Gypsy Beggars

So far I have almost been run over by a bus, a Mini Cooper, an Opel, and a bicycle. You must be careful while crossing the street. Today we walked through the city. At every corner there is a light signal that displays a countdown of how many seconds you have to get to the opposite sidewalk. I think it is a countdown to your impending death. At one crosswalk our guide said that the cars had to yield to pedestrians. After the dude in the itty bitty car almost tagged my leg I gathered that she might be wrong.

One aspect of a mission trip is the work, which we begin formally tomorrow. Another aspect of a short mission trip is the cultural experience. When you are in someone else’s city they enjoy showing you the culture. While in Budapest I read an article about the Romo. Apparently Romo is a derogatory term for gypsies. Today, while in Oradea, we ran into several gypsies. All of them were beggars. The women were dressed in brightly colored wraps with lots of beads. They looked much like Americans do when they dress up like gypsies for a party or for Halloween. The problem is that in this culture gypsies are a source of racial tension, crime, and are known for begging. One member of our group gave a gypsy boy one Lei (I think that is the way it is spelled) and he was quickly reprimanded. He was told that he was only encouraging the Gypsy boy to continue to beg. The boy approached Shannon and she reached into her pocket for a piece of gum. The boy didn’t stick around for the gum but instead turned around and ran off in a sprint. I thought Shannon had either said something to offend him or had threatened him with Karate. I soon realized why he ran off when I turned my head to see the police passing by.

While in downtown Oradea we visited a Romanian Orthodox and a Catholic Cathedral. Both were well over 300 years old, both were ornate. The Orthodox Cathedral was so full of life, color, beauty, and icons it was almost too much to take in with the eye. I took a seat on the side of the Cathedral just to take time to scan the architecture and art. While there I watched a woman praying in front of a metallic piece of art that was the likeness of Jesus. She was very intense. I wondered what it was that burdened her so much in her prayers. As she prayed I prayed for her. As she finished, I noticed that she payed for her prayers. Another woman paid the priest for a blessing over her bread. By the door was a gift shop where people could pay for religious paraphernalia. From what I know of the Orthodox church and from what I observed, it seems they paid for the favor of God.

In a strange, ironic sense the gypsy and the Orthodox are both beggars.

As I walked around the city I reflected on the Great Commission in Matthew 28. This morning I meditated on that passage and shared it with our team. While in the city, watching gypsies beg, watching the Orthodox pray, I thought about what Jesus meant when He commanded us to make disciples of every nation. People are colorful, ornate, and iconic in their own ways. This makes discipleship a daunting task. It requires us to immerse ourselves in a culture, in a life, while at the same time introducing people to another culture and life in Christ. How do you bring a gypsy beggar and a woman begging a metallic Jesus down the same path? How do such different beggars manifest Christ likeness?

Today has been a surreal day. It has made manifest the color and variety of the Great Commission. We speak of it so nonchalant; as if it is something you do on a Tuesday afternoon if you have the time. Yet the Great Commission is as you go, walking into the bold colors of life and culture. It is immersion. It is personal. It is something that I have failed to fully appreciate. Jesus will bring the nations to himself, and He has invited us to take a walk and be participants in the mosaic masterpiece that true discipleship becomes.

I saw two women beg today. As I watched them I prayed for them. I am not judging them. I can judge very little about people I hardly understand linguistically or culturally. Yet, I prayed that they both know Jesus Christ as Savior. As I watched them, I too begged. I begged God that He would make them disciples of Jesus Christ His Son.

If you want to see pics of the gypsy lady they are posted in my most recent Facebook album. If you are not on Facebook and want to see my pictures, Facebook forces you to beg to be my friend! How ironic.


Anonymous said…
My dear fellow, I am an Orthodox Christian, and I have to tell you that you are utterly wrong and mistaken that we Orthodox Christians "pay for God's favour." I find your claim outrageous and misinformed. The woman gave the priest money as a tithe to the Church, out of love and gratitude for him being of help to her, also out of love for Christ Whom he represents in his ministry. The woman praying before the icon was no doubt in sorrow for her own trials of life. Being Christian does not mean that we will not suffer in this life, because the world is still a fallen place and will remain so until Christ comes again. But Christ is with us at every moment, weeping with us when we weep, rejoicing with us when we rejoice. Our destiny in Him is to be transformed and transfigured by Him through His Cross and Resurrection and the grace therefrom, to have our fallen image restored to the original image of God in which we were created. Prayers in the Orthodox Church are aimed at the healing of the human heart from sin, with Christ as our Divine Physician Who not only saves us but heals us through His grace and aids us as we pursue His call to holiness: "Be ye perfect as My Father in Heaven is perfect." You need to do research on the Orthodox Church rather than making a flash judgement through observing just one moment. We don't pay for God's help and grace! We simply believe in tithing, and we believe that the labourer is worthy of his hire. Love is the basis of all our actions, when we are striving to live in Christ.

Yours in Christ,

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