Disclaimer: These daily blogs are based on journal entries during my two and a half week trip broken into seven installments. Over the next week, you will learn more and more. The idea behind doing it this way is so you can go through the process of experiencing a portion of my experiences in the same progression of events that I did. The goal is that by the end of the seventh blog, you will have the context to understand why and how I intend to continue serving these people.
Prayer is ALL: Day 5 -- August 8, 2013
Therefore, with that prefaced, the national host pulled me out of the activities with the kids temporarily to show me a second church building in this village, one that had been built by the American Baptist Church just a few months ago. This church building however did not supply the village with a pastor and came with no guarantee of one. This church building was well built in my opinion; windows placed strategically for maximum ventilation—it was noticeably cooler—solid foundation and walls of cement, and a roof that could withstand heat, rain and wind, but not fire. The church is hidden behind the home of the father and son who worked with the short-term Baptist missionaries who came with materials, blueprints, and people to help build. The father and the son (40s and 20s seemingly) came in the door-less building with us and spoke to us about the church, the community and the impact we had for about 45 minutes—the national host translated for me. “We aren’t able to bring the joy to our children like the joy you bring. It’s so clear to us that just because we’re poor, God has not forgotten us.” This Gypsy village has about 200 families, with nearly 70% between the ages of 0-17. Not all those kids are orphans, but substantial amounts are orphans. The families’ entire livelihoods are from government welfare for their children. Ukrainians who do not work receive the equivalent to about $200/month for every child they have under the age of six. This is why they have so many children; many families with 5-8 children, spread out in bunches so when a couple kids have grown above six years old there are more coming to keep the government money coming—the families literally use the government money to raise their entire families. If a family has no children under the age of six and does not work, they get no help from the government.
When the father had asked what I do for a living, I said I had just graduated college with credentials in economics with a research focus on microeconomic development and that I would soon become studying to become a pastor. His eyes widened and immediately asked me to pastor the community and help guide them economically. What ended up being my first pastoral call, I declined citing my lack of verbal or written understanding of their language. I recommended that they pray as a community for an organization willing to train one of the Gypsy converts in a seminary setting so a Gypsy could minister to fellow Gypsies, to be most effective. He told me he would do that and asked me to “pray about becoming their pastor anyway.”
At lunch, we had soup of chicken broth and corn, peas, egg and potatoes, however I could not really eat because our in-field host gave the men some fresh peppers from his garden and after nearly burning to death from the spiciness and regaining power of my overheated head, my appetite was gone.