2nd European Roma Missions Conference

People from 27 countries were gathered to the 2nd European Roma Missions Conference what was held in Békés, Hungary on 21-24 September. Hungarian Gypsy Missions International (based in Békés) and Roma Networks (an international Roma missions network) made it their common purpose to connect the different Roma missions working throughout Europe so with cooperation they could reach as many people as possible and bring radical positive change in lives, find solutions for the problems of society.

At the conference the 210 participants ? who were either well respected and well experienced or greatly motivated people in Roma missions ? had the chance to attend 6 main lectures and 11 workshops. They also had opportunities to get together at the country meetings and share their experiences, initiate cooperation and lay down the foundations for an international network of Roma missions.

At this international event there were some prominent persons greeting the conference like Gábor Izsó the Mayor of Békés, Béla Dankó a representative at the Hungarian Parliament and Katalin Langerné Victor Deputy Secretary of Ministry of Human Resources Responsible for Social Inclusion. The Deputy Secretary emphasized that the Roma issue is not only an issue in Hungary but also an issue for the whole Europe.

The conference did not conclude without continuation again: the Committee of 6 leaders was supplemented by other 44 people who were elected by the country representatives. This group of 50 people will keep in touch ? they will create the platform and database for the purpose of helping and informing each other. These representatives will create the framework for the long term future cooperation and they will meet to share personal reports on the development of the Roma missions works of their countries in next March.

“After the exciting work of preparation it was pleasant to see the fruits of realization. We could see right at the beginning this was to be a unique event, since probably there were no such events before where Roma people and people serving Roma came together from so many countries and denominations whose hearts are burning for the Kingdom of God.” ? so the organizing team of HGMI evaluated the conference.

“This conference was not unique, because we could hear such experts speaking or see the representatives of large organizations or communities, yet we could create a unity of people from different cultural and denominational backgrounds. This unity comes from the common purpose we are here for and it is the Kingdom of God and we all are His workers for the sake of the Roma. We do not declare our own greatness, but the healing and restoring work of Christ what he has been doing among one of the most lost nations: the Roma people.”

Those days we spent here were only the beginning of the future work, where we will start to use these newly built bridges. I think we have not only finished a conference, but we have proclaimed a vision what will inspire people for further building.

The “Building God’s Kingdom Together” conference was a unique event, since probably there was never an event before where servants of a common purpose gathered together from so many countries and denominations.

(Photos by Illés Molnár)

2nd European Roma Missions ConferenceAlbert DurkoKatalin Langerné Victor

Conference meeting


Memorial Place of WW2

Let’s remember and remind others!

2 August is the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day we are remembering the Roma victims of World War II?s genocide. On 2 August 1944, the separate camp site of Gypsies in Auschwitz-Birkenau was eradicated; almost 3,000 people were killed over one night. However, we only have theories about the exact number of Roma people who had been executed, collected, interned to death during the previous years. Most of the names of mass killings are unknown. Thousands of Gypsy families live in fear ever since.

The ?destruction? meaning of the Romani phrase Pharrajimos (Porajmos) refers to the Roma Holocaust. Destruction ? human lives, children, women, men, old and diseased people became victims of this cruel havoc, the ethnic cleansing.

Gypsy people ? living at the edge of society ? were constantly exposed to atrocities, harassment. Common thinking treated their existence with aversion and prejudice. The exclusionary views became more widespread, creating fear and hatred against Roma people. Fanaticism led to the death of many ten thousands of people.

Hungarian Gypsy Missions International is calling gypsies and non-gypsies to remember those who were murdered in their homes, on their streets, in extermination camps and labour camps ? whose main sin was their Gypsy origin.

Prejudice and hate speech still surround us today. The false notion of collective delinquency and collective guilt infect our communities. Violation of human dignity, violence, destruction is unacceptable in a society full of life.

What our ancestors failed to do in the past, let us complement it in the present and look towards the future in faith. We must believe that every people in our society are equal and we can live in security side by side. We ask instigators of hatred by a friendly handshake to let us build a peaceful and strong country together.

