After living in another—or rather, multiple cultures— for a few years, I can tell when I’m being American. Americans (or rather I should say a subsection of Americans) love the “underdog who struggles to the top” narrative, and the “radically generous giving that changes lives” narrative. In other words, there is a reason the reality show “Extreme Home Makeover” and others like it were so popular for a time.
But reality is much more complicated. You can give someone a gift like that, and within a year the family is burdened with extra taxes and has to leave the brand new sparkling home.
The history of Christian mission has had many of those moments—grand visions and aspirations that crashed against the tiny limits of human control.
Still, it is good to dream. But to dream with a sense of humor, knowing that change is agonizingly slow, humans are inevitably flawed, and well, many strange things happen in life.
This week, the 2nd European Roma Conference is taking place. I wrote about the first two years ago: Aslan is on the move. At this time two years ago, I was certain the conference was headed for failure—the amount of challenges, speaker cancellations, and financial problems were mind blowing. And yet I was completely wrong. Out of that conference sprang the grassroots movement Roma Networks, which is attempting to network, research, and encourage the vast and diverse movements of Roma Christians throughout Europe and beyond. Despite our mistakes and failures, God seems to be on the move.
This year, although I am not one of the main organizers, I do have a role and I felt disappointment and disheartened when some of my plans fell through. But I was reminded today to look for the small, barely noticeable movements…because this is often how real transformation takes place. Tiny step by tiny step.
This story has not been, and will never, be an Extreme Home Makeover. Progress has been slow with setbacks. Nobody knows how the conference will turn out. But I have to say my expectation is quite high because of what happened last time. Not because of all the efforts and planning—although those have been admirable and steadfast—but rather because we actually do not know what God will do in the next four days. But I believe he is initiating this movement toward unity and connection. And in my opinion, this nervous anticipation of not knowing but expecting is better than the Extreme Home Makeover narrative.
So…big expectation of God, loosely held vision and hopes, and a unflappable sense of humor—this is what it takes to be involved in such a movement.
Stay tuned as I chronicle the events over the next few days! Check out my EMQ article for more of how the first conference was begun by the Chinese church. Go to the Roma Networks website to learn more.