Tom Becker serves with EFCA ReachGlobal on its Catalyst Team. After 16 years as a church planter/coach among the Roma in the Czech Republic/Eastern Europe, he is also the U.S. representative of Roma Networks—networking and partnering with like-minded people, churches and organizations to work among the Roma.
The Long Road to Bucharest
Adventure in the midst of a gypsy revival
It was foggy and dark as our van pulled into a Gypsy village high in the Transylvanian mountains of western Romania. Using a small flashlight our guide led us to the one house with electric lights. Tibi, the only employed man in the village, had been able to build a clay brick house that stood in stark contrast to the surrounding homes made of cardboard and corrugated metal.
Our eclectic, multi-generational group of Chinese, Romanian, and American missionaries (including evangelical mission-mobilizer Dr. Thomas Wang) had just attended an International Roma Mission Consultation. Now we were learning, experientially, about the present revival among the Gypsies in Romania. Over a grueling 4 day, 1200 mile, 12 village/city tour from Budapest, Hungary to Bucharest, Romania we met the “International King of the Gypsies” Dorin Cioaba and his wife, rode in horse-drawn carriages as a primary source of transportation, and visited a church that held more than 700 people but wasn’t large enough for the additional 1,100 others who wanted to attend or the people in the next village to whom they ministered.
As we met with Tibi, pastor Cornel and members of the community in the church “building,” a shipping container with one door, one window, and no independent electric supply, they shared what we came to recognize as a common pattern in Roma communities.
Seeing the Pattern
The Roma are coming to Christ by the hundreds. At 7 of the churches we visited, there have been between 60 and 250 baptisms in a month.
There is community transformation happening in many Roma villages. In one village of 2500, all of the bars have shut down because 70% of the population are attending church and have stopped drinking.
As parents are developing an increased desire to read the Bible and seeing the importance of education, literacy rates are rising. However, mothers shared with us that often their children are socially excluded and unable to attend schools. The number one request of all the pastors we met was always a two-part answer–help us disciple believers and help us educate our children.
Bringing It All Together
With full minds and hearts as a result of our experiences with the Roma, we arrived in Bucharest. The EFCA ReachGlobal Bucharest City Team had invited us to talk with them about our trip and to help them recruit missionaries to work with the Roma. One of our SERVEurope Catalyst Team’s purposes is to help our teams “navigate complexity.” Well, we had found a complex situation! After sharing our experiences, hearing about the Bucharest City Team’s vision and ministry, we put our heads together and came up with a ministry description for anyone who wants to join the team in reaching “the least of these.”
An Opportunity to Participate
Our colleague and co-organizer of the International Roma Consultation, Melody Wachsmuth, writes of God’s work among the Roma, “Aslan is on the move. And if Aslan is truly on the move, despite all the disappointments, challenges, and hair-tearing-out-moments, it is truly an exciting time to be playing an instrument in God’s orchestra in Eastern Europe.” We don’t want to miss what he is doing among the Gypsies in Romania! Whether you want to pray for the Roma, join the team as a church planter, a strategic thinker/networker, a mission mobilizer, or you just want to get out there and love our Roma friends, there is a place for you on the Bucharest City Team. Please contact the author to find out more about Roma ministry. And please pass this opportunity on to others who might be interested!