On the Roma Holocaust Memorial Day Hungarian Gypsy Missions International is asking every member of our society to express their sympathy for Roma people! Let’s understand their pain and hear their cry for help!

Let’s remember and remind others, in order for senseless and furious hatred not to take innocent and unprotected casualties any more!

2 August 2016, Bekes, Hungary

Durkó Albert

Albert Durko

Roma church meeting

God’s Mission Among the Roma

Written by Melody J. Wachsmuth who is based in Croatia and has been researching and collecting oral history from Roma communities in Eastern Europe since 2011.

Listening to Gods Story

In the 1960’s, a Romanian glass seller set off from Timişoara to a village of 10,000 Roma 500 km away. He was not going just to sell windows—he felt that God sent him to share the gospel. Little did he know that his act of obedience would have a ripple effect completely transforming the village for decades to come. By the late 1980’s almost the entire village had converted, many changing their business practices to honor God. Over the next couple decades, families moved out of the village for economic reasons and went to Bucharest, Germany, France, Spain and England, forming churches in each of these places.1

In the 1980’s, a 7-year-old Roma girl in Bulgaria desired to know God. She eventually began attending a Bible study—made up mostly of children—in her mahalle. The children all prayed in tongues and had dreams and visions—she had a continual vision of her mother and father being in a church, despite their unhappy home life. Eventually, her mother turned to Jesus and then finally in 1995, her father converted. Around 2006, they began to build a church, with the help of the very poor around them. God had told them that their church would be for the rejects of society, “the Roma that even the other Roma rejected.” Now this church is one of around 800 churches in Bulgaria.2

Chances are, you have never heard of these stories, and they are just two stories among hundreds. In fact, perhaps the stories you do hear about the 10-12 million Roma in Europe only confirm negative stereotypes, portraying them as either poor victims or perpetrators of crime.

These types of images and stories come to us through the media, government agencies, and through societal stereotypes—and often these images are divorced from any personal relationship between Roma and non-Roma.

But these stereotypes are not the story that God is writing in Roma communities all throughout Europe. In fact, God has been quite active in Roma communities for decades, and his spirit continues to move, speaking to people in dreams and visions, manifesting in miraculous healings, and calling Roma leaders to serve their people.

After God directed an Albanian couple to evangelize a small Roma village of 150 families in rural Albania, one young Roma man had a vision. As a pastor prayed for him, he saw himself wandering in the darkness and then being led into the light. He soon gained a burden to serve his people. He was sent to Bible school in Tirana in 2013—but the first year was very difficult since he had never finished high school. Many times he wanted to quit and go back to the village, but people continued to encourage him and he felt Jesus was with him. He finally graduated and his desire to serve his people is stronger than ever.3

Movements of Mission

Roma churches have been growing and multiplying for decades. In the 1950’s, a ‘Gypsy Awakening’ began in France. Under the initial leadership of Clément Le Cossec, Roma leaders were trained and missionaries were sent out so that the movement spread to fifty countries in fifty years.4 In Eastern Europe, a Roma Baptist church began in the 1930’s in Bulgaria, and during the 1940’s and 1950’s, Pentecostalism began spreading among the Roma.5 In Romania, after the fall of Communism in 1989, Protestant Christianity spread rapidly among Roma communities—now there are hundreds of churches.6 A revival began in Leskovac, Serbia in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, which led to a church planting movement throughout Serbia.

