In deporting thousands of Roma, or Gypsies, to Romania and Bulgaria this summer, France polarized the European Union and focused continent-wide attention on the ethnic minority known for its centuries-old story of discrimination. Fewer know how far the gospel is spreading among them.
"Most people still hate Gypsies, especially in France," said John Boyd, a Roma pastor who works with Light and Life, an international Assemblies of God ministry by and for Roma. "[Yet] revival hasn't stopped. God is calling Gypsies all around the world."
Pentecostalism has spread throughout the worldwide Roma community since the early 1950s. France, the source and center of the main movement, has over 200,000 Pentecostals among perhaps 500,000 Roma, according to Thomas Acton, a professor of Romani studies at the University of Greenwich. Missionary efforts among Roma continue to be fruitful.
In the United Kingdom, Boyd and his fellow ministers host tent missions where groups of Roma converge in a field to hear preaching and teaching. "This summer has been exceptional," he said. "In eight weeks we've seen about 300 people come to faith in Christ."
Such gatherings still attract controversy. One of Boyd's meetings near Cambridge this summer made national headlines. Newspapers featured local residents complaining about the Roma presence and making the same accusations of theft and disruption levied at Roma throughout the centuries. The Daily Mail reported that a local pub barred the outsiders.
"Frankly, I'm glad. We're against drinking," said Boyd, who rejected the media's description and said police didn't report any real problems with the villagers.
René Zanellato, who works in France with Light and Life, says the ministry operates Bible schools and social programs throughout Europe as well as in India, Jerusalem, and other places that have large numbers of Roma. "Usually the Gypsies are Orthodox because they are born in an Orthodox country, or they are Catholic because they are born in a Catholic country, but they don't practice," he said.
Acton says ministry among Roma is successful because evangelists have been able to make the gospel understandable "as if God were a Gypsy."
"The Romani churches have nativized the gospel," he said. "It's not a foreign ideology; it's the gospel that has taken on Romani colors." Acton, a Baptist, said Roma storytellers can make traditional Bible stories sound fresh and immediate. "When you hear [a] Romani translation of the Bible, it sounds like it was written yesterday."
In Romania, which has the largest concentration of Roma in the world, the town of Toflea became a legend after the mass baptism of over 500 people in 2009. Many Roma in Romania have neither birth certificates nor marriage licenses, so Christian lawyers help them get their names into the governmental system.
Beni Lup, a non-Roma attorney and regional director of Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, has bigger dreams. "I work with a group of Gypsy lawyers whom I challenged to go to law school five years ago," Lup said. "I want to see some of those people in the government writing laws for their own people."
Roma evangelists have a vision that extends beyond their people. "We have over 1,000 churches in Spain," Boyd said. "Now a lot of the work is to reach non-Gypsies in the area."
Father, we pray for the Christians in Burma facing looming opposition and persecution. We ask that You protect and guide them through their hardship, and that after the election the military regime will protect Christians instead of targeting them. We also pray for Pastor Ilmurad to be granted prisoner amnesty, avoiding the Seydi labor camp. Please strengthen him and his wife, allow them to trust You through this time. Father we pray for the foreign Christian aid workers throughout the and surrounds, and we ask for Your shield over them as they continue to carry out the work of the Gospel. Lastly Father, we praise You for the beautiful transformation that Thanh has experienced and we pray that her family and friends will come to a saving knowledge of Christ as well. We lift up to You all the women worldwide who have been transformed by Your love and grace. Father we love You!
Praying with you,
The Prayer Force Team
Tribal Believer Graduates from Open Doors Womens Training Program
Like most tribal women in Central Vietnam, Thanh tills her own small piece of land in a remote village. She struggled with weakness and depression. Her children and husband were the only thoughts that kept her from committing suicide. One day, she stepped into a house church in her village and heard the pastor talking about Jesus Christ. After hearing him, I felt hope was restored in my heart and when he called for people to come forward to receive Christs salvation, I immediately responded, said Thanh. A former Buddhist, Thanh got rid of the ancestral altar that stood her living room. Thanh s transformation was fast-tracked when she joined an Open Doors Women s Training Program in 2008. This year, she graduated from the course along with 35 other women. According to Thanh, the greatest benefit she received from the program was her increased love and discipline in reading Gods word. Adding to her joy are her three grown up children, who are beginning to understand Thanh s faith. Although they have yet to believe in Christ, she continues to pray for them.Open Doors Women s Training Program for house churches this year has a total of 2,467 participants all over the country, including the central and the northern provinces.
Working through partnerships with national and international production companies, Open Doors is producing multimedia Christian programs for internet, radio and satellite television. Through these programs we are able to train and disciple (secret) believers in the Middle East, and to encourage local Christians.
Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would have soon lived in the land of silence. Psalm 94: 16-17
AP - Imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for using non-violence to demand fundamental human rights in his homeland. The award ignited a furious response from China, which accused the Norwegian Nobel Committee of violating its own principles by honoring "a criminal."
Father, we cry out to You on behalf of Moroccan and Nepalese Christians. We ask for mercy upon those under strong oppression for their belief in Christ, and for freedom to worship You publicly. We pray for Jamaa Ait Bakrim to remain steadfast in his faith and in sharing the Gospel during his imprisonment. Lord, we also pray for the pastors who are under great stress and persecution in Nepal; please protect them and their churches as they face this violent opposition, and may they trust in Your sovereignty and grace through this. We pray for the many women like Parul Sultana that they use their new skills to train others and share the gospel message of love and hope in You.
Praying with you,
The Prayer Force Team
He will guard the feet of His faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail. 1 Samuel 2:9
Bangladesh -Local Believer Writes Her First Letter
Parul Sultana shares in a simple but heartfelt letter how her life has changed since she learned how to read.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you. Psalm 16:1-2
Judges Rule Church in Indonesia Can Construct Church and Worship Freely
After months of conflict and legal battles the state court revoked the decree prohibiting Christian activities of the HKBP church in West Java, paving the way to construct a house of worship.
On August 9th, two years after anti-Christian violence broke out in Orissa state, India, a 16-year-old Christian girl was discovered - one of at least 60 people sold into slavery. The girl, whose name was withheld, was sold into slavery along with her sister and two other girls, all victims of the 2008 violence. The others still remain missing. The recovery of the girl represents the cracking of a network that has trafficked young Christian women from Orissa to the national capital, sources said.
Father, we know You hold all things in Your hands, so we thank you for the release of the girl from slavery in Orissa, and pray for the other young women to be found and set free from the trafficking ring. We ask for wisdom for the Dove World Outreach Center; that they would cancel their plans of Quran burning, and instead act out in love. Lord, we pray for supernatural strength for Somali Christians in the midst of severe persecution, and we grieve the death of Fataho and the abduction of his children. May they remember their faith in You as they grow older, and follow in their fathers footsteps - ultimately following Jesus.
Praying with you,
The Prayer Force Team
IRAN - TWO CHRISTIAN WOMEN AQUITTED OF ALL CHARGES: Nearly five months after releasing them from prison, an Iranian court has acquitted Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh of all charges related to being Christians and engaging in Christian activities. Open Door's supporters worldwide joined in prayer and advocacy campaigns to petition for the release of the women last year. The two women who refused to recant their faith are now safe in another country according to ELAM Ministries. Read More >>
March 29, 2010
SHANXI -- On Sunday, March 28, 2010, missing human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng spoke to his wife and children for the first time in over a year - confirming he is still alive! False rumors of his death, torture, and escape from the custody of the Chinese Government have shrouded Gao's absence with mystery for over a year. Gao's brief phone conversations with western media mark the first official contact the public has had with him since his abduction by police on February 4, 2009.
Yesterday, Gao informed reporters that he had been released from detention six months ago, and had taken up residence at Wutai Shan mountain, a Buddhist landmark in northern Shanxi province. He refused to give details on his condition or whereabouts, saying he could not legally give interviews.
Close friend and fellow human rights lawyer Li Heping confirmed he had also spoken with Gao on Sunday. Gao told him he had "friends around him" - indicating he was being held under close surveillance by Chinese authorities.
Gao's wife Geng He and their children were overwhelmed with emotion as they spoke with Gao on Sunday morning. The children could not stop crying. In a statement released on Monday morning, Geng He appealed to the Chinese government to allow Gao Zhisheng to join the family in New York. Gao's family has suffered greatly in his absence. Geng He's parents have been severely harassed in recent months, for which Gao feels guilty.
He told the Associated Press, "I just want to be in peace and quiet for a while and be reunited with my family. Most people belong with family. I have not been with mine for a long time. This is a mistake and I want to correct this mistake."
While on his campaign in Europe to promote awareness of Gao's cause, ChinaAid President Bob Fu attributed the breakthrough to increased international pressure. "Thanks to the more than 124,000 supporters in over 180 countries around the world who have signed the petition to Free Gao, the Chinese Government has been forced to respond and to allow Gao Zhisheng to reconnect with his loved ones."
ChinaAid thanks you for your continued support and urges you to continue to take action. From Argentina to Zimbabwe, you, the international community have answered the call. And this is just the beginning.
Gao is not free yet. His movements are still being watched and monitored. He is not free to speak publicly or without surveillance. We must continue to press the Chinese government to free Gao Zhisheng, to uncensor his movements, and to allow him to reunite with his family.
