Roma Travel Journal - Day 12
Many Orthodox Christians consider United Methodism a sect or cult. Celebrating Easter at the wrong time of the year is one more proof of being wrong. So, some United Methodist Churches in Serbia celebrate Easter when their Orthodox brothers and sisters celebrate it. That would be today in the community of Jabuka. Liljana called on her daughter in law to help transport us to the beautiful little Jabuka UMC. We found the empty cross and a church filled with Roma people celebrating the resurrection. Helping
them was a brass band, an accordion/guitar/bongo drum combo, and youth and children’s choirs. Afterwards everyone gathered in the courtyard for tables laden with sweet and savory treats.
Pastor Lila invited us to her house for lunch. Hospitality abounds. Although her house was large, we couldn’t all fit around one table, so she put half of us at a table on the porch, half in her dining room. Kathy and I, with Liljana, joined Lila and her husband Nicolai in the house. Great Easter Sunday meal – potato salad, sausages and pork cutlets, a cabbage/beet/carrot salad and bread. For dessert, a donut-like cake soaked in honey. Although the author of Three Cups of Tea has been discredited, he made a very important point of listening and learning. Although it takes twice as long when there’s an interpreter, that does allow time to take notes. The Jabuka UMC is mostly Roma. Lila has been a pastor there for 20 years, ordained for 10. Youth meet Tuesday, instrumental practice on Wednesday, prayer meeting on Thursday, and choir practice on Saturday. Lila pastors a second church, so she keeps busy. During the winter when people are not working their gardens, small group house meetings have been successful.
The last question I asked brought forth quite a story. What’s the biggest challenge the church faces? Her answer: to catch the vision to reach more young people and to go out of the church, not just stay in the church. (The church was packed with children and youth. Apparently she’s aware of even more that can be reached.) She continued with a story of violence three years ago when a young white man was killed by a young Roma man. Mobs of people threw .rocks at Roma houses and the church breaking many windows and burning down one house. One family with three young children came to the parsonage and asked for shelter there because they were afraid. It was very tense for many days, with the police standing guard outside the parsonage and in the Roma neighborhood.
The fact that the pastor and United Methodist Church stood alongside the Roma made the church appealing. The Advance has made it possible to build a small youth club building alongside the church, and the congregation is strong and growing. It was a good place to celebrate Easter!
When I went into the other room to Skype my husband yesterday, I left my journal/notebook in the living room where our team was waiting for supper. Today I noticed handwriting in the notebook that resembled mine, but not quite. It said, “I can’t imagine life after this VIM team. They are my favorite – especially Amy. She’s ‘special.’ J”
We’re missing Amy – her plane should be taking off for Sarajevo right now. She provided the gift of laughter for our team, helping us to lighten up, to laugh at ourselves. She was willing to use her language skills – to try greeting and thanking in whatever language was around her. And she deeply loves people in this part of the world. The only pastor on our team, she provided a theological perspective, reminding us of our Wesleyan roots.
Amy brought puppets with her. One by one they have been finding homes with pastors and lay people in the different countries we’ve visited [see attached photo 8922]. Through Bela/Ishmael, the purple feathered bird with the big yellow smelly feet [see
attached photo 531], she has passed on the message that different is beautiful, that each person is a unique creation of a God who loves all God’s children. Amy brought an incredible eye for perfect pictures of children – and an I-pad to make those pictures happen. Everywhere we’d go it wasn’t long before she’d be surrounded by children. She’d take a picture and immediately turn the I-pad around so the child or adult could see. Her genius switch just doesn’t switch off.