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Praying on October 1st

The Word Made Flesh community has traditionally set aside two days per month, the 1st and the 15th, to pray and fast for those who are vulnerable and in poverty, for our communities, and for the church.

This coming month on October 1st, we are setting the day aside to pray specifically for the Word Made Flesh communities. We are moving through profound transitions, and we are facing significant challenges.

We invite you to join us on this day of prayer. As we are able, we will post prayer points on our website www.wordmadeflesh.org. Here are a few for our community in Romania:

Thanksgiving for:

–          Our week of camp

–          Our summer Discovery Team

–          The 20 new kids in our Centers

–          Our daily bread (we are able to serve about 50 meals per day)

–          For the increasing involvement of the parents in the lives of their children

–          Our community, friendships and mutual support

–          The ways in which we see God working in the small ways in and beyond our community

–          The enthusiasm and joy that the children bring

Praying for:

–          Sensitivity to follow the movement of the Spirit

–          The emotional healing of the children

–          The physical healing of one of our boys who will have an operation on his lower intestine

–          Wisdom and creativity to overcome our financial deficit

–          We are launching a club for at-risk teens in our neighborhood. We are praying that the teens will acquire life-skills and positive values and that they come to the Lord and become part of the local congregation.

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Prayer Update August

I know that this post is late. I realized that I sent it out via email but forgot to post it here. This was from August:

We are in the middle of a hot summer – and I am fully enjoying it! If you know me, you know that I struggle with anything below freezing, so I try and soak up the heat to get me through the cold winter.

Our summer is also full of fun activities with the kids. During the school year, our activities revolve around the school schedules and their school work, but our major focus with the kids is not education but their personal formation. So, during the summer we are able to do more Bible studies and book studies, worship, therapeutic play, mentoring and discussions about skills they need for life. It’s a packed schedule, but it’s a lot of fun. We also have more time to play together: Settlers and Ticket-to-Ride, volleyball, and swimming. We were blessed to have some new friends, Nicholas and Autumn Morgenstern, do art and dance activities with the kids.

At the beginning of the summer, we received two first-grade girls into the Community Center. It is always a delight to see their excitement and the way that they experience things for the first time. We had wanted to receive another little first-grader as well, but the girl’s father decided to take her on a trip to France. For most kids that would be an exciting summer vacation, but for this little girl it most likely meant begging. Little beautiful girls are put on the street corners to ask strangers for money. And it can be quite lucrative. We are praying that this girl returns to Galati in time to start school. And we are hoping to receive her into our Community Center, where we can work to prevent child trafficking and forced begging.

In June, we had a team of 12 come from George Fox University. We spent a week in Moldova and two weeks in Romania. The team did a lot to help us clean the Center, move furniture, cut down trees, rebuild fences. Member of the team also shared their testimonies with our youth, which was impactful. Of course, the team also did lots of fun activities with the kids. We really were encouraged and supported by them during our weeks together.

At the end of the summer, we are organizing our 12th annual camp. It will be a week when we can get out of the city and spend a full seven days together. Besides the archery, hiking and horseback riding, the kids will have 3 full meals a day and their own beds to sleep in. It costs us about $200 per child for the week. If you are interested in contributing to camp, please let me know.

The last weekend of June, Lenutsa and I went to England – unfortunately, it wasn’t for the Olympics. Last October I finished up a MA course that I did through London School of Theology, and the graduation ceremony was held in June. It was a nice way to celebrate the achievement and to meet some of the other students and faculty. After the graduation, we visited some of our friends in Wolverhampton, where we spoke in some churches and small groups, and played in a golf fundraiser. As  I hit a wapping 9 on the last hole (par 3), I was glad I could make everyone else feel better about their game. All in all, it was a jolly time.

We are now in the U.S., in Omaha for most of August. We had the privilege of meeting with friends at Winterset Community Church in Iowa. It was our first time there, and we were blessed by their welcome and worship. We will participate in the missions conference at Lifegate Church in Omaha. And we also hope to be with our friends at Emmanuel Fellowship before we depart. It is overwhelming and encouraging to be able to connect with those that have been praying for us and supporting us over the years and also to build new relationships that we pray will develop over the coming years.

As our ministry among the poor in Romania and our broader region of Africa and Europe continues to grow, we are looking for others to partner with us. Since I have been living and serving in Romania for more than 15 years, building new relationships with potential supporters has been a challenge. But this is essential if we are to continue to flourish. Please pray about partnering with us or in building partnerships for us.

 

Cemetery at the Margins of Galati

Our community practices remembering: remembering the forgotten, the marginalized and the lost. This past summer a group of students from George Fox University spent a few weeks serving with us. One afternoon we visited a cemetery on the periphery of our city where many of our kids have been buried. Sadly, many of their graves are no longer marked; some have been removed altogether.

