A Sunday in Slovakia

A Sunday in Slovakia: Sunday 10th December was a date that many Romani Slovak Christians had been waiting a long time for – the launch of their full Bible! It was a weekend of snow and ice, with temperatures well into the minuses, but with over 400 people crammed into the Roma church in Sabinov that afternoon, it was anything but chilly! For the past 16 years a small team of TWFTW translators has been translating the Bible into the Eastern Slovak Romani language. In 2014 the New Testament was published, and here we were, 9 years later, witnessing the launch of the full Bible – with 10,000 copies delivered just a few days earlier. It was a case of ‘standing room only’ as families, pastors, the young and the old waited patiently to receive their own copies. This would be the first time they had owned a complete Bible in their heart language. The publishing of the New Testament 10 years ago saw the Roma church in Sabinov grow, and so we pray that this full Bible will have a similar effect, with lives being won and changed for Christ, and with Christians and pastors deepening their faith.  

Who are the Roma? Originally from India, the Romani people don’t have a specific ‘homeland’ to call their own, but are scattered in various countries around the world. It is estimated that there are 10 million Roma people living in Europe, with significant populations in the Balkans, Spain, France, Ukraine and some central European countries. In fact, the Roma are considered to be Europe’s oldest and largest minority people group, but down through the centuries they’ve been persecuted and even expelled from various countries, including England in the 16th century! During the 2nd World War Hitler even tried to destroy the Roma, with hundreds of thousands murdered in concentration camps. They’ve also been labelled as ‘gypsies’ and ‘travellers’ and therefore marginalised in society. As a result they’re often poor and impoverished, and it’s thought that 80% of the European Roma live below the poverty line. Due to their widespread distribution the Roma don’t have one specific language, but have many different languages and dialects, possibly as many as 40.

Miracles for Marek! On my arrival in Slovakia, I was picked up at the airport by one of the translators – a Roma Christian called Marek. He was keen to show me the village in which he lived, and in particular the densely populated Roma settlement in the centre of Jarovnice. It is here that nearly 7000 Roma live, making it the largest Roma community in Slovakia. As we drove slowly down the narrow ice-covered lanes, I encountered a level of poverty that I hadn’t experienced in Europe before. It was like driving through a slum in Africa, but with everything covered in snow and ice! Many of the ramshackle buildings and shacks lining the lane don’t have electricity, water or gas. And to make matters worse, there is a 97% unemployment rate, with most people entirely dependent on welfare.

On the edge of this impoverished community there is a Roma church that is growing rapidly, and providing food for over 200 people per day! Marek is the pastor who has chosen to minister in this community, building on his work with the translation team. When he first went there, people threw stones at him in the street because they thought he was from a cult! Nowadays he is accepted in the community, and that was evident with the amount of people waving to him as we made our way through the narrow streets. His dream of starting a church in the village came to fruition as the result of a godly dream! He had dreamt that he was standing in a particular restaurant in the village talking to his wife, and commenting that this would be an ideal venue for youth and women’s ministry in the village. Following the dream he went and asked the owner if he would sell this property so that they could start a church.

Against the odds he said yes, and two months later, it was theirs! God had amazingly provided all of the money to purchase it – a truly miraculous outcome for Marek and the believers in the village. And it was in this church, on a cold December evening, the night before the Bible launch, that we met to give thanks to God, asking him to work in power amongst the Roma people of Jarovnice. And we pray, along with the Psalmist, that God would “open the eyes of this community, that they may see wonderful things in His Word” (Psalm 119:18).   

“Out & About” Diary Dates:

14th Jan:       Preaching at Colerne Evangelical Church, Wiltshire (AM)

18th Jan:       Meeting in London with TWFTW USA Finance Director

21st Jan:       Preaching at Send Evangelical Church, Surrey (AM)

2-11 Feb:     Speaking on Oak Hall Ski trip to Champery, Switzerland.

Praise & Prayer Points:

  • Our very first UK supporters event on 30th Nov went ahead as planned!
  • The launch of the Eastern Slovak Romani Bibleon 10th Dec went very well. Praise the Lord for the timely delivery of 10,000 copies from the printer in time for the dedication service! We thank God for Pierre & Lisa Van Vuuren and the team of translators who have devoted their lives to this work for the past 16 years! Pray that the Roma of Slovakia would be touched and inspired by God’s Word, and in particular for Marek as he leads the church in Jarovnice. 
  • Pray for the three other Roma language teams working in Serbia, Croatia and Albania. As work on the New Testament progresses, these projects are still relatively new and require more funding this year. 
  • Praise God that this year has se­­en significant progress on the fundraising front for the UK office. We’ve been able to fill the treasurer role on the board, and have also secured a part-time accounting advisor to help steer us through this growth period.
  • Praise God that 4 more oral Bible translation projects have started in Africa, bringing the total number of oral projects to 29. 
  • Please pray for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan & Myanmar. Unrest due to civil war and military coups has often hindered our translators from doing their work. Pray for the safety of our BT teams in these three countries.