In the 1950’s, a Roma man in the Ukraine came to an Adventist Church to beg for food. He eventually became a believer and started going every Sunday. Eventually, many in the Roma village converted, but struggled with the rule against eating pork meat. The man continued to eat pork in secret, and once someone saw him buying a pig. Because of that, that church forbade the Roma from coming so they started a home group. Some Pentecostals came and connected with the group in the late 1970’s and began preaching in the villages. Eventually a ‘great awakening’ began throughout the Trans-Carpathian region and many converted to Christianity. Now there are numerous Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist churches in the region.7

This is not a uniform movement, but rather movements, and the fastest growing are in Pentecostal and charismatic forms. In places like France and Spain, Roma Christians number over a hundred thousand. In places like Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia, Christians number in the thousands and tens of thousands. Most countries in Southeastern Europe, however, have newer movements and small churches. Because of the work-migration flow from Eastern Europe to Western Europe, churches in Central and Eastern Europe (such as Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia) have started newer churches in Western Europe in places like Italy, England, Germany, and France.

The Challenge of Holistic Transformation

Part of this story involves the immense challenges that Roma leaders and communities face: persistent poverty, need for holistic ministry, lack of education, equipping new leaders, Islam in Roma communities, the negative relationship between the majority culture and Roma communities, and lack of unity between different churches or movements.

Even with these challenges, however, there are organizations and churches that are addressing them. For example, Community Health Evangelism (CHE), which addresses transformation from a holistic community perspective, has recently begun spreading in Eastern Europe. International movements like the Gypsies and Travelers International Evangelical Fellowship (G.A.T.I.E.F.) continue to train Roma leaders and missionaries. Ministries such as Project Ruth in Bucharest provide education for children and job training for adults.

Most recently, a new grass roots movement began to address the issue of ministry isolation and lack of information. In 2014, the Great Commission Center International, a Chinese Mission organization, hosted a European Roma conference in Budapest, Hungary. At the conference, many Roma leaders realized the value of connecting and encouraging one another. Out of that, Roma Networks began, having the vision to network, connect, and research for the sake of sharing the gospel and seeing transformation in Roma communities throughout Europe. Currently, Roma Networks is researching, building bridges to promote unity, and planning the next European conference that will be on September 21-24, 2016 in Békés, Hungary, entitled, “Building God’s Kingdom together”.

From the Roma to all peoples

The spread of Christianity among the Roma is not just for the Roma. Rather, God may use the Roma to help revitalize Christianity in Europe. Many Roma leaders have this vision: “I want this to be a church for all peoples, not just the Roma,” said Đena Nikolić, from his small church in Darda, Croatia. Roma Christians are an important part of the global church and as God continues to write this unique story, we can all be encouraged and challenged in our knowledge of God’s mission to the world.

To find out more about Roma Networks, or to help the grass-roots movement by donating towards Roma leaders attending the conference, go to the website: romanetworks.com

  1. Story told by Pastor Puiu Onriu in Bucharest Romania, as it had been passed on to him (2015).
  2. Story told by Danijela Mincheva in Kyustendil, Bulgaria (2015).
  3. Story told by Andreas Avdiu in Morove, Albania (2015).
  4. Laurent, Régis. 2014. “On the Genesis of Gypsy Pentecostalism in Brittany.” In Thurfjell, David and Adrian Marsh Eds. Romani Pentecostalism: Gypsies and Charismatic Christianity. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  5. Slavkova, Magdalena. 2014. “Prestige and Identity Construction Amongst Pentecostal Gypsies in Bulgaria.” In Thurfjell, David and Adrian Marsh Eds. Romani Pentecostalism: Gypsies and Charismatic Christianity. Frankfurt: Peter Lang.
  6. Gog, Sorin. 2009. “Post-Socialist Religious Pluralism: How do Religious Conversions of Roma Fit into the Wider Landscape? From Global to Local Perspectives.” in A. Boscoboinik, F. Ruegg Eds. Transitions: Nouvelles identites rom en Europe centrale & orientale Universite libre de Bruxelles.
  7. Story told by Sergej Latkso’s father who claims to be one of first Pentecostal believers in the region in Ukraine (2015). Sergej is now trying to unite the different denominations of Roma churches.
Protestant Gypsy Mission Conference

The walls must come down in the hearts of people!

