Romani to Eduard, a Romany brother from Moldova.

I made an instant connection with a lovely young woman from Romania when I asked for "pani" (water), one of the few words I know in Romani. Fortunately, it is the same in practically all Romani dialects.

And in the midst of all the Australians, British folks, and English-as-a-second-language speakers, it was a sheer delight to meet a man from the state in America where I was born. Someone who spoke my dialect!

Mary, born in Kalamazoo

Monday, June 4, 2018

Languages are Flying

I'm at a conference sponsored by the Rroma Workers' Network in Romanian. But take a close look at this sign we passed on the way here. There are two languages on it:  Romanian and Hungarian. The fancy bus stop has a bit of a Hungarian wood-carving look to it, too. This camp is in the Hungarian-speaking region of Romania. And if that is not confusing enough, three of the guests just spoke to each other in Russian (two from Moldova; one from Bulgaria). And then the Bulgarian guest discovered that one of the Moldovans was also Romany, so they chatted a bit in Romani. 

Yes, languages are flying. Fortunately, the conference offers English and Romanian translation. The ethnically Hungarian Romanian with us speaks both of those languages, more or less fluently.

Mary, on the road

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Is Someone Going to Fix that Lady's Roof?

The last post told of an elderly Roma lady in Moldova who had serious holes in her roof. Someone responded by asking, "Is someone gong to fix that lady's roof?"
Is that someone you?
You could join us in praying, the next two weeks, for a solution.
You could come to Moldova and swing a hammer (or whatever Pastor Petru Ciochina has in his hand there).
You could move to Moldova and help develop employment there.
You could donate funds (Holmes/Van Rheenen Programming) and let us know that they are going specifically towards this lady's roof.
I'm curious to see what God--and you?--are going to do.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Every Mother's Child Deserves a Meal

Sunday is Mothers' Day in much of the Western world. This lady's story is particularly fitting because she has never been a mother. She lives in a Romany village in Moldova, a country with a really minimal "old age pension." So minimal, that without the help of adult children, ordinary village women like her are almost certain to live in poverty.
Last October I was able to go with Pastor Petru Ciochina and his wife Olesea as they picked out items for food packages and as they delivered them. Each time they deliver food packages, they choose 10 different community members most in need. This lady lived in a home as neat as a pin. Flowers bloomed from the inside windowsills. A crocheted rag rug graced the floor in the entrance way. She herself had carefully combed and pulled back her hair. She was as clean and well-groomed as she could make herself. What she could not make was repairs to her roof. 

As we stood in that entrance way, I could look straight up through one hole in the ceiling to the rafters on through several other holes in the roof to the blue sky above. The lady thanked us for the food package with manners as gracious and pretty she was. We could not fix the holes in her roof. Thanks to the Texas Hunger Offering, we could supply a bag of staples chosen to see her through the next month and beyond.
We thank the Texas Christian Life Commission. Their offering to combat hunger makes programs like this possible. Want to know more? Check out their Mothers' Day Offering. Might be just the gift your mother--or a non-mother like this woman--is looking for!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Grandmother Speaks—From Where?!

Each year, PASSPORTkids Camps gives kids a different hands-on missions experience. This summer they will focus on CBF's Romany Ministries. This is a story we went which they may (or may not) use at part of the camp. We thought you would enjoy this story, too.

What kind of stories do you like to tell around a campfire? We used to tell ghost stories. This is not exactly a ghost story, though it is about someone’s grave. Sister Aliona’s grave, to be exact.

In the Roma village where Sister Aliona lived, people dug graves at least three feet deeper than normal. Why did they do this? Did they like to dig? Did they need the dirt? No, not at all. They put stuff in the grave, lots of stuff, before they even started lowering the casket down into it. What do you think they put in a grave? They would start with expensive things to drink. Fancy bottles. Colored bottles. Vintage CocaCola! Well, maybe not that. Then they would put in things to eat. Expensive things that were hard to get in Moldova, where they lived. Pineapples and kiwis. Exotic fruit. They might not have much money, but they used all they could to just load that grave all up.

Why did they do that? I don’t know. Maybe they thought the person they were burying would need all that in their next life or on their journey to that next life. Or maybe they thought that would make the dead person happy, so the dead person wouldn’t come back and haunt them. I don’t know. I do know it was not because they believed in Jesus.

