On Monday I wrote that women have an amazing ability to make soul connections quickly. I saw this happen not only once, but twice while in Slovakia. The first was with the woman who’d read Moving from Fear to Freedom and found it helpful as she walked through a tragic situation. The second was with a Roma woman I met while worshiping in her church on the weekend.
The Roma people are more commonly known as “gypsies,” although, as I understand it, the latter term is slang and shows a lack of respect. They originated from India and were invited to Eastern Europe as artisans and as bodyguards for political officials. When Communism took over, they were assigned jobs such as sweeping streets.
Communism fell in 1989. At that time, millions of people lost their jobs. The people that remained employed were, of course, the most well-educated. The Roma did not qualify. Tragically, unemployment is a huge issue even today. In one Roma ghetto, for instance, the unemployment rate among men is nearly 100%. Alcoholism and incest run rampant. So does garbage, disease, and the rat population. Hopelessness abounds apart from Jesus Christ.
I’ve visited Eastern Europe’s largest Roma ghetto twice. In that midst of that hopelessness, a group of believers meets to worship twice/week, shepherded by a converted Roma man and his wife. I had the privilege of meeting the couple and interviewing them for a Power for Living article about three years ago. Two years ago, I enjoyed the opportunity to attend their Sunday service. This congregation shines as a bright light in the darkness of Lunik IX.
Last weekend I worshiped with a different Roma congregation. It, too, shines in the midst of the darkness and hopelessness of a ghetto setting. When I sat down, a Roma woman dressed in her Sunday best—a dark skirt and a shimmery silver jacket—immediately sat next to me. She greeted me in her language and shook my hand. I gave her the traditional kiss on each cheek. I “introduced” her to my husband using simple English words and sign language. She understood and shook his hand, too. Then she returned to her original seat.
The service proceeded with music, an offering, the sermon, and lastly, an invitation for anyone who wanted prayer to come to the front of the sanctuary. The pastor and three others positioned themselves at the front, and within moments, men and women of all ages filled the center aisle. The worship team played and sang quietly as, one by one, these folks stepped forward for prayer.
The lady in the silver jacket was one of the four standing at the front. Each time she finished praying for someone, she’d turn toward the center aisle and smile at the next person in line. She’d motion for him/her to come and gently touch the person on the arm as he/she approached. Sometimes she’d put her arm around the person’s waist. She’d listen intently as the person explained her reason for wanting prayer, and then she’d set to work.
Her facial expression said it all. If I could sum up her expression in one word, I would choose earnest. Eyes closed, brows creased, face turned heavenward, she called on God to answer the cries of her neighbors and relatives. Knowing that they all live in the ghetto located mere yards from the church, I could scarcely imagine the scope of their hardships and the depth of their pain.
The scene moved me deeply. When the service ended, she approached me again. Without a word, we embraced in a heartfelt hug and exchanged two more light kisses. “What is your name?” I asked.
“Viera,” she said. Then, with a translator’s help, she added, “I feel like I’ve known you forever.”
“You are my sister in Christ, and I feel the same way,” I said. “I want to tell you something. When I watched you pray, I could see care and compassion on your face. I thought, This woman is a ministry leader.”
Viera’s face registered shock. “Me?” she said. Then she smiled. “Thank you, thank you.” And then she asked the question so many in Eastern Europe ask us: “Will we meet again?”
“Yes, someday,” I said. “If not on earth, then in heaven. And when we meet there, we’ll be able to speak without a translator.”
Viera nodded. “Yes,” she said. “That will be wonderful.”
Before we parted ways, she introduced me to her daughter, granddaughter, and 3-week-old great-granddaughter. She told me that she has nearly 30 grandchildren and at least that many great-grandchildren. Her son—the baby’s grandfather—is only 36. Do the math. Great-grandma Viera is probably younger than me.
I climbed into the van with a new dream in my heart. What is it? Someday, if God wills, I’d love to partner with Viera to do a women’s conference in her church. Why not? The women in her neighborhood desperately need healing and hope. Jesus provides both. Maybe He’d allow me the honor of participating in sharing the Good News. And who knows? Maybe some of you could be involved, too.