It was the first time for the protestant churches of Hungary and the Gypsy Methodology and Research Center to hold a conference in Budapest-Fasori Lutheran Church titled: “Make disciples of all nations!” on 20th February. Almost 400 people came together with one purpose: to encourage, to motivate Gypsy and non-Gypsy Christians who are involved in Gypsy mission to continue their work for Gypsy people and to share the Gospel.

The churches were represented by one of their leaders: János Papp, President of the Baptist Church of Hungary; László Deák, Mission Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary; Dr. László Khaled Abdo, Candidate Superintendent of the United Methodist Church in Hungary; Eszter Dani, Head of Mission of the Reformed Church in Hungary and Albert Pataky, President of the Hungarian Pentecostal Church.

The event was honored by the presence and complimenting words of Karoly Czibere, Secretary of State representing the State Secretariat of Social Affairs and Social Inclusion at the Ministry of Human Resources. He said that “the strongest walls are not in society but in the hearts of people”, that is why it is important for our assemblies and churches to stand in unity by this conference. We must tell the society: “Every wall will come down in front of Christ” in the hearts of people.

Péter Bakay, Gypsy mission leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary gave us the answer to the question how to do it. At first we must become real followers of Christ. We must give up inactivity and “even by making a sacrifice or accepting unpleasantness, we must start serving”, making disciples of the people around us.

“The purpose of this day is to urge for ministry.” Yet, this ministry should not be a lonesome activity ? highlighted Albert Durko, President of Hungarian Gypsy Missions International ?, “just as in the story of the great catching of fishes one boat was not enough for Peter, we believe that one boat is not enough for us either. Every church, assembly and group is needed for the crowds to find their homes.”

In his sermon László Surman, executive elder of HGMI addressed the audience of the conference: Jesus came down to Earth to do something for the benefit of humanity, to offer solution for their sins. “My brother, what do you offer to do?” ? he asked. “Jesus sacrificed his life in order to save us to set a fire in your heart.”  There are no results without any sacrifice. The five protestant churches are convinced that the power of faith and the Gospel can bring complete changes in the lives of people and as a result of these changes the whole society will be restored.

In the afternoon program Bálint Kovács, Péter Bakay, Zoltán Kurdi, Albert Durkó and Ágnes Nyeső, the leaders of the five protestant Gypsy missions gave reports of their national activities.

In the next session ? led by Eszter Dani ? Gypsy people and Gypsy families shared their testimonies of complete life changes, who have got to know the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and decided to give up their former lifestyles in order to follow Jesus.

Between the testimonies the sound of the worship team of Pentecostal Gypsy Missions from Verpelét filled the church building. Gypsy and non-Gypsy people, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Reformed Church members sang together. Nobody could see any difference between them. In the church building the walls between people came down that day and we could learn and were encouraged together with open hearts. We got a new chance to be strengthened in our calling and to receive a fire into our hearts in order to serve the Gypsy and non-Gypsy people with a new dynamism.

Joseph Program ? changing mentality, fighting stereotypes

One of the many stereotypes about ethnic Gypsy Christians is that they are always ready to receive ? and not so much to give. We believe in the power of giving, even when it is the most disadvantaged people group in Europe who give.

In our Joseph Program, Roma participants gather in foodstuff to our community houses during the summer (when they can get higher income from working on the fields) and distribute it among themselves and other needy people during the winter season. Gypsy men in the community cultivate land and grow crops together. Some of the crops they then donate to the local school and some people in need.

The Joseph Program slowly influences the mindset of ethnic Gypsy believers. We have received good reports from participants as well as outsiders ? Roma and non-Roma alike.

We are looking for ways to get more ethnic Gypsies into the Joseph Program. Please, look at the video (turn on English subtitles) and Partner with us in this great initiative. Start supporting Joseph Program today.

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Raising our voice together ? network of ethnic Gypsy churches in Hungary

In the past 30 years, the gospel has been spreading fast among the most underprivileged people group in Hungary: ethnic Gypsies. Some churches welcomed them in their own congregations but more often small Roma congregations have been established. An already weak voice among Christians in the country, the fragmented crowd of Gypsy Christians cannot be as effective in impacting society as when they work together.

