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Who are the Roma people?

The Roma are a people group with no home country. They are scattered primarily throughout Europe, but also the world. Typically living in tight-knit exclusive communities, the Roma maintain a unique culture and close family ties.

To learn more about the Roma visit the Britannica Page or the Wikipedia Page.

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Saturday
Jan242015

NC Baptists English Bible Camps in Hungarian Public Schools

By: Meredith Brunson

Originally published on Baptists on Mission's website here

A classroom full of Hungarian middle schoolers leaned in to hear the story of Jesus’ birth as North Carolina volunteers explained it to them. For many of them, they were hearing the story for the very first time. They acted out the story with their classmates and memorized Bible verses in Hungarian and in English. All the while, the teachers in the back were meticulously taking notes; many of them were hearing the stories for the first time as well.

This scene took place in June when NC Baptist volunteers traveled to Hungary to launch one of the most exciting projects in Baptist history: An English Bible Camp held in public schools. Nowhere else in the world does an opportunity like this exist…and Baptists are making the most of it.

Reaching communities through public schools

At the heart of every community in Hungary is a public school. It is the central meeting place of people young and old. The most educated, respected members of society are employed there. The school holds each village together.

And now, thanks to a law passed by the Hungarian government in 2012, Baptists have an open door to share Christ in 49 communities through ministering to students and teachers in public schools.

The new law shifts the responsibility of each public school from the government to a non-profit organization. Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid), a partner of Baptists on Mission (NCBM), saw the opportunity and took on 49 of the poorest schools in Hungary (total of 17,000 children), known as “B49,” the “B” for Baptist. Many of the schools they operate have a high percentage of Roma children.

Sándor Szenczy, president of HBAid, is a firm believer that God can do the impossible.

“The students here do not know the Bible,” he said, “It is a great challenge and opportunity for us as Christians to reach them.”

HBAid helps the schools by providing food and materials for them, and also giving the children extra educational opportunities. Along with meeting the physical needs of the schools, HBAid, in partnership with Baptists on Mission, is providing each school with opportunities to learn about God as well.

Since HBAid’s involvement with the schools began in 2012, over 1000 people have made decisions to follow Christ.

Baptists on Mission join the effort

Teresa and Alicia Jones have been key figures in Baptists on Mission’s partnership with Hungary. Teresa serves as the Project Coordinator for the Roma Partnership, while her daughter, Alicia, is the On-site Coordinator and full-time missionary to the Roma people. Both Joneses were thrilled at the opportunities NC Baptists have to share Christ in communities through B49.

Alicia, whose passion for the Roma oozes out of her, said “I am excited to see how God will open doors into communities. This is a huge door to the villages right in front of us.”

Both Joneses knew that reaching children in a public school would look different than a typical VBS held in a church. So in order to meet the educational and spiritual needs of the children, they came up with the idea of holding English Bible camps in the schools throughout the summer.

Teresa, with the help of several team-members from Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, designed a five-day curriculum which takes students through five important truths of the Gospel, in conjunction with five American holidays. The curriculum is designed to be replicated by future NC teams in different schools throughout Hungary.

 

Bible theme

American Holiday

Day 1

Creation/God is Creator

Thanksgiving

Day 2

The Fall/God is Love

Valentine’s Day

Day 3

Jesus’ Birth/God is With Us

Christmas

Day 4

Jesus’ death and resurrection/God is Savior

Easter

Day 5

Repentance-Freedom in Christ/God is Life

4th of July

The week-long camp is an opportunity for students to learn about American culture, improve their English, and learn about God. The format is similar to a typical VBS with children rotating through different stations with their age group. (The stations are: English, American Culture, Music, Crafts, Games, and Bible story). The difference is that the setting is a classroom in a public school and the chaperones are teachers who also have little exposure to the Gospel.

