08 April 2015

Transformative Relationship

   As I returned from a recent trip to the Czech Republic by train, I had plenty of time to reflect on the quickness of the trip, the busy-ness of making all the connections and meetings, and the rewards which come from nurturing relationship in ministry.

   For several years we have been blessed by an ongoing relationship with Rene, a Roma brother from the Czech Republic.  We met when he was employed in a ministry center of a partner church we were working with.  Remembering our times of prayer and long conversations during the difficulty of finding God's direction in the midst of a crisis in his church and the miscarriage of a child, I have found a deep and abiding appreciate for Rene's faith and faithfulness.  His testimony is of a man whose life was dramatically transformed by Christ and his ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ is a joy to watch.

   The purpose for this fast visit was to discuss an opportunity - an opportunity which I see as a confirmation of what God has been doing in Rene's life up to this point.  Through his personal relationships with several ministers in his community, Rene has been offered an opportunity to begin a full time ministry among the Roma throughout the region.  This is an answer to many years of prayer.  Through an ecumenical network of churches, Rene's goal is to find enough financial support to be able to take on this role as well as honor the Body of Christ which already exists in the region.  It is the connection and blessing by a diverse group of churches which is most encouraging for me.  It not only speaks well of Rene, it also speaks of how God is drawing together a network of interested individuals and churches in order to address a ministry they all recognize is important but confess that it is too much for any one of them.

   Through personal relationships with members and the pastor of the Brethren Church, with individuals who are Catholic, with the leadership of the Christian Fellowship church Rene has become not only a catalyst for the beginning of this ministry, he will remain involved as its leader.  When given the opportunity to respond to the many things I was hearing, all I could do was offer praise to God for what is happening and pledge our prayer and financial support for the ministry.

   Long-term involvement in Roma ministry affirms again and again the importance of relationship.  When you see the trajectory of how God changed Rene's life, he was a troubled kid on the street.  And now he is a community leader who is helping his whole city address the situation between the Roma and the majority population.  Without doubt, I am convinced that God has been directing Rene's paths.

   As we shared stories around the dinner table of what God is doing to heal broken relationships among the Roma and others, Rene told about a woman at the church he attends.  She was afraid of Roma.  She did not want them anywhere near her because her fear caused her to hate all Roma as violent thieves.  But now, she comes up and wants to hold Rene's daughter.  She gives thanks for the Roma family who now attends her church.  She testifies that where she once had fear, she now sees hope.  Praise be to God for the power of transformative relationship!