Roma Travel Journal --Day 9
We were treated to lunch today by Daniel Topalski, Superintendent of the Bulgaria UMC. (He's pictured below.) What a feast of information and conversation. Curious questions brought information about both the Roma and the Bulgarian UMC. Daniel tags “Roma” as a political name fought for by others of Roma ethnicity – not particularly those of Bulgaria. The gypsies here would call themselves Turkish.
Daniel came out the Pentecostal Church – as did our interpreter, Tsetso. It seems that the church was big – and could not meet all their needs. The pastor there suggested they look around for a church community that would better suit them. They did and both ended up in different decades in the United Methodist Church.
Many of the pastors of the Bulgarian UM churches are coming into the ministry from other professions. Daniel was a lawyer; Mehmed was a plumber; Tsetso was a computer technician. They are a young bunch, on fire for the church.
Yesterday and today we were with Pastor Mehmed who speaks Turkish. I never put two and two together yesterday, but he is Roma – or gypsy. It’s as if there’s a hierarchy of what a person would want to be known as. Bulgarian is at the top – then Turkish – then gypsy on the very bottom. Mehmed never identified himself as gypsy yesterday. He talked of coming to Christ 19 years ago; of building relationships with people. He brought a flash drive with him today and I’ve copied two documents that tell his spiritual journey.
No children at the church plant in the Varna gypsy ghetto this evening (5:30). Mehmed changed the meeting day to match our schedule – and the children didn’t come. May 1st is also a holiday. Those who did come to the church a little before 7:00 were adults and youth and a few children – nearly 50 people for a 2 hour church service. The singing was wonderful. Watching how lay people lead the service and accommodate those who may not be able to read is fascinating. Sometimes passages of scripture are ready verse by verse, the congregation repeating after the reader. It’s a great way for them to memorize scripture that they can’t read. There is much participation by everyone in the service. The leader will ask others to
volunteer to read or pray, or affirm the fact that someone is having a birthday and happens to be two weeks old as a Christian.
It’s been a full day with more information – and a continuing awareness of the complexity of trying to make generalizations about the Roma/gypsies. Tomorrow we visit another community and another pastor.
We have been blessed to meet beautiful children and adults who have found a place in our hearts.