Two NC teams traveled to Hungary in June and July to launch the first English Bible camps in two different schools. The first team was at a school in the most atheist region in Hungary. The region has 100,000 people, but few have ever stepped foot in the only evangelical church there. The NC team was the first evangelical presence the children in the school had ever been exposed to.

One hundred of the school’s brightest students were selected by the principal to participate in the camp. However, even the brightest students had little to no knowledge of basic stories from the Bible. Despite the lack of prior knowledge of the Bible, students and teachers were fully engaged throughout the week.

On the final day of camp, the children hosted a program for their parents in which they showed them the things they had learned throughout the week. Laughter echoed throughout the halls as children marched, proudly wearing the Uncle Sam hats they had made during craft time that day.
Each age group presented something they had learned. Some sang Christmas songs they had learned in English, others proudly recited the Bible verses they had memorized. At the end of the presentation, members of the NC team gave a Gospel presentation to the parents as well.

Cindy Simmons, a team-member from Fairview Baptist, said, “Relationships were formed. By the end of the week the children loved us, and we loved them. God did amazing things through this week!”

The second English Bible Camp was held in a village called Nagyhalász. While the first NC team planted many gospel seeds the week before, the second team watered gospel seeds that had recently been planted in the community through the work of HBAid.

According to Alicia, the 125 students in attendance were very ready to hear and believe. At the closing program in this village, Sándor Szenczy preached and gave an invitation.

“I watched in amazement as the principal and his wife, teachers of the school, workers from the cafeteria, and parents together with their children flooded to the front of the gymnasium in response,” she said, “More than 150 stood together, praying to receive Christ and afterwards began crying, dancing and celebrating their new found faith.”

With such a tremendous spiritual response from the schools, HBAid recognizes that follow-up will be essential in discipling new believers. Szenczy’s goal is to start “B49 school churches” in September. Church services will be held in the school’s gymnasium and students, teachers and their families will have a place to grow in their faith. Imagine the amazing things God can do by planting churches in public schools! Church planters are needed to help with this effort.

NC volunteers needed to continue effort in Roma communities

There are three steps in reaching Roma communities for Christ.
1. Get into the communities and ignite spiritual interest
2. Form deeper relationships in Roma and Hungarian communities
3. B49 church planting effort

NC teams can be involved in all three of these stages, but are especially key in the first step…getting into the communities. The English Bible Camps provide the perfect opportunity for establishing a presence and trust within the community. It creates an avenue for future relationships to be developed by local Christian workers and future mission teams.

Reflecting on the work God did this summer, Alicia said, “I think it’s amazing the new open doors we have this summer in these schools and I hope that this is not just a one summer thing.”

How to Get Involved with Roma Partnership

  • Pray for God’s work to be accomplished and for those on the field who are serving Him (specifically HBAid workers and Alicia Jones)
  • NC teams needed to lead English Bible Camps in multiple schools in summer 2015
  • Medical and VBS teams are still needed in parts of Romania and Hungary
  • HBAid needs teachers and church planters to work with them and be a Christian presence in the schools
  • Financial gifts can be given to: “Gypsy Kindergarten” at www.baptistsonmission.org
  • For more information contact Teresa Jones at tajones@ncbaptist.org
Wednesday
Jan072015

The Gift of a Bible

By: Alicia Jones

It was the Monday before Christmas break. The sixth grade Bible Club hour had arrived and there were 16 students there that day. We told the Christmas story and concluded with our prepared questions. After our last question, a hand went up. The young boy skeptically asked, “Is this story really true?” My ministry partner answered him, “I believe it is and that is part of why I am a Christian.” I marveled as a small rumble occurred in the room; about half the students responded under their breath or out-loud: “Yeah, me too!” “I believe it is!” etc.

