Roma Ministry

The Background of the Roma People

The Roma people, commonly known as Gypsies, are actually misnamed, as there is no place called “Gypsy” in the world. In the past, Europeans mistakenly believed that these foreigners originated from Egypt, hence the term “Gypsy”; however, for the Roma people, such misnomers carry discriminatory connotations. By 1971, they finally stood up and demanded that the international community refer to them as “Roma”; in their language, Roma means “human”!

The Roma people can be considered the largest minority in Europe. According to studies in European linguistics, the Roma people originated from the Punjab region of India, and there are approximately 15 million Roma people scattered across various countries worldwide. Today, they constitute the largest ethnic group in the world without a nation. There are 70 subgroups among the Roma people, with the majority originating from northern India. A joint survey conducted by the World Bank and the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency in 2012 found alarming conditions among the Roma people in Europe: only 15% had completed high school or vocational training, less than 30% were employed, and approximately 45% lacked indoor kitchen, bathroom, or shower facilities, as well as electricity.

In modern times, some Roma people are striving to maintain their traditional nomadic lifestyle. In many parts of Eastern Europe, Roma people settle in impoverished shantytown areas, often experiencing conflicts with other ethnic residents. Nowadays, many Roma people rely on social welfare for their livelihoods, which deepens discrimination against them and poses a social hazard. For instance, during social welfare reforms in Slovakia, riots broke out in Roma settlements.

The Roma people have long been subjected to hostility and suspicion, and the Church was not exempt from blame. Throughout history, whether it be the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, or more orthodox denominations, there has been little concern for the Roma people until the 19th century, when evidence began to show that the Church started to care about the souls of the Roma people. In 1952, a religious revival movement emerged in France, propagating Pentecostalism among European Roma people. Roma missionaries played an indispensable role in this revival movement, first in Western Europe and later in Eastern Europe during the 1970s. The Gypsy Gospel Church, established in France in the 1950s, baptized over 70,000 congregants in its initial 30 years.

Our Vision

In September 2015, Pastor Yan Mingcheng, Director of the Eastern Europe Missions Department of our center, participated in a missionary conference for Roma people held by the Great Commission Center in Hungary, gaining some degree of understanding of the Roma people. After the conference, he was deeply moved; having been involved in missions in the Chinese community in Europe for many years, he realized the importance of cross-cultural missions among the Roma people. Engaging in Roma ministry not only allows us to care for the faith of this ethnic group but also fulfills the biblical mandate: “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Pastor Yan shared this vision with the headquarters, the management, and the board of directors. Because Pastor Xing Kai from the Hungarian Chinese Church hoped to invite Global Life Enrichment Center (GLEC) to participate in the construction of new communities for Roma people and the training program for Roma theology students, assisting them in completing their theological education and shepherding Roma churches, the Roma Ministry Department was established in the spring of 2016, with Elder Lin Haoling in charge.

Our Roma Ministry Plan

The Roma Ministry Project at our center focuses on the following areas, initially based in the Serbia region and expanding to other areas:

  1. Roma Children’s Kindergarten and After-School Tutoring Classes:

Serving Roma children through kindergarten and after-school tutoring programs to provide them with a brighter future. Although most parents are not Christians, the church has built a close and trusting relationship with them. Parents, teachers, and pastors have become genuine friends. Teachers have noticed significant positive changes in the children, with some teachers personally visiting the church multiple times, expressing gratitude for the contributions to Roma children’s education.

  1. Care for Roma Pastors:

Due to the small number of church members, many Roma pastors need to work odd jobs to support their families. Since July 2020, our center has provided support to nine partnered pastor families, offering care in terms of medical assistance, essential living supplies, and children’s education funds. We aim to be a blessing to more faithful servant families if the supply allows. Currently, four pastor families are awaiting support, and the cost of supporting each pastor is $350 per month.

  1. Equipping Roma Youth Ministers and Church Leaders:

Providing scholarships for Roma theology students through the Serbian HUB Bible College, offering internship opportunities to help them discern their callings and visions. We anticipate partnering with them for long-term church planting, pastoral work, and mission in the future. Collaborating with YWAM Bulgaria on a three-year “Church Leader Deepening Training Program,” conducting 12 sessions of courses to enhance management, counseling skills, and servant leadership qualities among Roma ministers in the Balkan Peninsula.

  1. North Macedonia Roma Family Bread Basket Program:

The crisis within the Roma community in North Macedonia continues, exacerbated by the challenges of finding employment during the pandemic. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has further worsened the situation. We assist Roma families through the Bread Basket Project, where a monthly donation of 80 euros can feed a hungry family of five for 30 days. The goal is to support 15 Roma families each month.

  1. Agricultural Mission:

Assisting in the development of small-scale farms through local Chinese churches, establishing farm marketing mechanisms that are both self-sustainable and profitable. A demonstration farm has been created, and plans include building greenhouse structures. Four greenhouses were completed by the end of 2020, leading to a bountiful harvest in March 2021. Agricultural experts have been sent to guide and improve the agricultural skills of the Roma community. Nineteen church associations collaborated with our center in planning this project. They have begun conducting home church activities in the town of Ludas, where the farm is located, aiming to share the gospel and bring more people into God’s family in a town currently without any Christians.

  1. Cross-Cultural Short-Term Missions and Camps for Roma Youth and Children:

Character-building camps are held for Roma youth and children, with short-term teams and co-workers from the United States and Asia assisting in camp curriculum design, activity planning, worship leading, and joint evangelistic meetings and home visits with local churches. In response to requests from local Roma churches, in addition to children’s summer Bible camps and character-building camps, youth gospel cultural exchange camps and marriage camps have been added since 2019.

7.Networking, Youth Training, and Prayer Meetings among Transnational Churches:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all scheduled short-term missions and camps have been canceled. Therefore , maintaining the connection between partner churches in the United States and the Roma churches in Eastern Europe is of utmost importance. After consultation with various mission partner churches, a plan was formulated to periodically conduct network meetings, sharing and praying for each other. The Roma ministry initiated a discipleship training program, holding online sessions twice a week for equipping, life counseling, establishing mentor-disciple relationships, and sharing spiritual reflections every other week.

  1. Christmas Backpack Project:

During the process of preparing gift packages, we can enhance further collaboration and understanding with mission partners in the region. Through this project, we aim to enter Roma communities to share the gospel truth of Jesus’ birth with each household. Christmas evangelistic events will be organized in Roma churches, and each gift costs 15 euros. The target is to distribute 800 gifts.