Roma Mission Hosts National Gathering and Day of Prayer

2014. április 23., szerda

Focusing on “Reconciliation – Wholeness – and Hope,” several hundred people gathered from across Hungary and from Subcarpathia for a national Roma mission Day of Prayer and sharing. Most of the attendees were Roma, with some non-Roma Hungarians and a few foreign volunteers present. The daylong event was held at the Káposztásmegyeri Reformed Church, Budapest. The Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) Roma Mission team hosted it.

The threefold theme shaped the flow of the day, with the band Amaro Del beginning the morning with inspiring songs, and with theological student Róbert Balogh preaching on the theme of reconciliation as the first message of the day. Róbert called those present to a fuller life of reconciliation with God, with one another, and even for inner reconciliation with one’s self, and those things within one’s self that need to be resolved.

The RCH’s coordinator for Roma Mission, Zoltán Sipos, guided the gathering through the schedule of the day, introducing the guests and congregations represented, and where they were from. Community or congregational testimonies followed with presentations by Roma from the villages of Büssü, Szatmárcseke, and Drégelypalánk. Stories were told of community projects, including seed planting for food, testimonies were shared through story and song, then a group representing the Reformed Roma Mission from Sárospatak and surrounding areas told their story of starting out 10 years ago as a home Bible study group, and now – with the help of Korean missionaries – 800 people gather in seven congregations within the Sárospatak area.

As is true in many gatherings like this, coffee break time and lunchtime were equally valuable times for old and new friends to speak with one another and to sometimes to share deep fellowship. It was a great opportunity for people from different locations to reconnect and share news from their lives, communities and ministries.

A formal time was given to observing the “Day of Prayer for European Roma”. Greetings were brought to the assembly by a variety of representatives, including the Deputy State Secretary for Social Inclusion, Péter Garai. Vilmos Fischl, Secretary General of the Ecumenical Council of Hungarian Churches brought greetings as well. On behalf of the RCH’s Mission Department, director Eszter Dani reflected on Acts 1:8 and other passages to emphasize that the nature of mission is rooted in the nature and mission of God in Christ. Representing the Catholic Church in Hungary, national pastoral officer with Roma, Géza Dúl, spoke with gratitude for the obvious movement of the Holy Spirit in the gathering for the day, and of the need for each person to see one another through the eyes of God. Péter Bakay, national pastoral officer with Roma from the Lutheran Church in Hungary, observed that it is Roma bringing everyone together from different church traditions, and this, too, is a gift to receive gratefully. He described the unity of the day as a foretaste of the unity that will be experienced more fully in the Kingdom of Heaven. Mr. Bakay added that Hungary needs to recognize Roma as a gift, and it would be even better if Hungarians could be seen as gifts to Roma. Finally Anikó Uhrin, director of István Wáli Reformed Roma Collegium in Debrecen, reflected on the threefold theme of the day – especially on Reconciliation – and the fact that everyone has a part to play as agents of reconciliation.

The second of the three themes of the day – Wholeness, or Wellness – was addressed in a message presented by Lajos Gulácsy, retired bishop of the Reformed Church in Sub-Carpathia. Bishop Gulácsy emphasized the importance of health and wellbeing as essential to being whole people. “We do not have peace with we don’t have health within us,” the bishop said, and he preached that this is not just a Roma concern, or a Hungarian concern, but it is a human concern and need. Therefore, health workers are essential and the church needs to continue and develop its ministries of health care and wellness. In reflecting on personal priorities, Bishop Gulácsy concluded with this challenge: “What good is it to gain the whole world but to lose our soul? We cannot gain the whole world, but we can lose our soul!” Therefore, we must take care.

The Day of Prayer for European Roma continued with a group litany of scripture, photographs and prayer. Interspersed with specific, passionate petitions for needs, issues, concerns and hopes faced especially by Roma in Europe, the common refrain was echoed, “Reconciling God…healing God…God of hope…listen to our prayers.”

The formal portion of the Day of Prayer observance concluded with blessings given by six pastors who were present. The afternoon continued, however, with much more singing led by Amaro Del, and personal testimonies offered from people of the Sárospatak Reformed Roma mission, from the Carpathian Roma mission, and from the Lutheran Roma mission based in Görögszállás.

Reformed Mission Director Eszter Dani concluded the day preaching on the theme of Hope. Citing biblical passages as example, she underscored the essential nature of hope in the Christian life and in the motivation for mission as a sign of the presence of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

It is expected that this will be the first of what will become an annual national Roma Mission Gathering hosted by the RCH. In 2013 the church’s General Synod approved a national Roma mission strategy. In the action plan, the very first action listed under the first priority of the mission strategy is to “organize a national Roma mission conference.” The intention is to provide an opportunity to proclaim the life-shaping message of the Gospel to marginalized groups, including the large Roma community.”

In planning the conference, Roma Mission Director Zoltán Sipos said, “I hope this day will provide a place where many people from many places involved in Roma mission may gather in peace, share in fellowship, share their experiences, and learn from each other so that they could return to their home communities with hope and encouragement.” Judging from the response of participants, this hope was fulfilled.

 

Richard Otterness

 

Richard and Carolyn Otterness – Reformed Church in America

 

In partnership with the Hungarian Reformed Church, RCA mission personnel Richard and Carolyn Otterness mentor and serve as consultants to volunteer workers of several nationalities who minister with Roma in Hungary and in Hungarian-speaking areas of neighbouring countries. They support and collaborate with other ecumenical Christians to help Roma develop their own congregations and build bridges to existing congregations, access health care and education, and find employment or start small businesses.

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We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.