As many other 2020 plans, the Roma Mission Theologian Tield Trip had to move to the online world. Senior theologian-pastoral students at Károli Gáspár University were able to take part in an intimate and informative three day course where they gained good experience for their future service.
In past years the theology group and colleagues from the Roma Mission visited a huge amount of communities, but this year they could only rely on the connection provided by smart devices. It is becoming clear that due to COVID’s second wave, field trips will have to be cancelled and as precaution, neither the students, nor the staff will be able to meet. From Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon it was easy to transfer as much information as possible on the suitable interface, provided by Zoom as a quick start. All the students were afraid at first, that the course wouldn’t be effective because of all the missing face-to-face engagement and the small problems that come with online surfaces, but apart from a few small mistakes, their fears were unfounded.
The main discussion points were experiences regarding Roma people since some of the students did volunteer work among Roma and disadvantaged children in the Ark Camp. Some students reported confrontation with a community member, poverty as a state of being, or even behavioral deviances. The Wednesday event continued with Anita Tóth and Adrea Ignácz. As the congregational program coordinator of HEKS and a professional Romologist, the latter provided a lot of helpful information about Roma ethnic groups in line with arts, history and geography with a presentation, a short video and a quiz.
The day ended with a testimony when the theologians were able to listen to the speeches of Gyuláné Balogh from the Reformed Great Church in Debrecen. This same process took place in the next day when Krisztián Lakatos joined the course live and was telling the audience about his life and conversion. Then, head of the Mission Department, Rev. Eszter Dani spoke about her experiences in Transcarpathia during the first decade of her pastoral service. 'It wasn’t me, who received the service of Roma mission. It is the church. The church shouldn’t be disobedient in following Jesus Christ,' said the pastor to the theologians.
Participants of the online course were able to learn about the international and domestic history of the seminars, thanks to the reports of Eszter Dani and Krisztián Lakatos, as well as the articles of our website. It is noteworthy that several of the theologians have indicated that they would be happy to attend such an occasion in the future. The students also had to read the strategy of the Roma Mission to this day, the theological and missiological foundations. “The mission of the church is not its mission, but its identity. It is the task of the church to witness the kingdom of God,” said Eszter Dani, who was happy to answer questions from the students on the subject. The Thursday afternoon block began with the testimony of Anita Tóth. She told them about how she proudly experiences her dual Roma-hungarian identity, following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The students began Friday morning by discussing the movie Freedom Writers and talked about questions such as where is the line between work and personal life, how much sacrifice success is worth and how to avoid burnout. As the block - led by Andrea Ignácz continued - the participants clarified the concepts of exclusion, segregation, integration and inclusion together and in smaller groups. They summarized the advantages and disadvantages of the actions behind each term. This was followed by a presentation of HEKS: in addition to the details of the congregational and inclusive school program, she also explained how students can connect to the project during their pastoral service as an operator of a school, tanoda or baby-mom club or as an institution maintainer.
In the afternoon round of the course, theologians had the opportunity to evaluate the three days. Everyone reported that, despite initial fears, the theoretical education had achieved its goal and provided a good foundation for later service. Several indicated that they would like to take part in field visits and national Roma mission events on a voluntary basis at a later date, which they will certainly have the opportunity to do in the near future.