While a group of OM EAST workers were driving back to their base in Austria, the song “Hosanna”** played in the car. The OM team had joined a partner organisation and local believers on a visit to an isolated village in Serbia. Quietly, the driver and passengers hummed or sang along in praise and thanks to God for all they had experienced.
A few days earlier, a large black dog had barked and strained against its chain, announcing the outreach team’s arrival in Bela Reka, an isolated village in eastern Serbia. The group of OM EAST workers, Roma Bible Union (RBU) partners and believers from the local town, Bor, walked along a grassy track. Passing domed haystacks, they reached an unfinnished blue brick house, home to a Bayash-speaking Roma family in the community.
The family welcomed their guests into their yard. Boys and girls gathered around Andrijana*, a young Roma RBU volunteer, who began to lead the children’s club. Andrijana and other RBU colleagues came from Croatia last September to train church members from Bor to run a monthly club.
Sitting on a blanket beneath a tree, Andrijana gave out booklets and badges. She placed a badge into a little girl’s palm, closing the child’s hands over the gift. The girl peeked between her cupped hands; a look of excitement spread across her face. She immediately attached the badge to her t-shirt and fingered it, beaming with joy.
Andrijana guided participants through activities in a booklet, which promoted literacy and taught a biblical truth. The children learned about prayer, focusing on the Lord’s Prayer. “It was amazing to see their concentration!” said graphic designer Simon*, who was encouraged to observe how OM EAST’s media materials are being used.
“Ten years ago it was westerners going into Roma settlements; now Roma believers are taking on leadership!” he enthused.
While the children’s programme came to a close, a few of the outreach team led worship songs. A follower of Christ in the village accompanied them on a drum, slung from his shoulder. “He played with his whole heart!” emphasised Simon, emotions stirred by the memory. “He made the drum himself–out of rubbish.”
“There in the yard, in front of piles of scrap metal and a house that was missing a windowpane, they worshipped God,” described OM EAST worker Inger*. “It was powerful!”
“God will drive out fear. God will push away the darkness. We will praise the Lord!” The lyrics sung during the time of worship proclaimed Jesus Christ’s authority—a key truth to bring to Bayash Roma communities who are oppressed by superstition, witchcraft and their conviction they are cursed. This song of faith drowns out the condemning verdict found in the Bayash ‘national anthem’: “We are cursed, we are cursed because one of our ancestors stole a nail from the cross of Jesus—no wonder we are cursed.”
“Let heaven be opened to Bela Reka,” another song declared.
“Normally the words are, ‘Let heaven be opened to the Roma,’” shared RBU worker Nina. “But this time they inserted the village name.” As individuals hear the gospel, hope for eternity and hope on earth becomes a possibility. For those who ask Jesus to forgive their sins and choose to follow Him, this hope becomes reality.
“It is happening!” Inger said. “Soon after we arrived, somebody told me that a few people have already been baptised.”
“It’s a shame they don’t have a church,” Bajram* expressed. He explained how it was too far and too expensive for the Bela Reka believers to drive 30 minutes to church in town each week. Similarly, the Bor congregation could not afford to offer transport.
Lack of fellowship means it is especially important that believers from town visit regularly. Receiving training to provide a monthly children’s programme is a significant development, since RBU finds it is a first step, which can lead to planting churches.
“I love theatre and writing music, but I love Roma more!” expressed RBU volunteer Vedrana*, an arts graduate from Croatia. “I just wish they would know God and be saved—this is my biggest prayer. God gives the opportunities; we have to decide how will we respond.”
“I was moved by the heart that Roma and local believers have to invest their gifts and lives into reaching the Roma,” Inger reflected. The song “Hosanna” summed it up for her: “The words were a reminder for me of what God is doing among the Roma, as well as inviting us to be part of what He will do.”
Praise God that Roma are equipping others to spread the gospel among Roma. Please pray that individuals in Roma settlements would grow in faith and gain the needed support community.
*Full name not included for security
**Subheadings credit: Song Lyrics: Hosanna, Brooke Fraser, 2006 Hillsong Music Publishing
Worshiping God in the village
OM EAST’s literature and media ministry produces high quality print and digital media in over 25 languages for people groups throughout Eurasia. OM EAST support their Roma Bible Union partners by producing booklets, badges, t-shirts, Bible study resources and Bible storybooks.
Author: Inger R., Photos: Julia Haupt, Simon S.