A conversation broke out like never before with these kids. We explained that these stories we’ve been telling them in Bible Club are true and make up the message God wants to communicate to us. My ministry partner explained that being a Christian was about having a relationship with God. She said, “I talk to God every day; I pray. And get this…he talks back!” There was an eruption of questions from the students, “But how?” We explained that through His word God speaks to us today. Sometimes when we read we find the answer to a specific question we had, or sometimes a particular message or verse “coincidentally” reoccurs continually in our lives for a period of time as though God is almost yelling at us until we understand the message!

The students marveled that it could work this way. To me that afternoon, it was obvious these children are hungry for their own relationship with God so that they might experience this first-hand. And it was just at that moment I announced the Christmas gift we had brought to them, a Bible! The crowd erupted in cheers when I made the announcement. With pride and excitement each one held their new gift.

The following day I was in the hall when I saw a sixth grader who attends the Bible Club. I asked casually if she liked her Christmas gift from the previous day. She responded with a resounding yes and then turned her body just enough so I could see the Bible tucked under her arm. I was thrilled, but quickly became shocked as I saw how worn the edges were. I thought, “My goodness, if only all of us would use our Bibles to hear God speak as much as this young girl has in the last few hours.” These children were so proud of their new Bibles!

Wednesday
Jan072015

Every Passion for His Glory

By: Alicia Jones

I love to dance. I love to worship God through dance.  When I committed my life to full time ministry I honestly did not know what would become of my passion for dance. Throughout the last two years serving in Eastern Europe, I’ve looked for opportunities to dance with the children at summer camps, during afterschool programs and while visiting people in their homes. But I never had opportunity to dance as fully or as often as I truly desired, until this December.

In September, together with my ministry partner we started offering a Bible Club at the school. Each hour is for a certain grade and those who come, come voluntarily. We do lots of fun things together, but everything is based on the week’s Bible story. As I saw how much the students enjoyed when we danced, I decided maybe these kids could perform something for their peers. I figured the first chance would be around Christmas.

I chose a song for each grade and started choreographing the dances. The students who attend the Bible Club became increasingly excited from week to week as we prepared for the Christmas Program. Three dances were performed. The 6th graders performed a hip-hop dance to a VBS song entitled “God’s Great Love.” The 5th grade students sang and danced to the Hungarian version of “When You Believe” from The Prince of Egypt. The 3rd and 4th  grade students did a ribbon dance to the Hungarian version of “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” also from The Prince of the Egypt. All three groups did an outstanding job! Watch the video below of the performance. The dances begin at 23:30.

 

As December 19, the day of the Christmas Program approached, I watched as the children grew more and more excited. Each one was proud of what they could contribute to make the dance work and look beautiful; the children felt they were valuable, perhaps a first for some of these children. When the day finally arrived I marveled at the work that God had done in the lives of the 50 children who participated in the performance. To make the day complete, I even slipped on the old ballet slippers and put on my white angelic costume. When I stepped on stage to dance to “O Holy Night” sung in Hungarian by my ministry partner, the crowd of elementary school students gave a very audible gasp of surprise. My prayer is that my passion for dance would be used for His glory all throughout the coming year in a manner similar to that in December of this past year!

Tuesday
Nov042014

Watching God Save a Soul

Kató Fellegi serves as the HBAid coordinator for the partnership with Baptists on Mission. She is with the pastors each session of the Roma Bible Institutes and translates. Read below her testimony of how God moved that week in an unexpected way.

By: Kató Fellegi

Everyone went back to the accommodations already. I do not even remember why Ken and I stayed at the restaurant. We listened, and well fed we watched with pleasure as a few of the Roma brothers who stayed behind worshiped, gathering around the keyboard. I loved this part of the evening, when the praises ring out in the restaurant. The owner allowed us to sing and we did not bother any of the guests. I was sitting there, listening to the songs when I noticed an older rock singer passing by the restaurant for the third time. He looked in, stopped for a while but then he moved on. After a while he came in and sat down at a nearby table. I saw him from the side only. He wore a black leather jacket, had long black hair and earrings. He ordered a drink. I was wondering when he would start a quarrel with our Romas saying that they should stop singing because their songs were too godly. That night it was only him and us in the restaurant. No other guests. I was waiting for him to say something because I already had my answers to disarm him. But he did not say a word. He was listening and drinking quietly, while the worship songs resounded in the background:  His precious blood flowed for me, I am thankful for the cross, our God is greater, our God is stronger….

