Roma – Background
Although the exact dates are unknown, it is believed that the Roma people migrated to Europe from India at some point during the tenth century. The years that followed often saw them experiencing harsh persecution from various governments across the continent. It is a little known fact that as a people they lived as slaves in Romania until the middle of the nineteenth century. It is also a fact that large numbers of them – in excess of 300,000 – were executed during the holocaust.
Small communities of Roma people are found in many European cities. Traditionally, they have found employment as metalworkers, musicians and fortune tellers, and yet today often accept any form of work that becomes available. The conditions in which they often live in Eastern Europe can often only be described as extremely basic.
It is fascinating, therefore, to note that large numbers of Roma have become Christians in the last twenty years. There are many stories of lives (and sometimes whole villages) that have changed dramatically as a result of the gospel and the work of God and the Lord Jesus Christ in their hearts.
Roma and Buckingham
Here at Buckingham, due to the Lord granting us numerous contacts among the Romanian gypsy community in Bristol, we have been delighted to minister to these people and include their children as part of our youth programme.
What does this involve?
Every Sunday, we bring around 18 Roma children to our church in a minibus and a car.
After the service, the children stay for a lunch and further play activities before being returned home.
Each Thursday, we take a similar number of children to one of Bristol’s parks for what is normally an hour and a half of football and fun before a closing time of prayer and the journey home.
In keeping with the commands of the Bible, we also seek to provide practical help in whatever ways we can to the wider gypsy community. This will involve assistance in relation to accommodation, transport and hospital visits, and also the resolution of problems in relation to the children’s schooling.
Following a visit to Romania in October 2010, 25 Romanian bibles were purchased with funds from Kensington Baptist Church and distributed to families in the Bristol gypsy community.
Everyone involved in this ministry testifies not only the challenge it involves, but also the huge blessing of getting to know members of another community much better and teaching them about the gospel of the Lord Jesus.
Many of us have seen not only the problems faced by the gypsies in their everyday lives,but been delighted by their warmth and humour, their refusal to dwell on the discrimination of their past and to instead embrace whatever opportunities they are presented with .
We look to God for His ongoing help as we continue in this ministry.