“We think that more and more healings will bring people to Christ, but Jesus prayed that we would be one as the means for people recognizing him as the Son of God.”
So began the opening devotional given by a Roma pastor at the Roma Networks country representative meeting in Belgrade, Serbia. Representatives came from 27 different countries to report on what they knew was happening among Roma churches, ministries, and communities in their countries.
Some were seasoned presenters; for others, it was their first time ever making such a presentation in front of a group of people.
Occasionally, a phrase that someone spoke grabbed me, and I madly jotted it down:
On the importance of the language we use as non-Roma serving Roma: “We don’t bend down to the Roma, and we don’t lift them up.”
On changing the majority culture perceptions of the Roma: “To see Roma communities in a different way by serving them.”
On reflecting on longevity in ministry: “The longer I am serving in the community, the less I have to say. You don’t “do” ministry. You live ministry. You eat, drink, live with the people.”
On preaching the gospel to the Roma: “We preach the place where the Roma people belong to. They have a country, they have a King.”
On holistic transformation in Roma communities: “You need to learn to read and write not just for the Bible, but to have a better life.”
On Roma women: “A lot of Roma women need their souls healed.”
We heard and saw extremes: In Finland, there are no “Roma churches” because the churches are all integrated. In places in Central Europe, Roma ministries have been established for decades and cover all aspects of holistic transformation. In Southeastern Europe, in many places things are just beginning and face issues like an entrenched economic crisis and migration to the West.
It was a good reminder that each context and Roma community needs to be understood and approached on its own terms. That the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know, nor do you have all the answers.
Most of all, it was a clear challenge and call from the opening Philippians 2 devotional: Could we, as Roma and non-Roma, from diverse contexts and situations, put aside our selfish ambitions and conceit? Could we be open to the Spirit’s work of fostering unity and humility, of serving each other and being “united in Spirit, intent on one purpose?”
I believe that this must be a daily practice of centering yourself in the Father’s love so you don’t feel you have to compete or prove yourself. It is a daily discipline of cultivating awareness to recognize when divisiveness lurks at the corner of your mind, waiting to sink its teeth into self-pity or feelings of inadequacy.
It is to immerse yourself in the image of Jesus washing his disciples feet.
For who of us is above our Master and Teacher?