Suddenly I noticed that our rock singer wiped away a tear. I looked at him doubtfully but he repeated his movement. Ken looked at me questioning if I had seen what happened. I said: I saw it too, but I did not even think about going over there and sharing the gospel with him because I do not know how to evangelize. I am not good at it at all. Ken said he is really good at evangelizing but he does not speak Hungarian. He reminded me that it is not us who proselytize but the Holy Spirit; we only allow him a way to do so. And Ken was looking at me with that kind of look, which I am pretty sure he learned from Jesus, because it made me feel like going over to talk to the guy. We sat next to Tibor; that was his name. He said that he had a day off and while passing by the restaurant he noticed the worshipping. He came back twice to be sure that the songs were about Jesus. He felt touched by the songs; he wanted to listen to them so he sat down even though he had another plan for the evening. He had a very confusing day but listening to these songs had made him calm. It was such a good feeling for him to sit there. Something deep inside him was moved by these songs. From that point it was Ken’s turn, and he began very direct. “Tibor, if you were to die today what would you tell God to let you go into heaven?” “Maybe, because I am good, I did some good things and sometimes I loved people who were not worthy of it.” Ken responded: “This is all good. But did you know that we cannot go to heaven by our good actions? The only way we can get there is through believing that Jesus Christ is the son of God who saved us on the cross. We receive him as our personal redeemer.” “I think I received him already.” “You think? So you are not sure? If Jesus is in your heart, you know it for sure. Is there anything tonight that would hold you back from receiving him as your redeemer?” “No but before that, I need to go to the bathroom.” And he left. I told Ken that he will escape through the bathroom window, and will not come back. But he did. “I washed my hands,” he said to show us that he was prepared. We prayed. He repeated the prayer quietly and spiritually. We humbly asked Jesus to forgive his sins and move into his heart, and be the Lord of his life. Huge tear drops rolled down on his face when he looked up at the end. He said Amen at least four times. Amen, amen dear Tibor, our brother in Christ.

Balatonföldvár, Bible Institute, some worshipping Roma brothers, an American pastor and a lonely soul, hungry for God’s word; it was a major crossroads. And that is what I like most in my mission work, that God is using me on fields where I would never have wandered without him. I can teach although I am not a teacher, I can preach although I am not a pastor, I can evangelize although I cannot even find the right words to explain.

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.


Monday
Oct132014

Reflections from Summer 2014, Part 2

By Mike Moose, member of a medical team

Itinerant--adjective; working in one place for a comparatively short time and then moving on to work in another place; characterized by alternating periods of working and wandering. Recently I was talking to someone about our recent medical mission trip to the Roma camps in Ukraine. The person, knowing that I have no medical background, asked me, "So what did you do?"  It's a great question, one that I ask myself each year.  What am I doing over there?  Why am I going? Maybe "itinerant" described me.  I hauled crates of medicine and supplies, labeled and packaged meds in the pharmacy, played with some kids, did a little crowd control, hugged and encouraged the other tireless team members, led worship in a Roma church, and preached two sermons.  Working and wandering; wandering and working. For what purpose?  I heard a Roma congregation sing along with me songs I wrote for them in Hungarian.  I got a hug from a precious little girl.  I saw a little boy clutching a bottle of medicine I had filled and labeled earlier.  I saw an artist (one of our translators) bring one of my sermons to life by rendering a beautiful painting as I spoke.  I saw smiles.  I saw laughter.  I saw tears.  I saw love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. Perhaps we can never know fully for what purpose the threads of our lives guide us, but this is where the thread of my life goes--and I must follow it.