In March 2010, he had a dream. “Now is your time, ” a voice in the dream said. “It’s time for you to come to me.” When he awoke, he wasn’t sure who the voice was or what it meant. That following Sunday morning, he had another dream. “Why are you are still here? What are you waiting for?”
That afternoon, drunk as usual, he walked across the street in the small, rural Roma village to where his nephew was conducting a church service and joined the congregation for the first time.
As I listened to Uncle’s story, I began to get that certain thrill when I hear an account of how God reaches out to people. Of course Uncle’s story is unique, and yet it reveals a certain theme I hear over and over: God walking among the people, calling them to himself. Whether in rural Serbia among people who are poor and uneducated, or in Croatia’s capital city among young professionals, there are the threads of this overarching story. When I studied mission at Fuller, I learned that all mission is God’s mission— we participate in what he is already doing. The stories I hear put flesh on this concept: God shows no favoritism, and his presence can often be found peeking through the cracks of a dilapidated Roma house.
But at age 44, this was not Uncle’s first experience with an unusual presence. When he was 18 years old, he received his mandatory army summons—a summons that struck fear into his heart. Years before, he had an accident which injured his head, and consequently he had begun stammering. Even worse, he had kidney issues causing him to be consistently incontinent. How can I go into the army with these problems? he wondered.
One day, he discovered the Lord’s prayer on the back page of a calendar. Later, he heard some women talking about praying the Lord’s prayer for their children. If I pray this to God, would he heal me? Uncle wondered. So three nights in a row, he prayed the Lord’s prayer. On the third night, he had the sensation of his head being in someone’s lap and felt someone touch his forehead. After that, his stammering and incontinence faded away and he was able to fulfill his army summons.
After Uncle returned from the army, he sank into alcoholism, drifting through the next couple of decades in a hazy passage of time. In 2008, his nephew, a young Roma pastor, asked him to help build a church for a growing group of Roma believers in the village. As uncle was building the church, he began feel ashamed of showing up to the church with the smell of alcohol and cigars oozing from his body. He gradually began to drink less, and after his encounter with the voice in 2010, he stopped completely.
Now, Uncle works together with his nephew, serving God through cleaning and fixing the church, and even beginning to preach as he learns more about the Bible. “You could write a whole book about all the things in my life,” he tells me, beaming at me with his wide smile, sprinkled with only a few teeth.
I have no doubt of the truth of this claim. I remembered the last verse in the book of John: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if everyone one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” When Jesus walks among the people, the stories are too numerous to tell.