Sister Aliona believed in Jesus. She believed that He forgave all her sins when she asked Him to. She believed that He loved her, that He lived with her all through her life of raising children, of burying her own husband, of watching her grandchildren grow up around her. She grew old herself. Her ears stopped hearing very well. Her eyes stopped seeing very well. She knew one day her old body would stop altogether. She was not afraid of this because she knew that then she would live with Jesus forever.
Sister Aliona

And that’s just what happened. Last year Sister Aliona died. Her grown children wanted to honor their mother with the best funeral they could give her. But two nights after she died, Sister Aliona’s oldest daughter, Silvika, had a dream. Her mother, Aliona, came and spoke to her. Aliona told her that the place where she was incredibly beautiful. It was so very beautiful that she wished Silvika and all of her other children would believe in Jesus. Then they could go to that beautiful place, too. Aliona also said she wanted a Christian funeral.

Silvika listened to her mother. After all, her mother had spoken to her in a dream all the way from Heaven! So she and her brothers and sisters gave their mother a Christian funeral. Sister Aliona’s grave was not any deeper than it needed to be. There was nothing in it but Sister Aliona’s worn-out old body. And everyone said it was a beautiful funeral.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Families . . . Basic for Education

A colleague recently shared this information about
an initiative for basic education of Roma. It is aimed at Roma adults and families (for inter-generational learning) in Europe. It consists of manuals in the different national languages of a number of countries, that will assist those who want to help Roma people learn to read and write. The program encourages the use of whatever local language the Roma people speak.

There will be a presentation of the handbook/manual for Romania on May 10 in Targu Mures.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Another Pile of Stones

Today on Stille Zaterdag (Silent Saturday), I am remembering a Tuesday morning about 10 years ago. I know it was a Tuesday because that's the day of the weekly market in Duiven, the next village. I planned to go after I'd taken the girls to school. Maybe that's why I drove that morning. Usually they biked to school. I had dropped them off and was waiting at the traffic light on the edge of town with my right blinker on, all set to go to Duiven, when I got the distinct feeling I should turn around and go home instead.
At home there was a telephone message waiting for me--the one we had been expecting ever since my father went into hospice. He had left his worn-out 86-year-old body and gone on to the next life.
Have you ever had anything like that happen to you? Remember it on those silent Saturdays, when Hope seems dead and buried.
And if you haven't, if every day seems silent, remember this:  if death truly were the end, who or what told me to turn around and go back home?

*Photo of my dad, Ralph Van Rheenen, taken for his graduation from Western Theological Seminary, 1951.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Voting . . . Dutch Style

Keith and I did our civic duty today. Because we have been legal residents of the town of Westervoort for at least five years, we are eligible to vote in local elections, such as for members of the city council. A couple of weeks ago, the city mailed us each our stempas or voting pass. (Interestingly, stem also means "voice.")

The town thoughtfully included a list of candidates. Americans might look at this and think, "Wow! What a lot of candidates for city council! This must be a big town!!" Westervoort has a population of around 15,000. Seventeen people sit on the town council. 
The six columns are the six political parties involved in this election. The lists under the party names are the candidates each party is offering. We could choose one candidate (marked our choice with a red pencil, then folded our ballot up and dropped it into something that looked like a padlocked trash can with a big slit on top). 
Now here comes the difference between a parliamentarian democracy and whatever it is we do at home. Those 17 seats on the city council will be divided proportionally among the 5 parties according to the proportion of votes each party receives.  Last time the party on the right (Groen Links) won one seat. Suppose they win 2 seats this time. The two top-ranking Groen Links candidates will become part of the new town council. 
What effect does this have? Candidates rarely campaign. Parties campaign, largely based on their platforms. Personalities, especially in a local election, play very little part in the proceedings.
Smaller parties have a voice in the government. In order to increase their voice, parties sometimes form coalitions so that they will have a majority in the government. This is necessary on the national level and can lead to some really strange bedfellows. In Westervoort, three parties formed a coalition on the last town council (6 seats, 4 seats, 2 seats). 
We'll see what happens this time.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Stacking Stones

Little piles of rocks—have you seen these around, maybe on a hike or on a trip? I’ve seen them in the States, in the mountains of Switzerland, and now in the desert in Egypt. (We needed some sunshine, and the price for the package get-away to Egypt was very right.) Who, I wondered, would stop to make a decorative stack of rocks in the middle of absolutely nowhere?

