By Mary Vanrheenen
Does the word “witnessing” make you feel uncomfortable? Just hearing the word can trigger a lot of feelings in me ranging from guilt (I ought to be doing that!) to fear (ditto) to aversion (that aggressive ‘witnesser’ is not a good advertisement for Christianity!). In contrast, the Romany brothers and sisters my husband Keith Holmes and I work with are not shy about bearing witness to Jesus Christ. As soon as one of them finds new, eternal life through Jesus, they naturally go tell their friends and extended family. They share their own story of transformation. This is their strongest witness to Christ.
Sometimes that witness does not need many words. One German Romany we know was not a nice guy. The neighbors in his apartment building didn’t like him and wondered why his wife and children put up with him. But Jesus transformed this man so a couple of weeks after, one of the neighbors didn’t recognize him. He told his wife, “I don’t know what you did with that other guy, but keep this one. He’s really nice.”
Then there’s Vasilita, a Romany woman from Moldova that I’ve known for many years. At one point, she was a bitter, disillusioned woman who encouraged her husband to earn money in a questionable way so they could afford to build their own house. They were called to give an account of this by their brothers and sisters in the local church. Instead, Vasilita and her husband left. They built their house. Vasilitia remained sour and it was not a pleasure to visit her. But she and her husband made a 180 degree turn around, or 360 degrees. They confessed their mistakes and once again opened their lives to Jesus’ redeeming power.
Vasilita spontaneously organized a children’s choir in the local church and offered to restart the children’s program. She became involved in a weekly online Bible study with other Romany women from her language group. This year, she began to work together with others to form an online Bible study specifically to reach out to women who have not experienced the power of Jesus’ resurrection. Two of those 20 women have come to faith.
Recently Keith shared his own story with a group of Romany brothers and sisters here in the Netherlands. He told them about his grandfather, Papaw, a farmer in Northeast Louisiana who never saw the need for running water in his house since the little house out back worked just fine. He did see a need for a church building in the neighborhood. Even when Louisiana rains turned the unpaved roads into mud, Papaw and his family made the trek into Epps to church. Many of their neighbors never did. So, he and his two sons put up a church building across the road from the family farm.
Bible studies, worship services and week-long revivals took place in that building. But Keith saw Jesus in his grandfather’s life. Every time his family visited back in Epps, Keith tried to spend time with Papaw. He was in his early teens when, after an afternoon with Papaw, he crossed the street to see the church he had built. The building was empty. Keith knelt down by the altar and opened his heart to Jesus.
This is the story Keith told to our Romany friends. They listened attentively to every word. How has Jesus transformed you? And who do you know who is dying to hear your story? How can we be witnessing?
God bless you 🙏