I’m sure many of you will relate when I say, I can’t believe it is already October! This last year has been flying by and it will be 2019 in no time. For us, this holds particular significance, because in April 2019, we will have been in Belgium for two years.
I never dreamed as a child that I would travel as much as I have in the last two years, or that I would get to see and be a part of such wonderful things. As I type these words, I sit on a small airplane taking me and two other colleagues back from Kosice, Slovakia to our home in Brussels, Belgium.
We were in Slovakia for two days – just enough time to meet with a wonderful group of Roma pastors and women in a small town called Sabinov, where we hope to begin a Women’s Empowerment group. If ever there were outcasts in Europe, it would be the Roma. They are a traveling people with a rich, beautiful culture, and a poor reputation. They are misunderstood and mistreated. But in Sabinov, we have seen the change that God brings to the world. Perhaps we have even seen a glimpse of what it means for God’s will to be “done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).
It began with one Roma man who left Slovakia to make a better future for himself. He moved to Sweden, where he found work, a wife, and eventually, Christ. Over time, he realized God was calling him back to his people in Slovakia. He is now the pastor of a large Roma church that has brought Christ and transformation to their community. As this community of Roma pursue God and become more and more Christlike, the Slovak or “white” people around them become more and more intrigued with the change. “What has this church done to transform these people from dirty drunks, to kind, respectable people?” they ask. “And how we can get them to do it everywhere else?”
Slovakia is a place where the “whites” and the Roma are segregated, the Roma live in crammed, dirty conditions, and their children struggle to make their way through life. But more than that, it is a place where the beauty of a Christ-filled life has the chance to shine brightly.
When Jesus walked the earth, he spent time with the spiritually and physically ill, for both were in need of his care, but it was through the physically sick, that his love and majesty were most powerfully demonstrated. Like in the story of the blind man who was healed for the Glory of God (John 9:3), perhaps the outcasts and the downtrodden of our time are those that God has chosen to use as the greatest catalyst for His kingdom.
I believe all of Europe, and the world, for that matter is in need of the hope of God – but perhaps God desires to gain the attention of Europe through the people who receive the least of ours.