Saturday, June 22, 2024
Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeAll The NewsTearing Down the Walls of Prejudice

Tearing Down the Walls of Prejudice

Throughout the ages, many of the world’s people groups have been marginalized and oppressed to the point of being outcasts like the Samaritans of Jesus’ day, the nation of Israel and the Maasai of Kenya. But likely the most historically marginalized are the Roma.

BMA Global Coordinator of Assessment and Training Eliezer Brito-Semedo recently conducted discipleship and evangelism training with Romanian pastors who are certainly familiar with being outcasts in Europe… but the gospel changes everything.

He said, “Even though the Roma have a reputation in Europe, and even in Romania, during the training Roma leaders didn’t feel like outcasts. In Ephesians 4, Paul mentions unity and that there is only one body and one spirit, one people in the bond of peace, so the division between us is no longer there and can only be accomplished through the blood of Christ and being part of God’s family. In that room, they did not experience mistreatment. They are our brothers and sisters. For me it was seeing the gospel in action.”

The training was conducted in Oradea at the BMA’s newest church plant there with 30 or so Roma pastors and leaders. With a couple of exceptions, all the pastors and leaders invited to be part of Good Soil training were in attendance. A women’s conference also took place, and the ladies joined the training that serves as a tool for disciple-makers to use to assist people with little to no Bible knowledge.

Romanian ChangeMaker Bogdan Bilav was one of the men who had encouraged the Roma to attend Good Soil training. He has served the Roma since he was called to do so as a teenager. His wife, Daniela received the same calling and they minister together to this gregarious and colorful people group. The interaction between Bogdan and Roma pastors “is a beautiful thing” as Semedo says. “You can see their level of respect for Bogdan as he helped with the training, which is very interactive, and made sure they understood the discipleship steps. It’s clear that Bogdan is like family to them. He loves them and wants to invest in them, especially by providing the training.”

BMA Missionaries Bryan Risner and Cristian Martinez also attended, along with ChangeMaker and Coordinator Dani Bagosi. Many of the Roma brothers traveled from two hours away or more, and Christian traveled six hours from Brasov to attend the training.

The conference was also an opportunity for the Roma to share their Roma heritage, celebrate together and worship in song. And sing they did!

At one point, Roma pastors and leaders paused to remember those persecuted under the communist regime of the 1980s. There was not a dry eye when they were singing a song written by a pastor who had been in prison. Semedo recalled, “The song was saying it’s all worth it for Christ. The suffering is worth it. They appreciated their freedom to worship. They’re no longer under communism that killed and persecuted believers. So, they got their microphones and accordions, then we sang outside. It was spontaneous, beautiful, genuine, unexpected, unrehearsed… just a glimpse of Heaven.”

The pastors are influential in their communities and have been able to reach their people because somebody poured into them and helped model those skills. These qualified leaders have challenges, including a lack of education, but they don’t let that hold them back. They continue advancing and learning, applying the evangelistic training and asking questions about translating materials into the Roma language.

Semedo said, “Our openness to invest in them and help translate Good Soil materials says that their language and culture have value. It changes the interaction between ethnic groups, a very powerful thing to experience. You can see their love and passion for Christ as they sing, and if you’ve ever been to that part of the world, you know they love to sing in both Romanian and Romani-Kalderash, the Roma language.”

Since many conference attendees were also church members, pastors received good feedback from their congregations. They could see the value of Good Soil training and how it would work even among oral learners or those with limited education.

Semedo feels strongly that there’s nothing more demeaning than perpetuating the myth that God’s story is for Westerners. The training equipped them and showed them that a certain level of education is not required to be involved in God’s mission. When they understand that they are part of this story and are equipped to continue telling it to other people with relatable tools, they are confident in their ability to share the all-inclusive story of the gospel.

Holly Meriweather
Holly Meriweather
Holly Meriweather is the lead writer for the Baptist Missionary Association of America. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org or BMAMissions.org.
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