OM EurAsia Support Team (OM EAST) worker, Inger*, visits Roma Bible Union (RBU) partners working among Roma in Croatia. Inger reflects about Christ’s love reaching into a segregated village as a local RBU team shares the Gospel through children’s clubs. “It’s love that is impacting the community as the team visit each week.”
Removing our shoes at the entrance of an unfinished brick house, we stepped over small well-worn footwear to join around 20 Roma children squeezed into one family’s living room. Sitting on the floor I watched as Roma Bible Union (RBU) worker, Željka*, narrated the trial and crucifixion of Christ. With great animation, she communicated Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
It had only been a short drive from the North East Croatian town where our partners are based. The isolated settlement we visited is simply called ‘Roma village’ - home to around 2,000 Ludari speaking Roma.
Following Željka’s presentation, the group concentrated on activities in Bible story colouring books, which our OM EurAsia Support Team (OM EAST) media ministry helps produce for their monthly clubs. Little girls next to me neatly coloured in an image of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, the pictures with text aiming to help them remember and understand the message they had heard. Our host, and father of two participants, stayed for the afternoon programme, which he has accommodated for four years. I found it very special to see the Gospel being brought into and taught from within a local Ludari home, among an ethnic group who are discriminated against.
At the three clubs I joined, together with three OM EAST graphic designers during our weekend visit in May, over 60 Ludari children heard Christ’s offer of forgiveness and love.
Later that evening our partners brought preteenagers to their club, held in a Croatian church in town. RBU team leader, Andy*, told me when they first took youth on a trip, they discovered most had never been to the town just a 15-minute drive from their settlement.
As Andy concluded his talk, boys and girls listened closely as he challenged them, “do you want this forgiveness? Do you want to be in the kingdom of God?” A quiet but fervent ‘yes!’ punctuated each question as some individuals answered immediately. Andy explained to me that Roma children are easily led so they have to be careful not to push them. But this weekend, after speaking about the cross, he felt it important to ask questions which bring the message of God’s love closer to their hearts. It moved me to know God heard their whispered desire and can lead them to follow Him.
The next day we gathered under a porch outside another home for the final children’s club. Around 25 children sang ‘Lord we lift your name on high’, publicly proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection for anyone to hear, including two teenage boys playing football next door. Among a people group who believe they are cursed, in a culture steeped in superstition and witchcraft, I saw the significance of voicing Christ’s power to overcome sin and death, which brings freedom and life.
Throughout the weekend, I was struck by the RBU workers' love for the children and how the children responded to us because of how established the team is.
On our first afternoon we had not walked far from our van before I felt a small hand slip into mine. I looked down to find a smiling girl walking next to me. Before going on my first visit to a Roma village I had wondered how I would respond. But when I met the children and we laughed together, or when the girl took my hand, instead I wondered, “how can we not receive the little ones? How can we not show them Christ’s love?” I thought of Jesus who called the children to come to Him and who calls us to receive them too.
It’s love that is impacting the community as the team of four visits each week. Željka told me that working with the boys and girls over the past five years has led to positive relationships with parents because they see their heart for their children. An adult Bible study now meets regularly and, during the past two summers, individuals from another Roma village in the area asked RBU to run an event for their children.
Motivated by what God is able to do in a complex environment, and enriched by meeting the children, I returned to OM EAST based in Austria. That night I had a dream. I don’t normally dream about what I will write, but I dreamed I was writing to challenge people to love and cherish the Roma children, just like Christ loves and cherishes us.
There are many ways we can respond. Perhaps it’s a change of heart towards the Roma, praying for them, supporting ministries that reach out or using our gifts, all of which help to carry Christ’s love into Roma communities.
“Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all - he is the greatest.” Luke 9:48 (NIV)
Could you use your skills in graphic design or web development to help share the Gospel with the Ludari Roma and other people groups throughout Eurasia? See opportunities to serve: OM EurAsia Support Team.
* Full name not included for security reasons.