“It’s the first time I’ve been in a place with so many different cultures and countries,” a Roma man from a small village in Romania said to me. “To see and hear what is happening…and we are all serving the Roma! It gets me excited to do more…to keep going!”
My favorite part of this conference thus far is to watch the connections happening before my eyes. Talking to some people from Poland, a man from Belarus appeared with a woman who could speak Russian and English, in hopes to talk to us.
“Where are you from and what are you doing?” he asked in Russian. They fumbled around with languages for a couple of minutes, trying to communicate. Finally, the man from Belarus says in Romani, “Do you speak Romani?”
“Of course!” the man from Poland answered. And they were off—connecting—finding out about each other, their ministries, and what things were like in the other’s area.
I realized an important point today listening in our regional meetings. Connecting is necessary for building trust—and you can’t really partner together without having trust. In fact, many alleged partnerships are, quite frankly, illusions, because for one reason or another, people feel unable to be honest with each other. Hearing people from my region name the problems and issues that keep us from trusting each other and working with each other was a powerful step on this journey.
It is also important to listen carefully to what constant rejection does to someone’s spirit. I’ve listened to such stories before, but it never fails to wound me that Roma have felt it necessary to deny being Roma for fear of being rejected. “At what point did you decide or feel healed enough to embrace your identity?” I ask.
That first night, I felt joy and wonder as representatives from 28 different countries stood up and waved to cheers of welcome. Our first word of exhortation that night was about the blessing of unity—complemented the next morning by a reminder that growth in the Christian life is a movement of downward mobility. Unity is impossible with everyone stretching for the first position.
So even through the first day jitters of complicated logistics being worked out, translation glitches, and people missing buses from hostels, I remind myself to trust the process. The process of the Holy Spirit breaking down barriers, revealing truth, building up love and service—all this is also happening at the conference. And the journey continues…