“We don’t need you!” Reflections from a traveler at the margins.

Psalm 41:5-9 My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die and his name perish?” Whenever one comes to see me, he speaks falsely, while his heart gathers slander; then he goes out and spreads it abroad.  All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me, saying,  “A vile disease has beset him; he will never get up from the place where he lies.”  Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

2007-11 Forum - IMG_8885 books (Large)Then, Ukraine: I had read Psalm 41 a hundred times. I’d exegeted it in Hebrew while at seminary. Now I sit reading it with “Anton,” a younger brother in Christ who is struggling with AIDS. He has counseled drug addicts out of suicide attempts and led them to the Lord… on the phone, while too weak to get to the bathroom on his own. Now we are reading it together as he shares his experience as a PLWA (person living with AIDS). He had become a “nobody,” lost his family and most of his friends. But as a believer, the all-too-familiar process of stigmatization within the church was doubly painful. I thought I knew that Psalm well – I had assumed it was in the Bible so that Jesus’ betrayal would fulfill its prophetic element. Now, seeing the face of the psalmist in the pale, drawn face of my friend, I am reading it for the first time.

2014-10 DSC01415 (Large)Now, Central Europe: Our SERVEurope Catalyst Team was privileged to participate in a unique consultation on “Roma to the World” in Budapest, Hungary. We were amazed hour after hour by what God is doing among Gypsy communities throughout Europe… it is true Book of Acts stuff, played out before our eyes. But we have also been challenged to see the “constructed identities” with which the Roma have been stigmatized and marginalized… and how we in the church have bought into them.

Paul once wrote to a very well-resourced church, The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” But, for centuries, the European church, in reading the Word, has said just that to the Roma: We don’t need you to help us understand Scripture, or God, or His mission.

We ask God to renew His Church in Europe, and are filled with hope by what He is doing among the Roma and challenged to find ways to join in that movement. Yet we are chastened by the “constructed identity” we have accepted of ourselves that has been comfortable with excluding the Roma, the PLWA, the differently abled, and others at what we call “the margins.”

We came expecting to be moved by compassion. We leave being resolved to commit ourselves to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8)

* Please pray for God to move through the impact of this consultation and for the Catalyst Team’s processing of their just-concluded vision trip through Gypsy communities in Romania this past week.

* Participate in Roma ministry with a city team in Bucharest, Madrid, Sofia, Prague, Ghent, or even the new team headed to Stockholm. Short- and long-term opportunities available.

* Ask God to refresh your perspective on what has traditionally be called “the margins” and to see opportunities for meeting him there.

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