Revival Amongst the Romani of Serbia

Joy- Welcome to our podcast series Asked and Answered,” the podcast that answers your questions about missions today. With me in the studio are Ron and Charis Pearce. Welcome guys!

Ron- Hi!

Joy- So today the question is, what is happening in Serbia with the Romani people?

Ron- Well, the Romani people, or Gypsies as they call them sometimes, Joy what does that mean actually, the difference between those two words. 

Joy- So traditionally they have been called Gypsy and the churches that we work with refer to themselves like this as well, but Western mentality refers to them more as the Romani people, as a respectful term.

Ron- Okay, so folks remember that and I will try to too.

Joy- So we are talking about the Romani people who often refer to themselves as Gypsies.

Ron- Okay, so what we’ve got today basically is a semi-revival occurring in that part of the country. Now there are all sorts of other people groups and people living in Serbia, but for our discussion it’s just that cluster of people that live there who are Romani and they’ve got about, in our little cluster of that, about 12 to 14 churches. They have started those, they have expanded, they are growing in numbers and we have come alongside as a ministry to help them simply because we saw the potential, they reached out to us with a need. They needed some help with evangelism outreach. They are very poor and they don’t have much.

Joy- Well historically, Romani people have been downtrodden, looked down upon, especially in Serbia and other parts of Europe.

They have started those, they have expanded, they are growing in numbers and we have come alongside as a ministry to help them simply because we saw the potential, they reached out to us with a need.

Ron- Yes, they have roamed shall we say, throughout Europe and various other parts of the Balkan areas and they have not had the best reputation over time. But, at the same time, when the Lord moves in, all of a sudden their lifestyle is totally changed. This is what we started to see in our visits to them and our communication with them, I was very, very impressed. We are working on Bibles right now, New Testaments, thousands and thousands of them to take in so that they can strengthen their people. One major church there that we are working through, they’ve got in that, in Leskovac, it’s got somewhere around 600 or 700 regular attenders and 200 to 300 kids that come to Sunday School etcetera like that, and it’s growing and growing. And growing in this way; people are being baptized. Joy, I keep getting these pictures, early in the morning sometimes four in the morning, that they are sending over of these baptisms. Charis, you are better at describing what the pool is that they are using in the church.

Charis- So, in the church they are using this small children’s inflatable wading pool that toddlers would play in and they get in this little pool, it’s filled with water and I’m sure the water overflows and they are barely able to fit in this.

Joy- How do they dunk under the water?

Ron- They sit down to lay down and then they go down and it’s just a matter of getting something to pry them up actually, it must be difficult.

Charis- We also got pictures of outside in a village and it was an even smaller container, I don’t even know how that person… he was scrunched in that container, it was like a large pot or I don’t even know what it was, it was a metal basin?

Ron- It was probably about three feet long or two and a half feet long by about two feet wide and it had metal walls on it that were maybe like six inches. And it was like a great big cooking sheet, and they sit and they scrunch up, and they had up-close pictures of this. They’re going to be put down into a little bit of water and poured water over I think and they drowned them in that way. But they are as happy as can be.

Joy- Are they young or older people, can I ask?

Ron- All sizes, shapes, ages, everything, it’s all over. In fact, just a few minutes before I came in here I received a message from the pastor and we had just bought them some young people’s study discipleship books, one of them was on baptism. And they had nothing, they couldn’t afford it under the situation so we bought them for them and they brought them in and they showed us the pictures and the big piles of them there. The kids loved them, the young people loved them because they have nothing. And so here they are getting this baptism book and he says, Yes, I’ll send you pictures but, 30 young people are getting baptized this Sunday.” 30 more, you just had 40 done and you had this group. One couple were getting married, this young couple, and they insisted on being water baptized to declare their faith the week before they were married. And so the one week was their baptism in the church and the next week was going to be their wedding in the church service as well. They do that, I’ve been at those over there. So I thought, that’s wonderful! They found out this couple wanted to be baptized and I think it was 18 others wanted to be baptized too, so when they made the announcement in church 18 others were saying we want to be baptized too.

Joy- Sounds like Ethiopia, it’s similar.

Ron- It does, it’s catching on. During Covid, we were helping with providing food because many of them were unemployed during the Covid situation. They work in market gardens, the fields, mechanics, various things, so when the lockdowns happened, they were unemployed so we helped a little bit with things, and firewood for widows, children’s clothes, coats, boots, and things like that. Just something to show that somebody loved them and the body of Christ loved them and took care of them. Well, unbelievers got these as well and that means that people were coming and said nobody cares for us. I don’t know if the government didn’t care or couldn’t or what, but they didn’t help them. So the reputation now, amongst the Romani people is that the only ones you can count on to help you are the Christians. And that is the reputation that is spreading far and wide. They are now going into the villages, two young church planters are going in there to the villages and they are having parties for the kids, the young people, the teenagers. These kids have no idea what a party is up to this time, maybe when they get older it’s around alcohol, but this is around the word of God, party games, fun, food, they are buying cakes for them.

Joy- So like a youth ministry.

Ron- It’s a youth ministry being taken to them in the villages and sports and all this sort of thing and the kids just absolutely love it. And it is the reputation that the ones that love us are the Christians. If you put that together, that reputation and then you add the word of God, then you add the work of the Holy Spirit, then you see the changed lives and then you see the commitments of people like this wanting to be water baptized it created an inertia, it creates a snowball. And that is why it’s working there right now. They are always expanding and that is what can happen when somebody, like an Empower, gets behind the national church and gives them the tools to do what they are called to do. We couldn’t do it in their situation, but they can. Oh, Joy, here’s another one. Their church building is a tent with four by eight sheets of plywood or particleboard or chipboard or something like that along the walls, all painted. It’s got some sort of wooden floor that rolls when you walk on it. I’m not even sure what you would call that.

Joy- So now I am picturing some kind of a circus tent.

Charis- Very similar.

Ron- Yes, exactly, and that is their building.

Joy- That’s the one with 800 people?

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