Transforming the Lives of Europe's Poorest

Scot Bower, October 24th, 2011

With the intense heat of summer comes the sound of young children laughing as they run through the streets spraying water from plastic bottles. These playful screams are accompanied by the insistent, compulsive beat of balkan-gypsy drums and occasional brass section. During these months this is a place of laughter and celebration. But wintertime here tells a different story; It brings bone-numbing cold to the same dirt streets lined with ramshackle simple structures. The smell of burning oil and wood linger in the air pouring from so many makeshift chimneys and is joined by smoke from piles of smouldering rubbish that burn at the side of the road. This acrid smell reminds you of the hardship that's a reality for thousands of families.

It's against this backdrop on the outskirts of Skopje, Macedonia that we find one of the most encouraging and beautiful expressions of 24-7 Communities making a difference in the lives of the very poorest.

The Glasnost community work with the Roma gypsies of Shutka, the largest Roma settlement in Europe (more than 70,000). There they are building relationships with young people and support an incredible preschool which is changing the lives of 20 kids every year. The Little Friends preschool brings hope to a community as children are given the chance not only to learn the alphabet, but to be in a safe, warm place, and learn about Jesus, about the world and their place in it. They are taught that they are important to God, even when the world around them says they are the least important.

There is nothing more valuable we can do for those others, especially the poor and the hopeless than to bring an understanding of who they are in the eyes of the creator. That they are loved and they are to love others. It's this message that could transform this community.

Children come to the preschool from the age of 4 then at the age of 7 they leave and join the local school not just as some of the brightest kids at the local school but some of the best behaved. As such there's often a scramble for teachers to sign up the 'little friends' children. But the relationship doesn't stop here as the team continue to work with each child and their family throughout their school life. visiting the The vision is that soon 20 children per year will be graduating from school and taking a place in their local community where they too can bring life and the love and acceptance of Jesus to the streets of Shutka. This, the largest Roma community in Europe, could be transformed by and for the gospel within 2 generations!

The Little Friends preschool relies on donations and sponsorship of children. At the moment they need sponsors for 10 children, if you can help visit patchworkids.org where you can pledge your support.

Scot Bower is married to the beautiful Misty and they have 2 adorable children. Having spent 5 years in Eastern Europe they now live in Guildford, England where they help lead the Emmaus Rd community (formerly the Guildford Boiler Room). Scot is 'Curator of Fun Stuff and Cool Stories' for 24-7 and you can buy his book 'Saints' on Amazon  Scot tweets and hangs out on Facebook a little too often.

This feature has received 4 comments so far...
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  • scot bower
    4th Nov

    Thank you all for your comments. The Roma are such a special people and so close to the heart of the Father. When you consider His longing for the poor, the orphan the marginilised you know that when you spend time with them you spend time with Him.
    Bless you all.
    @Katie thanks so much for telling your story, I echo and Amen Jodie’s prayer for you. Be blessed, your example of love and sacrifice is inspirational. Hope you continue to enjoy the book.

  • John K
    2nd Nov

    Awarness of the Roma people and their suffering is so crucial. God will be glorified in the way he loves them! I’m so glad that 247 has a heart for this. My wife and I are moving to Moravia in Czech where there is a large Roma population and we hope to be a part of what is doing in there community.

  • Jodie Howell
    2nd Nov

    Thank you for sharing your story with honesty and vulnerability, Katie. I only just learned of the Roma peoples last night at a prayer gathering to bless a young mission couple who are heading for the Czech Republic. I believe that prayer begins in the heart of God and is given flesh, incarnated, through us (in our actions and attitudes), often even when we are trying to live life on our own apart from Him. Therefore, it seems to me that you WERE responding to God’s presence and heart for the Roma when you spent ten years living with them, “fighting to help the children there,” and that even though you did not acknowledge Him, God blessed you with tears, compassion, and love. How true, that whenever we depend on our own resources we eventually hit a “brick wall” . . yet, how gracious of God to open your eyes there, to give you a chance to consider a change of direction in this “crossroads” of your life and to enfold you in a loving community of His children. My prayer is that you and Jeno will be reunited in Christ and that you will be able to minister together as a reflection of God’s love for you and for the Roma peoples in Romania.

  • Katie Sammons
    29th Oct

    I have lived and worked with the Roma children in Tirgu Mures, Romania for the past 10 years of my life, fallen in love with a Roma man and we now have two beautiful English/ Roma children. I did all this without God in my life, as a disbeliever. Unfortunately we are at a major crossroads in our life and I am in the UK with the kids while Jeno lives back in Romania running the charity that we set up together so many years ago. Since being back in the UK for the past year I have realised that our lack of faith in God has led us to where we are now. The charity has hit a brick wall as has our relationship with each other. I have since joined a church and met some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life, and I have also begun to trust in God and believe in something I never ever thought was real! I am slowly coming to the realisation that God wants to use me back in Romania to do exactly what this article says… (continue to) Teach the Roma children that they are important to God even when the world around them make them feel insignificant. When I first went to Romania in 1998 I felt God’s presence amongst these people and chose to ignore it, even though it bought me to tears, or perhaps I didn’t ignore it, I spent 10 years living within the Roma community fighting to help the children there, but I did all this without letting God into my heart… now I am just starting to realise all the amazing things I can do now that I have God with me. Your story is inspirational, as is the book I am reading at present — Red Moon Rising. God speaks to us in amazing ways. I just wanted to share may story with you.

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