Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Woman in the Field

Subject to the familiar Roma poverty and lack of education,  she was a small woman in a small village, another story amidst countless similar ones that are unknown and untold.  She was married at age 16 and had her first of seven children at 17.  She separated from her first alcoholic husband to marry another who was even worse.  The only ramshackle house she could afford was far away from the village, surrounded by endless, flat fields.  Brackish, oily water dripped from a single spigot, and she gratefully accepted the bottles of clean water we brought for her and her five young girls still living with her.

But ten years ago, she had a dream of a man talking about Jesus at the local graveyard.  In her dream, she understood the message clearly, but did not want to accept it.  In the next few months, she had many terrible dreams of a sinister man and a woman in dark clothes that kept trying to lead her places she did not want to go.  At one point, she was so terrified that she screamed in her dream, “God help me!” before waking up.

One day, she heard that a pastor from a nearby city was coming, and she went to the graveyard to see him preach.  It was the same man from her dream.  However, something inside of her still resisted the message and her bad dreams continued.  Soon after, her father and her son decided to follow Jesus.  With this encouragement,  she finally decided to do the same when a visiting Roma pastor spoke with her.   The Roma pastor, a gifted musician, was so delighted that he picked up his guitar and began to sing a worship song he had written.

At this point in the story, my translator looked at me.  “She said that she doesn’t have the words to describe what happened inside of her when the Roma pastor began singing, but it was a very strange and wonderful feeling.”

As I listened to this woman, I was surprised at the sudden tears that came into my eyes.  How is it that God would see this one small woman and actively pursue her through means that she could understand?  I intellectually believed that God does not show partiality according to power or beauty, talent or education, but sitting in that dilapidated house in the middle of the field, seeing the woman’s worn, sweet face as she shyly told her story, a reverential awe overcame me. Who is this God?

Although these stories are not the air-brushed, glossy tales of people living happily ever after, they speak of something larger happening—something that is happening with Roma all over the Balkans. The stories I collected here have begun to confirm the rumors I am hearing—the miracles, the dreams and visions, the many Roma who have decided to follow a powerful, compassionate God who cares about their needs.

Go to Prayer Points to find out how to pray for the Roma in this village.

The Absurdity of Unity and the Prophetic Life

The priest began chuckling when I asked him if he had any hope regarding the future relationship between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

“They say that unity will come on the judgement day…but late at night.  So yes…I have hope.”

The division between the two churches is complex, reflecting issues from local history, ethnicity, and culture as well as the theological issues stemming from the historical separation between the Eastern and Western church in 1054 AD. To be Croatian is synonymous with being Catholic, and to be Serbian is to be Serbian Orthodox.

But there are always exceptions.  This particular Catholic priest, A., was not only a former atheistic Communist in the Yugoslav army, but also Serbian by ethnicity.  Traversing so many boundaries seemed pretty revolutionary to me, but this devout man shrugged it off with insouciance.  “It was God’s will!”  he laughed when I asked him why he thought God called him into the Catholic Church instead of the Serbian Orthodox.

“You have no idea?”

“Of course I don’t! Everything around me was Orthodox, but circumstances happened so that I directed myself to the Catholic church…so what to say?  God wanted me there so I am there!”

From my perspective as an outsider, individuals like A. who straddle seemingly fixed boundaries  stand as a prophetic witness regarding the future state of the church. Since Christ has torn down the hostile barriers between ethnic and religious groups, we can be now one in Him. This oneness that transcends boundaries is both a means of mission and image of the coming kingdom: “….I in them and you in me so that they may be completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me,” Jesus prays to his Father on the night before his death (John 17:23, emphasis mine). Unity testifies to the world that Jesus is sent from God and that God loves them?

Perhaps this somewhat strange concept rings of truth, and perhaps this is the way toward peace, but how can this be anything other than a hollow idea in a world that greedily salivates after power?

“Humans are sinners and the structure of power, even in the church, promotes that somebody wants more power than others, ” A. explains.  ” I have to say I am praying like everyone else…but looking at the condition of the human soul right now I’m not so much optimistic that it will happen very soon. Nobody wants to be one with the other…because this asks for conversion and conversion means to abandon yourself…your will.  Christ is one and we have divided him in many directions.”

A. has the demanding task of living hopefully in a challenging reality.  However, it is faithful people like A., fluidly moving through boundaries, who stand as a living prophecy of the possibilities found in God’s power and love. A former Communist Serbian who is now a Catholic priest?  Absurd! Yet perhaps it is in the absurdities where one can find God at work.