“More and more we realize that it is the work of the Lord,” said a Chinese pastor from Budapest, Hungary.
I was at a Roma mission strategy seminar in Thessaloniki, Greece with a handful of Chinese Leaders from North America, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Europe. Some of them were new to the whole “Roma-Chinese” connection that began two and half years ago. But others were a year or two into the process of learning, listening, and discerning what part, if any, they could have in what God was doing among Roma communities in Europe and North America. Interspersed with our ‘classroom’ sessions, we visited several Roma communities in Greece.
A pastor from Malaysia shared that being exposed to Roma mission had led him to reflect on the difficult time some Chinese churches have had with cross-cultural mission, traditionally being more inward focused. “It occurred to me then that maybe the Chinese need the Roma, that they are perhaps a ‘vitamin pill’ for the Chinese church to begin looking outward,” he said. “This is starting to stir among the Chinese Churches I am sharing at.”
Of course, he is referring to the fact that missional engagement is a mutually transformative process for all involved—and this process is particularly magnified if it involves a cross-cultural element. To learn from how others experience God can only lead to your own small perception of God and his mission expanding. And if that is true, well, then, there is no alternative except to plunge right into relationships-in-context.
And this is what the group did —after myself and the Roma Networks committee left Thessaloniki, the Chinese leaders headed out across Albania and Macedonia. Their plan was to continue relationships already begun, make new ones, and continue to learn about the diversity of Roma communities.
This is not a speedy process—and even as there were some in the seminar who wanted to ‘make a plan,’ others cautioned deliberation over speed, organic growth over imposed plans, continuing to listen and learn in the context of growing relationships with Roma leaders.
The Chinese pastor from Budapest shared about how his heart had been gradually changing over this two year process. “At first I was convinced that we should not get involved,” he said. “Who are the Roma to us Chinese? But now our whole heart is being transformed because we realize they are people in need of salvation just like us.”