HGMI was founded in 1996 with only a handful of people in 3 ethnic Gypsy churches. In the past 20 years, God has opened up doors for the gospel among the Roma in a mighty way. The people ? despised by a large part of mainstream society ? turn to God, repent of their sins and are born again. Today, there are about 6000 people in 120 churches and church plants in our network.

As (non-geographic) Church District 5 of the Hungarian Pentecostal Church in Hungary, HGMI provides the administrative background for these 120 churches. Together we are stronger.Together our voice is louder.

Whatever we do, we always think in terms of networking. It takes only a little extra effort but results are manifold.

Partner with us in reaching the Roma in and around Hungary. Start supporting our mission today.

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The role of GypsyAid in helping refugees

Refugees have been coming through Hungary for quite a while now but we had never seen anything like what we experienced in August and September 2015. In partnership with the Hungarian Pentecostal Church in Hungary, HGMI?s charity and aid arm, GypsyAid set up an operative base at the refugee collection point outside Röszke, Hungary, less than a kilometer from the Serbian border. GypsyAid is committed to coordinate help in the long term.

Click here to see our gallery.

Click to help refugees.

Hungary is situated on one of the major refugee/migrant routes to the heart of the European Union. Over 300 thousand people crossed the border illegally in 2015 (until September 30). During the summer, the Government rushingly enacted legislation to more efficiently keep migrants ? and refugees ? out of the country, and erected a 175-km border fence on the Hungarian?Serbian border.

On September 14 afternoon, the border became much more difficult to cross, so our operations shifted from Röszke to Horgos, on the Serbian side. A few days later, people started to come again ? but this time via Croatia. About 35 thousand of them entered Hungary through the Croatian border in the next 7 days.

While there are a lot of young men that seemingly need little help, there are also lots of families with small children, even babies. Many places the refugees are warmly welcome by local people, but the general public?s attitude is rather adverse. It is expected that the flow of refugees will not stop for the winter and an even greater wave will bee coming next spring.

GypsyAid, in cooperation with the Hungarian Pentecostal Church and by the generous support of some local and international partners, distributed water, bananas, apples, biscuits, coffee and tea, tents, sleeping bags, shoes, clothes, blankets, backpacks, items of personal hygiene, and many other things as they were needed. A lot of volunteers joined our team, even non-Christians came after we had made a call for action.

Our quick response team will be serving in the refugee hot spots in and around Hungary as long as the need and support will be there. Please, pray for us and consider partnering with us (e.g. with financial support, by volunteering).

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Click here to see our gallery.

Click to help refugees.

Touching the untouchables ? church planting & outreach

Politicians in Eastern Europe and in the European Union go into great lengths trying to solve the so-called ?Roma Problem.? Our vision at Hungarian Gypsy Missions International is that the Roma ? as the most underprivileged people group in Europe ? first and foremost need God?s saving mercy and grace. When they repent and turn to Him, they are born again and Jesus transforms their lives.

HGMI was founded in 1996 with only a handful of people in 3 ethnic Gypsy churches. In the past 20 years, God has opened up doors for the gospel among the Roma in a mighty way. The people ? despised by a large part of mainstream society ? turn to God, repent of their sins and are born again. Today, there are about 6000 people in 120 churches and church plants in our network.

Our vision is that God makes the last first. Revival among the Roma will have a great impact on Europe. Those who have racial prejudice against them today, will come to the Lord and be blessed.

Mission workers and volunteers, supervised by the HGMI executives elders, visit churches and cell groups regularly. They preach a teach the Bible. HGMI trains local and regional leaders ? preparing room for 325 thousand Gypsy men and women, according to our vision.

Music has a vital role in the Roma way of life and thus it is a major means for communicating the message of God?s love to them. Praise & worship music is very important in all our churches, cell groups and outreaches.

Partner with us in reaching the Roma in and around Hungary. Click here and start supporting a mission worker today!