If God is for us
who can be against us.
Banner in Sinti Church
 The Israelites used to pile up big stacks of rocks after God had done something like part the Jordan River so they could cross on dry land.  when their children asked about that stack, they would remember to retell the story. Our Sinti Romany friends do something similar. They don’t pile up stones here and there—but they do regularly share their own sacred stories. Here is one of them.

A Sinti woman whom we'll call "Anna" already had a number of children. She and her husband were expecting yet another one. The doctors told her that this baby endangered her health; the birth would be problematic. She and her husband prayed. As they prayed, God revealed to her that the baby would not die but be born healthy. The baby would be a boy and grow up to be an evangelist.

Keith and I know that "baby." He did grow up and is a preacher who does freely share the Good News with other Sinti, both in the Netherlands and in neighboring countries.

What sacred stories do you have to share?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Be Warmed . . . Or At Least Filled . . . .

We visited Silvia (not her real name) on a chilly day just before the onset of winter. Her small, one-story home was wedged in between large mansions-in-progress. Romany who work abroad save their money for their children by building as much house as their money can buy. Silvia could not afford to go abroad in search of work. She and her family could not afford to move somewhere warmer for the winter. And they could not afford to buy wood to heat their home for the nine months that Moldovans need to heat their homes. 

So while we were visiting with a food packet*, another family member came back from picking up fallen limbs in the woods. The forest ranger allows poor people to pick up whatever has fallen. Perhaps the food and our prayers will also help keep this family warm in the months ahead.

Writing those words, though, immediately brings James 2:16 to mind. Do you know someone who can take those prayers one step further? 

*(Food packets funded by Texas Hunger Offering.)
** (Y)ou shouldn’t just say, “I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? James 2:16 CEV

Friday, January 26, 2018

In With A Bang!

I tend to think of Dutch people as relatively calm. Perhaps that's why they let off so much steam on New Year's Eve. Retailers are only allowed to sell 25 kilos per customer. That's over 50 pounds! What would you do with 50 pounds of fireworks? In a neighborhood of row houses like this one? A Dutch news source estimated that people had spent even more this year than last year on fireworks when retailers reported firework sales of €68 million ($84 million US). That's a hefty chunk of change! 

Sign says: "Temporarily out of service"
It is legal to set off fireworks from 6 PM on December 30 til 2 AM on January 1. But at least a day before that time all of the neighborhood mail drop-off boxes  have been temporarily "boarded up." No letters can go in the slot; no fireworks can, either. The mayor of our town was very pleased with the results. This year there was only €492 worth of firework damage ($611). The mailbox and the bus stops in our neighborhood came through unscathed. And on New Year's Eve our household enjoyed an excellent fireworks display that lasted for nearly an hour. Only cost to us:  an over-the-counter medicine to calm down the cats.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where the Workers are not Few

The man on the far right, like many others in the Republic of Moldova, is looking for work. He wants to support his new wife and help his extended family. The last paying job he had was at a KFC in Krakow, Poland. But you can't always trust the people who arrange jobs over the border for you. Sometimes the jobs don't last. Sometimes you don't get paid in a timely way. Sometimes you don't get paid at all.

There used to be work at home. These two women worked in a sewing factory. They would be glad to get work like that again. But after the fall of communism, jobs like that somehow disappeared.

This woman's son,* like many others in the Republic of Moldova, has often gone abroad to work: Spain, Russia, east Africa, southeast Asia. Unlike the first man, he was able to get a good education and can earn a good salary. (Growing up in the capital city with well-educated parents--rather than in a Romany village with village-educated parents--does tend to increase one's life chances.) He thinks almost any manufacturing concern has a chance at profit in Moldova since almost everything is currently imported. He is giving the business of increasing employment at home a good think. Let us know if you're interested and able to think with him. Maybe, just maybe, there will be work at home . . . sometime soon . . . .

*The lady in the suit jacket. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Translation For The Translator

Missions Bite 65: Translation for the translator 

"One Sunday in Moldova I saw a beautiful example of cultivating Beloved Community. 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 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."

- 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