As you read this I am well on my way, along with twelve other members of the church, to Pecs, Hungary. This is the second mission trip to work with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionaries Glen and Clista Adkins at the Gandhi School where we will, in part, teach English to the Roma youth.
Roma is a term I was not at all familiar with ten or so years ago, but then I started reading about the Romani people in mission’s related writings. Loosely defined Romani people are an ethnic group whose origins can be traced back to South Asia, into India, and for a thousand years have lived dispersed throughout Europe, particularly Central and Eastern Europe. In Hungary, as in most places, they are called gypsies because at one time it was mistakenly assumed that the Romani came from Egypt. The term “gypsy” has a pejorative connotation and historically until present day they continue to be victims of violence and persecution. During World War II they were a target of genocide by the Nazis. In 2008 Italy has singled the Romani out for registration.
Imagine growing up and being told that because of your ethnicity, your culture or your looks you are of lesser value. Last year several of our church members, during free time, went out to eat in the city wearing t-shirts with the Gandhi School emblazoned upon it. They were ignored by the restaurant. There association with gypsies labeled them.
Our work will, in part, be to not only strengthen and encourage the work of the teachers by assisting in teaching English, but communicate that Romani do count, they are loved, there is a future and it can be good. It will also be a time for us to share with them the importance of making good choices in the midst of adversity. The most important choice, of course, is to know that God first chooses us, each of us, gypsies, Romas, Americans and Hungarians.
What a wonderfully liberating thought: God chooses us! In John 15:16 Jesus says to his followers: “I chose you.” When we recognize that since the very beginning of creation when the breath of God set the world spinning we are a decision of God. This sets us free from the choices others make that threaten to bind or limit us.
Of course we do not have to go half way around the world to minister to and love gypsies. There are gypsies among us. What choice will we make to set another free? Thank you for your prayers as we work, minister and love alongside our neighbors in Hungary.
Peace be with you,