- Encourage more to Sign the Petition. Every voice counts, and every voice will be heard!
- Call on your local representatives to take official action on behalf of Gao Zhisheng.
- Urge U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to hold the Chinese government to the international covenants on human rights.
Thanks to you, the world has now regained contact with Mr. Gao Zhisheng. Because of you, Gao was able to reconnect with his family. With your continued support, we can make their dream of reunion a reality!
For more ways to get involved, visit www.FreeGao.com.
My prayers and heart go out to our brothers and sisters who are facing these hard times. I was able to send a little to help out. G-d Bless and keep them.
I would like prayer for the poor Lakota on Pine Ridge....this is so very heartbreaking...especially in light of the fact that our country rushes to help other countries in need (which they should) but does not seem concerned about those that are freezing and starving within our own borders!! Please pray that food, heaters, water and food will get to both adults and children before they freeze or starve to death!!State of Emergency Declared on the Pine Ridge Reservation
There has been a terrible earthquake in Haiti, and many people are injured or dead. I am asking everyone to pray and especially asking the prayer warriors and intercessors to pray for the many victims of this terrible disaster, for the children who are orphaned, for the parents who have lost children, for those who have lost loved ones, for the families separated, for the injured and for the economic implications of a disaster of this size, especially for those made homeless by this earthquake. Many international charities and asking for donations and relief workers are also on their way or already there to provide help. Please pray for the relief workers, the missionaries, and those who give spiritual guidance. Thank you and God Bless! Donna
December 23, 2009Dear Donna,
Pakistani Christians Released
After 14 torturous months in prison, Gulsher Masih and his daughter Ashyana Gulsher (known as Sandal), from the Faisalabad District of Pakistan, were released from prison. According to information from Compass Direct News, Sandal (20) was falsely accused in 2008 of burning a copy of the Quran and the two were charged with blasphemy. Once arrested there were delays as judges in the trials asked for witnesses. A few Muslims gave statements but they gave conflicting reports of the incident. In addition, each time witnesses were requested, the case was transferred to a new judge, delaying the trails. Finally, their attorney Khalil Tahir was able to submit clear proof during cross-examination of witnesses that the charges were false. The presiding judge then dropped all charges and ordered their release.
Father, week after week we hear of those who are suffering for their faith. But today we give You praise for this glimpse of Your work. Thank You for Your mercy upon Masih and Sandal. Continue to protect them and give them favor with friends and neighbors that Your Word might bear much fruit in Pakistan.
Praise God! Sandul and Gulsher Masih have been released from prison. "I am thankful to God he released me from prison," Sandul said. "I am thankful to VOM for helping my family, and I thank my brothers and sisters who wrote me letters in prison. May God bless all of you, and Merry Christmas." We rejoice with Sandul and Gulsher's family.
We encourage you to continue writing letters to believers who remain in prison.
Forward this e-mail to others who have a heart for persecuted Christians, and encourage them to write and pray. Get involved! Pray and write today.
Dear friend of the persecuted,
It is with great joy that I can share with you that Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh have been released from prison today!!! I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to each person who sent an email to the Iranian authorities on behalf of Maryam and Marzieh. You used your time and freedom to play a part in pressuring the Iranian government for their release. It is a beautiful demonstration of Christian unity when so many individuals and organizations join together to speak out for suffering believers worldwide.
Maryam and Marzieh were imprisoned for over 9 months in Irans most notorious Evin prison, simply for their faith in Christ. Both women have been released without bail which is another blessing. Unfortunately, the government did not drop the two remaining charges of apostasy and ropagation of the Christian faith with which the women have been charged. This means the women could be re-arrested and will have these charges hanging over them. Please join us in:
- Praising God for the release of Maryam and Marzieh!
- Praying for quick and complete physical healing of both women who are in poor health and need medical attention
- Praying that the 2 remaining charges against the women would be dropped quickly
Learn more about Maryam and Marziehs release>>
A Christian was imprisoned in Central Asia and put in a jail cell with terrorists. At first they thought he was Muslim and welcomed him, but when he told them he was a Christian they would have nothing to do with him. One day one of their men became ill, and he offered to pray for him. The terrorists wouldn't let him. The illness went on for seven days and the sick man was near death. Still they would not let the Christian pray; however, the sick man was ready for prayer, and talked them into letting the Christian man pray. He could not lay hands on him, and had to stand in a corner. There he prayed for the sick man. The next day the sick man was healthy again and could even eat. He became a believer and wanted to be baptized. So the Christian man held a cup of water over his head and baptized him. Soon other prisoners became Christians also. The Christian man who was a pastor, received amnesty and was freed. From International Christian Concern.
This post was modified from its original form on 04 Jun, 15:14