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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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Friday
Nov152013

Sleeping at school

By: Alicia Jones

Even if it was just a towel on the floor of the kindergarten classroom at the local public school in my town, I always loved naptime. The kindergarten teacher would come around with her fairy-wand and tap each child on the head to “make us fall asleep.” It worked for me and I’m glad that naptime has been made possible for sixty Roma children.

The four teachers in the kindergarten at one of the largest Roma communities in Romania where we work are in search of a magic fairy-wand to help the sixty squiggling 3 to 6-year olds fall asleep each afternoon for their naptime. The children, with the support given by North Carolina Baptist churches have nylon beds, pillows, sheets, and uniquely designed fleece blankets under which to snuggle for their afternoon naps. Unfortunately the black-out curtains and the low hum of the kid’s movie playing on a donated television don’t keep the kids from giggling, chatting and crying during naptime. But on a normal weekday afternoon, the mood of rest and sleep resides in the large warm room in the basement of the church.

This is the eleventh year of operation for this particular kindergarten in Romania. For ten years the lead kindergarten teacher has faithfully taught the Roma children. This year two new teachers were added to help carry the burden of teaching since the existing program that went to noon was extended until 4:30 pm. The kindergarten has received support over the years from the local government: both the mayor and the local school and principal. Currently, they also receive aid from Hungarian Baptist Aid and North Carolina Baptist churches.  Together these entities have made the afternoon naptime and three meals a day available to 60 adorable children in one Roma community. Now if someone would just give each kindergarten a magical fairy-wand to make the children fall asleep!

Wednesday
Apr032013

Learning Together

By: Alicia Jones

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to stand by the door and welcome children as they came to the  Afterschool Program. This is a new program we recently started in one of the primary Roma communities where we minister. I paid particular attention to each child as he or she arrived; one girl was downcast, I learned she was sick; some boys were cutting up; others came in huffing and puffing from the long walk from the school to the church; and still others came in calmly and quietly, taking their seats.  By now all the children are familiar to me as this is the third week of the program.

Every Monday and Thursday Roma children from the local school come to the local Roma church to study Hungarian or mathematics for a few hours. Two local Hungarian girls help do the teaching and local Roma parents or volunteers offer support. The principal of the local school provided us the names of the thirty children with the greatest need. Most are in the 5th grade, but there are a few from 6th and 7th grade as well. When the children arrive they receive a light meal (many cannot afford a meal at school), they receive their workbook and together we study. At the conclusion of the two hours there are a few minutes for singing and sometimes even dancing together before we say goodbye until next time.

This Thursday I began to sense the children were feeling at home in this little afterschool community. On Monday we had provided the children with flashcards with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems and taught them how to use them properly. On Thursday, it was a bit miraculous for me. We just placed the cards on the desks before the students came, and the early arrivers immediately found a friend and practiced with the cards, it was a beautiful sight as I glanced around the room and marveled at the excitement for learning in these children. God has a good plan for each life.

 

Wednesday
Apr032013

Love As I have

By: Alicia Jones

This Easter many of the poorest of the poor in one Romanian town, where much of our ministry is focused, received an unexpected blessing. There is a Roma community in Northeastern Hungary that is a little better off than their Roma brothers and sisters in the Romanian town. While the two communities are separated by more than 150 kilometers, but in recent times their hearts are being knit together with the love Jesus taught us. Jesus said, “This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

On March 3rd the fifth annual Roma conference was held in the Romanian town because the Roma church there has a spacious building that could hold the 900 plus people who attended the conference. While the church members from the Northeastern Hungary Roma community were attending the conference in Romania they could not help but notice the poverty of their Roma brothers. They went home with conviction in their hearts that they should help their brothers in need. In preparation for Easter they gathered kilos of flour, sugar, oil, rice, pasta, and other staple foods, but not for themselves or their families, instead for the community in Romania.

On Thursday the congregation sent four of their members to Romania with a trailer full of the goods. The visitors and the local leadership worked to divide the food evenly into 100 food packages for the families of the church. That evening the visitors participated in the church service and shared with the entire local church that they had brought food for the community. After the service they were welcomed into the home of the locals and shared a meal together. Friendship and Christian brotherly love was cultivated. The visitors had a long trip home so they headed out after dinner. The local leadership—at 10 o’clock at night, went on a drive through the Roma camp delivering bags of blessings to each church family. These families were overjoyed because now they would have food with which to celebrate the most important Christian holiday.

 

Monday
Nov192012

A love that changes things

By: Alicia Jones

Two weeks ago we started a full day kindergarten 8 am until 4:30 pm; previously we held a half day 8 am until 12 noon. On the first full day we had the most children we’ve ever had—18! And the children have been very faithful to attend with the new schedule. The children were extremely excited about sleeping at the kindergarten and many have slept peacefully during their afternoon nap. But I will say, settling into the longer days has taken nearly two weeks, and I think the children and the workers are adjusting well.

The kindergarten room ready for an afternoon rest.

 

     On Saturday morning we did a little program for some visitors with the children singing and reciting poems they’ve learned. As Ingrid, one of the local helpers, and I sat with the children to enjoy the rest of the church program I watched these little kindergarteners as they glanced up to Ingrid and me every so often. One little girl was a bit frightened when the guests got up to leave and she quickly made her way to my lap. In those few moments following her action, I reflected on the familiarity we have with the children now and the love we have in our kindergarten family. This love is truly a gift from God.

Sunday morning, I read Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.” Little by little I am seeing the faithful love of God take root in the precious hearts of these kindergarteners as we head into a third week of long days with them. I am confident that God’s love will make a lasting difference in the lives of these children and in the lives of their families. God’s love changes things, it overcomes evil, it drives out fear, and it illuminates dark places. I’m praying God’s love will change things in this place, Transcarpathia, Ukraine. Will you join me in that prayer?

Wednesday
Oct172012

Mine! Build! Look!

By: Alicia Jones

A few weeks ago when I first took out blocks for the children a battle erupted in which each child quickly tried to hold as many blocks for him or herself as possible. They were sitting on the blocks and yelling at each other. One little boy literally laid on top of the blocks and was screaming “mine!” So I proceeded to pick him up and sit him on the floor. I took the blocks and deliberately built a small tower. Meanwhile I was saying “build, build” in Hungarian.

At first he continued his hoarding and gathering of blocks in his lap. But as I built the tower he began to watch. As I handed him some blocks and said “build,” he began to build a little something, but soon lost interest and went to play something else.

Since that experience the children have all learned to play more kindly. And last week there was a beautiful moment one morning when I looked around the room and all the children were playing quietly at various activities; coloring, playing house, and building with blocks. I noticed this same little boy, who had lain on the blocks a few weeks before, was sitting next to another boy with the blocks. He watched carefully as the second boy, who is an expert builder after just one week of working with the blocks, built a tall tower. He began to build a tower too. Then they built a tower together. When they were finished they ran to each teacher, saying, “Look, look!” With delight the whole class paused what we were doing and celebrated the building of beautiful towers and then we captured this picture. See more pictures of the first month of kindergarten here

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