There wasn’t enough coffee.
There were not enough breaks.
There were not enough coffee breaks. We were in Eastern Europe, for Pete’s sake.
The program was too packed and too dense. The hotel was over-charging for expenses. More speakers cancelled. Some registered people didn’t show up. Some unregistered people showed up.
It seemed as if this conference of a hundred and fifty people from 12 different countries, 6 languages, Roma and non-Roma alike—would truly be the catastrophic event I had so feared it would become.
And, as I finally realized with resigned defeat, my hands unclenching and my head bowed, I really had no control over the outcome. This could be my mission swan song, I thought.
But by day 3, things were beginning to happen. Connections were being made, ministry networks were being expanded, joint visions were being formulated. I could sense that something much bigger was going on than just a simple conference.
We were confronted with the reality of the dire situation of many Roma communities in Eastern Europe, heartbreaking stories of prejudice and discrimination that many of my Roma brothers and sisters have faced, the difficulties of church planting, discipleship, and social transformation.
But we also got a sense, almost an intangible sense, of what God is doing and preparing to do in Eastern Europe. And it is my conviction that it is not just what he is doing in Roma communities, but how he wants to use the Roma church for his mission in the whole of Europe.
God is awakening the Body of Christ to see each other past language, past nationality, past ethnicity, and past one’s own local ministry context. We each have an instrument to play, but we all belong to His orchestra. As He conducts the symphony, we can only play our part and listen to the music that He is writing for the whole Body of Christ.
As we were reminded by one of the Roma pastors from Romania who pointed us toward Gideon: God sees us differently and uses us in bigger ways than we could imagine, but it is not at all about us.
I was surprised when people adamantly called for another Consultation to happen in two years, and elected a committee of six from six different countries, three Roma and three non-Roma, to plan it.
It seems as if this was not just a conference, but the beginning of something—perhaps a grass-roots movement, although it is too early to say definitively. The winds have changed, perhaps a new season is here.
But when I collapsed in euphoria, thankfulness, and exhaustion back in Osijek, my co-workers and I found our own small Roma church exploding again. Fights, police, hard consequences—a healthy dose of reality to bring me back from the mountain peak. God showed us a view of where we are going, but we are still in the middle of the valley.
Still, I can sense something is happening. As I spoke to a friend in Bosnia working in a different context, she sees what is still unseen as well. Aslan is on the move, she told me.
And if Aslan is truly on the move, despite all the disappointments, challenges, and hair-tearing-out-moments, it is truly an exciting time to be playing an instrument in God’s orchestra in Eastern Europe.