Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Making Room for the Gypsies

Did your parents ever threaten to sell you to the gypsies if you didn't behave?
It's something people like to joke about, but given the loving spirit of the gypsies I've met recently, I have no doubt that they'd be glad to take you in.

I was sitting in my pew Sunday morning, minding my own business, feeling thankful for the ever widening and merging circles of the family of God, when my circle morphed before my eyes!
In walked the gypsies, and I've been singing ever since.
Meet my new friends, y'all.

They're teens from the Gandhi school in Pecs, Hungary, and they're Roma people, also called gypsies. The guy in the middle is my friend Glen Adkins, the former music minister at my church. Clista and Glen sold their house and moved to Hungary three years ago to work at the school with the gypsy kids, to start a choir and teach them about God's love. Now they're taking a few of them around the southeastern United States, sharing their musical gifts with our corner of the world and telling the story of the Roma people.
(Look here to see if they're visiting a church near you. Just click the tour button.)

Photo by my friend Elaine. (Thanks, Elaine!)
They sang at church Sunday morning, and gave another program Sunday night. I wish you could have been there. The kids are obviously having a blast.

Do you know about the Roma?
For centuries, they've sat outside the circle of the family of God. Not because they wanted to, but because the world slammed the door and locked it in their faces. The 12 million gypsy people in Europe face overt discrimination in housing, health care and education. I've seen it for myself.

During my French life, I was told to be careful of the gypsies, that they were robbers, a poor, dirty race of people up to no good. I'd see them camped outside my village and watch the crowds part whenever they walked through the market.

After years and years of being shut out and scorned, many gypsies believe that God hates them too. Thankfully, people like Glen and Clista are willing to show them that they've got it all wrong, that Roma people, too, are created to bask in God's love, to sit in the circle of the family of God, to dance in it and sing!

Let me tell you, these kids can sing.
Give a listen to this Hungarian gypsy hymn, Zöld az erdö.

The music is enchanting, but the words will break your heart.

Green are the woods and green are the mountains.
Our luck just comes and goes.
Trouble cuts into our flesh with sharp knives.
The world has become a land of hypocrites.
The whole world is our enemy.
We live like chased thieves.
We have not stolen but a nail from Jesus's bleeding palm.
God, have mercy on us. Don't let our people suffer any longer.
We are damned. We are beaten. We have been made eternal vagabonds.

The song gives me goosebumps.
We have not stolen but a nail from Jesus's bleeding palm.
Oh, dear Roma. Don't you know that the nail was given for you, too?

The story of the Roma people reminds me that there are others around me who've been made to feel that they're not allowed in the family of God because of their history, their lifestyle, their circumstances, or the prejudice against them.
Jesus mourns, and God's family is incomplete.
God, help me find people in my own life who've felt shut out and welcome them into the circle.

Have you ever felt you didn't belong in a circle of faith? What made the difference for you?
Who do you see sitting out of the circle now? What can we do to help them find their place with us?

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky


Paula Clare said...

Hi Becky,
You're right...oh so heartbreaking! And what a beautiful people they are! Odd how "bohemian gypsies" have become a statement for "artsy, earthy vagabonds" (such as I consider myself).

What made a difference when *I* felt outside the circle? GRACE! I discovered the writings of Brennan Manning and the music of Rich Mullins and the life and heart of Francis of Assisi...and then, who I was/am and what I am to do in the world suddenly became clear: Share the Good News: That God's grace is FREE to ALL...including the outcast, marginalized, hated and despised. In fact, like Jesus, I tend to PREFER them to self righteous Pharisees.

Wonderful post...will be thinking of and praying for the gypsies...(I am reminded of the movie Chocolat, and how the gypsies were disdained by the townspeople...but the woman who owned a chocolate shoppe, was not going to be unkind to the gypsies as SHE had once felt like an outsider herself...

It's a wonderful picture of God's grace and love reaching out...)

Sara said...

Delighted to stop by today. I popped over from Getting Down with Jesus. I hope you don't mind if I splash around a bit to get to know you. THis looks like a nice place to slip off my shoes and soak in serious goodness.


Homemaker Honey said...

Great post!

What school in Hungary? I taught as a missionary teacher for 4 years. I'm always looking for missionary schools in need of teachers.

Homemaker Honey

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Paula, I had forgotten that part of Chocolat! I'll have to look up Brennan Manning. I love finding new wisdom writers! Thank you!

Hi Sara, nice to meet you too. Splash away!

HH, they worked at a Hungarian school for gypsy kids called the Gandhi School. They were able to do so much good for the kids there, and I know that they were greatly blessed as well.

Julie Gillies said...

Hi Rebecca,

What an interesting post and a beautiful looking group of people! One of the young adults in our church was adopted as a small girl by a couple (also at our church) from Romania--she was a gypsy, as well.

It's exciting to hear about the work your friends are doing. Thanks so much for sharing!


Laura said...

How beautiful, Becky!

What a wonderful story of sharing God's grace. Inspires me to look for more opportunities to do the same.

Graceful said...

This is a very impactful post, Rebecca! You make a very important point with your questions at the end. Yes, I've very much felt outside the circle of faith. Luckily my husband made me feel welcome, no matter what my doutbs and misgivings, and I found a church that encouraged curiosity and questioning. And that made all the difference!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

SUCH voices! I love how they've survived despite the persecution--such inspiration. And that is so true about God's grace being enough for people of all backgrounds. Why do we feel the need to be selfish about it?

Susan said...

What a heartbreaking story. I never knew how shunned these beautiful people were. As a child in the South, I had heard about the Gypsies and the lore surrounding them. I had always thought it would be romantic to be nomadic and wear such beautifully colored clothes and dance to the strains of violin music. Needless to say, I had no idea how persecuted they were. I have always known of God's love for me and just assume that everyone knows He is there for us all. What an enlightening post. I will keep these beloved people in my prayers.

Sarah @From Tolstoy to Tinkerbell said...

So many have been shut out by the ungracious hand of the church, breaks my heart. Grace is the only way for the door to re-open.

CC said...

thank you for that!! We have a large gypsy community here and actually hold a night school for entire gypsy families. For cultural reasons they will not attend during the day, but the entire family will sometimes come to the night school to learn how to read.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Great thoughts, y'all.
CC, I didn't know there was a gypsy community in your neck of the woods. Thanks for telling me!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Becky, we, too, have a Roma population here in Fargo, ND, and you've just challenged me to open my hearts to them. I have to admit, I have not always done so, though I try not to exclude and to give people a chance. But I recognize now that I have not done a good enough job of seeing them, too, as children of God. Even if it's just in a smile, that could make all the difference. You've inspired me to remember to spread God's love through gentle words and an embracing demeanor. I loved the music, too. And as the wife of a guitar player, it was fun seeing the energy in the string section. :) Thanks so much for sharing this!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Thank you, Roxane. :)

Angie Muresan said...

Becky, I grew up in Europe and being kidnapped by Gypsies was a constant fear, instilled by grandmothers, mothers, neighbors.
It is horrible what fear of the unknown does to relations between the children of God.

splumier said...

thanks so much for posting this!! I spent a week working in the laregest gypsy village in Romania this past March. What an eye opening experience. The cycle of abuse and poverty is never ending because of all the prejudices against the Roma people. Thank God who are willing to work to break that cycle!!