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UMTV: Ministry with the Roma


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(Locator: Budapest, Hungary)

In Hungary the Danube cuts a ribbon between two towns-Buda and Pest. It is a fitting illustration of a much deeper divide between the people called Roma and those they call 'the white people.' In name they're all Hungarian, but the differences are not easily bridged.

Horvath Hajnalka (Via Interpreter):"General opinion is white people are lucky. They have jobs. They have money."

The Roma represent one of the largest ethnic minorities in the European Union. Among this group there is rampant unemployment. Education beyond 8th grade is rare. And life expectancy is at least 10 years less than non-Roma. Roma began traveling Europe in the middle ages. Originally thought to be Egyptian they were called 'gypsies.' But in fact scholars agree they originated from northern India.

Discrimination and persecution have followed them wherever they went. For generations this has resulted in pervasive issues of poverty. But the United Methodist Church is responding. In this village Sunday morning services are standing room only for this Roma church. This United Methodist congregation formed 60 years ago when a non-Roma pastor reached out to the community. Today they are led by one of their own.

Nora Balogne Lakates, Member, Alsozsolca United Methodist Church (Via Interpreter): "Our pastor has been growing up in this community. And today everybody respects him and he knows us, and he serves us very well which means our community's building very strong."

The local government has seen positive change through the church. The mayor even donated the land for a sanctuary.

The Rev. Erdei-Nagy Laszlo, Alsozsolca United Methodist Church (Via Interpreter): "This is an answer to prayer. As much as I know there is no gypsy-people church like this."

Construction proceeds whenever funds are available. In other parts of Hungary ministry is in the easy stages. This confirmation class is experiencing ministry with the Roma for the first time. Their youth minister is hopeful it will be an on-going relationship.

Bence Vigh, Ministerial Candidate, The United Methodist Church, Hungary: "I would like to make them see the mission work of the Methodist Church among very poor people and people who, well, who doesn't have good reputation in the society."

The Rev. Erdei-Nagy Laszlo, Alsozsolca United Methodist Church (Via Interpreter): "A number of our pastors, and I am one of them, they're called into ministry to their service among the Roma people."

Thomas Rodemeyer, Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe: "It starts with spending time and with being trustworthy. And then you can tell those peoples about the love of God because they can see you love them. At the same time you will get the love of those people as well."

This woman lives here with 5 of her 7 children and her husband.

Juhasz Janosne: (Via Interpreter): "This is our very poor castle where we live."

While Hungarian families are having fewer children, the Roma tend to marry young and have several babies. By 2020 there are regions of Hungary where every second child will be Roma. And differences appear to be more than rich versus poor. Roma, who throughout Hungary refer to themselves as 'gypsies,' are described as being more emotional and less reserved than the rest of Hungarian society. Roma are reluctant to relinquish their unique culture where everything revolves around family and music.

One study reveals that four out of five Hungarians would not consent to having Roma neighbors because generally they believe a stereotypical view that they are thieves who don't want to work.

Even through this ministry with the poor life among the Roma is not expected to transform overnight. Centuries of oppression along with society's ingrained beliefs are big hurdles to climb. But there is hope for a grander outcome.

The Rev. Erdei-Nagy Laszlo, Alsozsolca United Methodist Church (Via Interpreter): "When we think about our ministry we observe that some people might think we are marginalized in the society. But as we are connected with other people, bargainwith other people we find out in God's kingdom there is no such a thing as marginalization."

Posted: May 10, 2012

Category: Video/Audio, Europe
Tags: Social Cultural, Umcom, Ministry With The Poor, Poverty, Outreach Ministries, News, Video Audio Features, Evangelismwelcoming, Unemployment Under Employment, Hungary