The work of evangelism, church planting and humanitarian relief among the Roma people is most evident in the hundreds of ghettos and villages scattered throughout Romania. Without exception, it is in such areas of the country where the hundreds of thousands of Roma people live.
Stefanesti, like most slum communities around the world, lies on the edge of the city. It is northeast of Pitesti, one of Romania’s major petroleum producing areas and the center of its automobile industry. Stefanesti is only one of the dozens of villages surrounding the city where thousands of Roma live.
In 1999, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) came to Stefanesti to minister to the hundreds of Roma children who, with their parents and siblings, were living in one-room apartments in over-crowded, run-down, block houses where Nicolae Ceausescu (the leader of Romania from 1965-1989), in his attempt to control the Roma population, relocated tens of thousands of them. The tenants on each floor of these buildings shared a common kitchen and toilet area. In the years between construction and CEF’s coming to the area, nothing had been done to improve the living conditions of the residents or to bring the redemptive message of God’s love.
There were no vacant apartments or facilities within the complex where the weekly children’s clubs could be held. Year round, the workers would gather dozens of children in the open air. Despite some opposition, the classes continued to grow. In fact, the opposition proved to be a blessing in disguise. The more opposition there was, the more fruit was brought to God’s glory. Voluntarily, and without request, a resident couple offered their small one-room apartment where the classes could continue to be held uninterrupted. Each week, nearly forty children and their parents attended.
Four years later, in 2003, a unit measuring approximately nine square meters miraculously became available. CEF immediately leased it on a long-term basis. In addition to the regular weekly children’s classes, an adult Bible study began on Sundays. This has subsequently been formed into a church which continues to grow and bear witness to the Lord throughout the housing area.
Now with its own meeting room, the church is able to hold several different classes and Bible studies each week. This is but one of many Roma churches which have sprung up across the country in the past decade. God continues to build his Church among the less fortunate, disenfranchised Roma people.