Sunday, May 14, 2006

From a Hillside In Herzegovina

I celebrated Mother's Day today, in the warmth of the Spring sun. First we worshipped at the local church my friends have started for the Roma (gypsy) youth. There is still much prejudiced among the people towards Roma (who are dark skinned and well... different). To make them feel welcome in the church my friends began a congregation for them to worship in with freedom without prejudice and judgment. There were around 20 youth, and when I was asked to share my testimony, I explained I was old enough to be mother to them all (they were all under 26.) They laughed, but I am happy to have the privilege to have many children all over the world to share such a day with.

After the service, I returned to prepare for CARE EE to come out and play with the village children.

WOW - we were driving into the mountains for around 1 hour and then turned up a dirt road to reach the village. The young man who was with us, asked if I had seen such a "road" before. I had to laugh - I have seen MANY such roads that are hardly roads.

The village makes money by collecting iron and steel, burning and cleaning it and then reselling it for cash. You cannot imagine the piles and piles of old cars, broken refrigerators and machinery, tires, pipes, anything that was once something - now waiting for the fire!

It was hard to negotiate through the narrow pathway, passing men young and old kindling fires of all sizes, and avoid killing any animals that may cross the way. A wide variety of chickens, goats, cows, dogs and cats casually crossed without fear.

At the top of the hill, at the end of the road stood a house (sort of). Like many structures in third world countries, half of it is finished, and the rest is waiting for funds or families or furniture. Of course our approaching vehicle, caused quite the stir, stirring up more than dust as we got out of the car.

Not so curiously, CARE EE caused a crowd immediately, as the children hurried to open the door and let the stranger out into their midst. What would I bring them, why was I there? Some spoke enough English to say "what is your name?" "my name is..." "how are you?"

And when CARE EE spoke - grins broke out across their faces, laughter erupted and happiness was widespread. Their grins were a mixture of broken, missing and decaying teeth. But they were grins none the less. Their clothes, were not much more than rags, the shoes found only on a few were oversized, mismatched hand me downs barely staying on to protect their small feet. Their hair had most likely not been combed this week (or month), and as for baths, the dirt that covered them, covered them!

And while this sad physical state exists among these Roma children, they are still at their heart children. They are still laughing, smiling, having fun playing the 'King and Queen' in the stories I tell them. And, through the work of two dedicated Finnish people committed to living in this former war zone - they ALL know about Jesus!

As I told the story, high on the hill, overlooking an impoverished landscape, that was more like a series of junkyards than a village for humans to reside - I asked the questions to the wide-eyed crowd "do you know who the baby in the manger is?"

JESUS
They yelled back - some with hand raised enthusiastically.

"Do you know who calmed the sea in the boat?"
JESUS

They laughed wondering why I would ask questions with such an obvious answer.
"Do you know why the cross points the way to heaven?"
Because He died for our sins!

"On a hill far away...."

There is knowledge of the old rugged cross. There are children who know, who trust, who believe in the Name of Jesus. There are illiterate parents who learn of the Savior because the children come home from Bible lessons and tell of His love. There is hope in a place where hope is forged in the fires, because they know there really is only His hope that saves.

It may not save them from poverty, it may not remove them from the pit of forged found ironwork around them, it did not save them from being caught in a war, but it will save them in the end.

Praise God for THIS indescribable gift! As Paul wrote to those back home in Jerusalem ' brothers I want you to know what is going on in the field' I write back to you - I want you to know what YOU are a part of. Some through financial gifts, some through prayers but all will share in the Harvest of souls in the joy shared and the love brought to this hill! We are ONE in the body of Christ.