Sharing true hope, breaking the cycle, Evangelical Focus
“I sell potatoes at the market. Some time ago, several women came there and started to talk about God and some radio programs. They also distributed small radios. I took one and turned on the radio at home in the evening. I started listening to the program Women of Hope. This program touched my heart. […] Thank you for these valuable teachings. – Mrs. Yanka, from Bulgaria and a listener to TWR’s Roma programs.
Mrs. Yanka represents one of the 12 million Roma people currently living in Europe, predominantly in the central and southeastern part of the continent. Life is mostly challenging, particularly in these times of the pandemic, but she at least has a job and some level of income at the market.
Many fellow Roma have menial jobs… If any at all, as the unemployment rate among Roma is worryingly high. Often enough, a large number of Roma depend on social benefits from the state or from charitable contributions by non-profit organizations and churches.
notably, children and young people suffer the most as they grow up. They lack a good education and subsequent opportunities for employment and suffer the fate of their parents. The difficult environment that many Roma people experience is further complicated by the fact that a great majority of Roma face prejudice, societal rejection and discrimination. This further expands the differences and problems that the Roma people face. However, thankfully not everything is bleeding.
Step by step, awareness is being raised by people who refuse to accept the status quo. Christian leaders are helping to break down these prejudices and assist the Roma in various ways to integrate into society, gain improved educational standards, and find jobs where they can provide for their families. Among the biggest factors in breaking this cycle of generational poverty and unemployment is having positive examples from within the Roma community so that change can be achieved.
For over 20 yearsthe international ministry of Trans World Radio (TWR) has been supporting these efforts in central and southeastern Europe with the tools at their disposal: through radio and media infrastructure and know-how but also by training and developing Roma leaders to create and produce scripts and programs so that they reach their own communities in their respective dialects. The foundation in all of this is the desire by TWR to speak hope so that lasting fruit is produced. At TWR, we believe that Jesus Christ is the one who breaks chains, sets free, changes lives and gives dignity to all through his offer of salvation.
Pastor Nachko has been faithfully serving his fellow Roma people in Bulgaria for many years. / Photo: Studio 865.
As many Roma have only experienced struggles and hardship, rejection and poverty, it is the iIncredible message of God’s unconditional love and care that makes a deep impression on them. But again, it is key that a Christian Roma leader reaches out to his/her own community. Encouragingly, God is at work in mighty ways in the growing Roma churches, who are sometimes the largest, most vibrant churches in their regions, and even creating a positive stir in other parts of western and northern Europe.
Exemplifying the solid development of Christian content are the two highly popular radio programs Shalom Romalen (Peace to Roma) other Romano Krlo (Voice of the Roma) that are regularly recorded in the studio of a church in Leskovac, southern Serbia, in cooperation with Ikonos, TWR’s national partner in Serbia. Furthermore, the radio program Voice of Truth is produced and broadcast at a local Roma radio station in North Macedonia with the focus on keeping the listeners close to God and his Word. The gospel message is often shared in different contextualized ways, both through programs focusing on spiritual matters as well as programs highlighting practical topics from everyday life. Topics include raising children, family relations and turning away from deeply engaged superstition.
Radmila from Serbia shared her encouraging story with us: “I first came to a Roma church when I was 12 years old. I didn’t know God yet, but my mom went to church and made me come. In that period, I didn’t understand much, but I liked hanging out; there were a lot of young people and my peers. I especially liked that special atmosphere – warm and full of understanding where everyone felt welcome and accepted. Since then, I have started coming regularly, but also through the Shalom Romalen site, listening to Christian programs in the Romani language. After four years of listening to the programs, going to church, and hanging out with young people, I didn’t have any special expectations from God. I just wanted to be with people because I felt nice there and I enjoyed listening to programs that covered various topics from the Christian population from a biblical perspective. However, God had something bigger in the plan. One day while listening to the program and my brother telling some of his testimony, I wanted it in my life. God then called me to surrender my life to Him!
In closing, let us share a beautiful and significant event for the Roma people in southern Serbia: Last year, the Serbian Bible Society published the New Testament in the Romani language! Ikonos participated in the translation process from the beginning and holds the copyright for the audio while the Bible Society will continue to distribute the printed copies. The pastor of a large Roma church in Leskovac, Serif Bakic, who also supervises the team for recording the audio programs in the Romani language, is one of the translators of this New Testament.
This is an encouraging and positive example of working together across ethnic, cultural and linguistic lines to speak and share the hope of Christ to and through the Roma people. To God be the glory!
For more information on the global TWR ministry, please visit TWR.org. If you are interested in knowing more about TWR’s national partners such as Ikonos (Serbia) and Studio 865 (Bulgaria), click here. To access the Roma ministry website in Serbia, visit Salom Romalen.