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Groundbreaking sociological survey shows transformed Gypsy lives

On April 23, 2015, Gypsy Methodology and Research Center (GMRC), the scientific research arm of Hungarian Gypsy Missions International, introduced their first major work in sociological research among the Hungarian Roma, The Impact of Gypsy Mission Movements in Hungary. The Protestant interdenominational survey has shown that there are about 20,000 born-again church-attending ethnic Gypsies in Hungary today.

Having processed 1100 questionnaires from a representative group of 6500 ethnic Gypsies across the country, GMRC researchers found that transformation of born-again Roma?s lives is obvious and Christian ministries among the Roma have a substantial positive impact on society.

Ethnic Gypsies make up a significant portion of the population in Central & Eastern Europe. Their cultural differences, poverty as well as mainstream society?s rampant prejudice against them have created a complex ?Gypsy issue? across Europe. Neither national governments nor the European Union has been able to offer a viable long-term solution that would provide equal chances and a hope for the future to the Roma masses while increasing their usefulness for society. We are convinced that even if society had all the good intentions and precise strategies to help, the Roma ? just as everybody else ? can and will only be changed by the transforming power of the gospel.

In The Impact of Gypsy Mission Movements in Hungary, the authors ? GMRC researchers Mr. Gellert Gyetvai and Mr. Zoltan Rajki ? paint a detailed picture about how Roma lives can change under God?s transforming power when they are approached with love and grace. All aspects of their lives are changed and they do become a blessing to others.

Hungarian Gypsy Missions International firmly believes God will make the last the first. He will lift up the Roma in Europe and make them examples and a driving force for change.

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Albert Durko receives Raoul Wallenberg Award

The Rev. Albert Durko, President of Hungarian Gypsy Missions International, nominated by Mr. Zoltan Balog, Hungarian Minister of Human Capacities, and the senior leaders of HGMI, received the Raoul Wallenberg Award on January 19, 2015.

For an exemplary life and ministry of fighting against discrimination, helping the underprivileged and disadvantaged, and contributing towards the exercising of human rights and citizenship rights provided by law in Hungary, Mr. Zoltan Balog, Hungarian Minister of Human Capacities, and the senior leaders of HGMI had nominated Albert Durko for the 2015 Raoul Wallenberg Award. The Award Committee found the nomination well-founded and selected him to be one of the Award recipients.

The laudation states that ?the leader of Hungarian Gypsy Missions International believes that through mutual acceptance everybody can help decrease the tensions in society and find the path to enriching others.?

The award ceremony, titled ?Raoul Wallenberg ? Each Action Counts? and held on January 19, 2015, commemorated the 70th anniversary of Wallenberg?s detention by the Soviet Red Army. The diplomat was never publicly seen afterwards and reportedly died imprisoned in Moscow on July 17, 1947. The joint awards of the Raoul Wallenberg Association, the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, the Ministry of Human Capacities and the National Association of Local Authorities are given to people and organizations that, in one way or another, follow in the footsteps of the Swedish humanitarian. This year, five people and two organizations were awarded.

Ceremony participants and speakers included H. E. Mr. Niclas Trouvé, Embassador of Sweden, Mr. Michael Wernstedt, Executive Director of the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Academy, Mr. Urban Christian Ahlin, Speaker of the Riksdag (the Swedish Parliament), Mr. Emir Selimi, Artist & Roma Rights Activist, Dr. Marta Matrai, First Officer of the Hungarian National Assembly, Mr. Szabolcs Takacs, Minister of State for European Affairs (Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities), and Dr. Bence Retvari, Parliamentary State Secretary (Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities).

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Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg (4 August 1912 ? disappeared 17 January 1945) was a Swedish architect, businessman, diplomat and humanitarian. He is widely celebrated for saving tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from Hungarian Fascists and the Nazis during the later stages of World War II. While serving as Sweden?s special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory. (Wikipedia: Raoul Wallenberg)