Margi Felix-Lund, one of the leaders of the summer team, wrote this poem:

God remembers…
…the birth of each child
the smiles & the tears
the injustice & the sorrow
the hope & the joy

God remembers the death of each child.

Although men & women may try
to wipe these children from the face of this planet-
although they may succeed in eradicating
the physical commemoration of their death-
these children, these vulnerable ones
will remain forever present
in the memory of God.

Roma, Romanians, Racism and Racial Differentiation

Since this image has been shared on facebook at least 9,200 times and multiplying, I thought I would respond.  Along with the image is the “hope that there is no more confusion” about these two ethnicities. And “those of the opinion that Romanians should no longer be considered Gypsies,” then they should “share this picture wherever they can.”

This message, it seems obvious to me, is racist. However, some think it’s simply a correct view of reality that doesn’t conform to the trends of political correctness. But I think that is a misunderstanding of “political correctness.” To be politically correct would mean that you, at least, adopt terminology like “Roma” or “Romani” rather than “Gypsy” or “Tigani”, which the Romani have rejected because of their derogatory roots and connotations. In this case, I don’t think we succumb to secular liberal ideology by using “Roma” or “Romani”; rather, it seems to me to be an opportunity to show a basic respect, or what Romanians call “bun-simt”. But I don’t want to die on the battlefield of politically correctness. I am willing, however, to fight against racism. This caricature is not simply politically incorrect, it is racist. Let’s walk through this:

1) To caricature the Romanians with 19th and 20th Century great males on one side but the Romani by females in traditional dress is full of denigrating undertones. If it were Romanians in traditional dress on one side and Romani in traditional dress on the other or Romani greats on one side and Romania greats on the other, that would be a step in the right direction.

2) Some have heard the Roma claim that these preeminent Romanians (Eminescu, Enescu, Brancusi, Blaga and Eliade) have Roma heritage. It isn’t unusual for various ethnicities to lay claim to great people. When I was studying in Moldova, I heard Russians laying claim to Eminescu. But I don’t hear those claims much from the Romani or from other Europeans. This is a straw-man argument; it doesn’t support the argument for ethnic differentiation.

3) With over 2 million Romanians spread across Europe, the US and Israel, it begs at least to nuance the affirmation that Romanians are from Romania and Romani from everywhere. There are millions of Romani from Romania. By stating otherwise, this caricature is false. Without any nuancing, the caricature is also racist.

4) It would also be helpful to nuance national identities and ethnic identities. Romani are nationally Romanian, and Romanian Romani are different than Romani from other nations. Additionally, there are many, many who are of mixed ethnicities (i.e. Romani/Romanian) in Romania. What is worse is that many “Romanians” with Roma ancestors deny their own history because of the dominant culture’s views of this marginalized minority – an attitude that amounts not only to the hatred of the other but also the hatred of one’s self.

5) This gets to larger problem with this caricature, which presents the “Gypsies” as the problem, and Romanians as good contributors to culture. If Romanians thought Gypsies were good, I believe that they wouldn’t be so offended when ethnicity and nationality are conflated. This cartoon is a rejection or exclusion of the other.

6) While I don’t paint the whole ethnicity with the same brush, I realize that there is a significant amount of criminal behavior by the Romani in western Europe that attracts the press and portrays the whole ethnicity and even nationality in a negative light. I decry the criminal behavior of Romani. But this can also be said of ethnic Romanians. I personally know dozens of Romanians who are involved in illegal activity in western countries, some of whom are now in jail, who attract the attention of the media. Just look at the area of cyber crime: http://www.news24.com/World/News/Romania-FBI-crack-down-on-cyber-crime-20111219 and http://www.fbi.gov/news/news_blog/u.s.-and-romania-targeting-organized-romanian-criminal-groups. To place the negative image of Romanians on the shoulders of the Romani is a way of scape-goating, and it is racist.

7) Some are upset that the Roma moved to western Europe in the 1990’s, told stories of persecution in Romania, and requested asylum. They were then seen as being “from Romania.” While I realize that many claims of persecution were false, we also need to recognize the places where persecution did occur. For example, Human Rights Report from attacks on Roma villages in the early 1990’s: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/democracy/1993_hrp_report/93hrp_report_eur/Romania.html

8) We also need to introduce historical factors into this discussion. Many Romanians, at best, do not know or, at worst, fail to acknowledge that the first evidence of Romani in Romania was in bills of sale as slaves. I would not promote the idea that contemporary Romanians are presently guilty of slavery or that they must atone for the sins of their ancestors, but I think we would do well to recognize the benefits we reap today by not having a heritage of slavery. The social conditioning that slavery and discrimination has on a people, as we see, is passed from generation to generation. And that is where I think we must share not in guilt but in responsibility for creating equity and inclusion in society.

9) As a Christian, it seems to me the issue is how do we live together and move together toward being what God intends us to be as a human family – without diminishing or confusing identities. If we want to differentiate ethnicities, there are healthier and more constructive ways of doing it.

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