Roma Travel Journal - Day 4
26 April 26, 2013
Different is Beautiful! Years ago I loved that Avery and Marsh song and regularly taught it to my children’s choirs. It seems to be one of our emerging themes. Today we visited Kralovsky Chlmec, a gypsy village in eastern Slovakia, with a gadje (non Roma) female pastor married to a Roma man. Each person we talk with involved in ministry with the Roma tells of a different situation. We yearn for a way to say, “Roma people are like this … or act like this … or believe this. We want to come back and teach these answers, but they are not materializing. Each community of Roma has its own personality.
During our de-briefing this evening, Kathy commented about reading many books before this trip, and nothing she has experienced has matched exactly what the books were saying. Biggest discovery: the Roma have welcomed us with open arms and extraordinary hospitality everywhere we’ve gone.
Amy was struck with how many people shared how difficult the past year was – both Roma and gadje, but our presence seemed to bring hope, and an affirmation that times would get better.
We spent our first hour not in a church building, but in a long multi-family (all related) home, sitting around a kitchen table surrounded by an extended Roma family – all devout United Methodists. Eldest was the great grandmother, a woman whose face was an incredible map of wrinkles and twinkles. Her daughter and son were there, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Some of them had worked all night at the local factory – long shifts that took quite a toll – but that didn’t stop them from greeting us with fried dough with a sweet glaze, cookies, strong coffee, pop – all wrapped up in introductions and “witness” and much laughter. My self-introduction included the fact that I was a mother of three and a grandmother of five. What an affirmation of smiles and cheers that brought – and a comment from the grandmother that she had seven grandchildren. If there’s one generalization we can make about Roma, it is that they have strong family ties. This house was built and extended with a few rooms for family, and extended a few more rooms for more family – with a large communal kitchen.
We adjourned from the long house after much picture taking and hugging to the church where very professional sounding musicians (no notes on the music, just words) played keyboard and sang beautiful praise songs. Half a dozen children took over from the adults – both the keyboard and the singing – to provide spirited praise music. One of the girls (probably 12 years old) had written one of the songs. It was Joan who commented on how important the music was to their praise of God. Whoever was singing up front was joined by others in the congregation singing and clapping (and children dancing) along.
Michael was impressed with Yarmilla a dedicated local pastor – a gadje who has become Roma. She fit into the community; there were no clear cut lines of separation except for her blond fairness and the darkness of her husband. They worked as one – she as a dedicated local pastor, he as a partner in her ministry with his music.
I also was moved by the partnership/marriage between Yamilla and her Roma husband – as much as with the partnership/marriage between Svetlana and her husband Atilla. What a difference it makes in ministry efforts with people who believe so strongly in family.