God Among the Roma
Subotin says, "I always tell them, 'We will be very proud of our nationality if we have a Roma doctor or lawyer.' They don't have this vision. Some go to high school, but when they hit puberty, hormones start to work and they want to be married."
Discouragement is constant, as is divine encouragement. At one point, pastor Olivić felt overwhelmed. At a prayer meeting, he sensed God asking him to get down on the floor. "I had a picture of Jesus coming down and taking my hand and say, 'Get up. Lead my people, lead my people.' I really felt God wanted this from me."
The changes are evident even to local authorities, who now call Roma church representatives if there is an altercation between Serbs and Roma. Some Roma leaders now believe that God will use them to reach the majority culture: mostly Orthodox or Roman Catholics. "Serbians see hope in Roma people, in God," says Šerif Bakić, another pastor in Leskovac. "We wait for God to open the door to do big evangelizing so that everyone can see."
Influence is spreading regionally. Romania's population is declining, but independent churches (as a group and including Roma congregations) are growing 2 percent annually, even though their pastors do not have the same access to high-quality training as do pastors from established, denominational Christian groups.
A pastor and teacher, Marius Constantin, ministers in Romania and wants to see theological training improve among the Roma. Speaking about one problem of independent congregations, Constantin says, "A man with a lot of power, if he repents, can open a church and everyone has to listen to him. He doesn't know how to read and write, but he wants to be the boss."
The Gypsy Smith School in Bucharest, Romania's largest city, is one of the few places in the country specifically designed to prepare Roma for ministry. Since it opened its doors in 1999, many of its 50 graduates are now serving as pastors, elders, deacons, youth and music ministers, church planters, and missionaries.
In 1999, three years after Florian Tanaṣie became a Christian, he felt a strong desire to translate the Bible into Romani. Even while working as a brick-maker, he started privately translating the Psalms. When he heard about the Gypsy Smith School, he telephoned and asked if he could study there. After graduating in 2000, he went for further study and then returned to brick-making.
"I was working with bricks every day, but constantly on my knees asking God to let me translate the Bible," Florian says. Finally, in 2006, he received an unexpected call from an old professor, and eventually became a mother-tongue translator working with Wycliffe Bible Translators. So far he has helped to translate six books of the Bible into the Usari Romani dialect.
Pastor Adrian Petrovici claims that mentorship is also an effective way to train Roma. "The biggest impact I see is after I finish a sermon. I sit with the people, I touch them, and I talk with them and eat with them."
Jesus in Darda
The fasting and praying by Biljana and Đeno began a two-year process of reaching out to the village of Darda. Their ministry began to take definite shape in 2010, when Pastor Šerif traveled the 265 miles from Leskovac to hold an evangelistic concert in Darda. Biljana and Đeno were surprised when Šerif insisted on visiting Roma homes afterwards, but they learned a lot about ministry in the process, even if reluctant at first.