By Shane McNary
The Baptist Church in Nesvady had a dilemma. One of the church members, a cantankerous old man who, following his wife’s passing a couple of years ago has only become more a pain the pastor’s side, began inviting his Roma neighbors to church.
He would go and visit with them often, take them Bible-themed movies and copies of several translations of Scripture (Romanes, Hungarian, Slovak) in an attempt to help them study Scripture together. Well, all of his relationship-building paid off. The matriarch of the family accepted Christ, came to church, and wanted to be baptized.
On the day she was Baptized, twenty-something of her relatives attended the service, sending the church into full-blown panic mode! What if these people start attending church? What if they want to join too? How do we minister to them?
Because I have known the pastor since our first week in Slovakia and have come to know many of the members including the elders of the church, they decided to invite Dianne and me to come and lead them in a discussion about ministry with Roma. Their three main questions:
- Roma history and culture?
- What does the Bible say about ministry with minorities?
- What are some practical things we should do?
The first two topics are able to be done in a weekend conference setting. The last question, much to their disappointment, cannot be answered from a distance but must be discovered through genuine relationships rooted in their context. While we will continue to walk with them as they discover their practical ways of ministering in their community, the comment from one of their elders as he left church Sunday morning provides a bit of hope.
“You have provoked me today,” he said.
“Well, Marian, I think that is a good thing. How did I provoke you?” I asked.
“I have never considered Roma to be created in the image of God. I will have to keep thinking over what that means.” He said with a nod that the journey his church is undertaking is likely to be more provocative then they ever expected.
Shane McNary and his wife, Dianne, minister among the Roma community in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. To support their presence among the Roma people, consider a gift to the CBF Offering for Global Missions.