G-Force had concluded, but the mission still had more to do. After a refreshing weekend to rejuvenate the team, we began our Roma day camps, going first to the camp of Radvanka.
We opened in prayer, then worshiped God with praise. To the kids who did not come to G-Force, we taught the songs "Love Round" and "Deep, Deep." To the kids who were at G-force and knew our big camp's songs, we had them help teach "Moving in Me," "Unstoppable," and/or "Spirit of God."
We taught the story of the five friends (Mark 2:1-12), where four friends CARED so much for their paralyzed friend that they took him and lowered him through a hole in the roof in order to get Jesus to heal him. Coach Colin also gave both a personal testimony and demonstrated a science experiment - the falling weight.
After more singing, we split off into older and younger groups to do crafts. Lastly, when we got together to close off, we asked the kids to teach us a song, as it was only fair after we had taught them so many of our songs.
Lunch for the kids, and lunch for us after, and we were off to the second camp, at Pirogova, in the afternoon.
Thanks to the wisdom of our guide, all of the camps that we went to could facilitate us with church buildings. This was in stark contrast to previous years, where some camps that we went to did not have any building suitable to host a day camp at.
These churches contained just a single room, several pews, and maybe a pulpit area for a pastor. Though small and simple , they provided a natural point for people at the camps to congregate at, and gave us shelter as we did our day camp. More often than not, these buildings only existed thanks to the charity and generosity of other Christians around the world.
Thus concluded our first day of Roma camps, at Radvanka and Pirogova. The first day of camps had focused on urban Roma camps near the residential and town areas of Uzzhorod, so for the second day, we set out for more rural pastures at Myrcha, and in the afternoon we turned our attention to Perechin. At all camps, we were greeted with excitement and great welcome.
Again, there was a stark contrast between the camps of this year and the camps of previous years. Though still deep in poverty and subsistence living, all four camps had been notably more stable and well established compared to their fellow Roma camps. In previous years, there had been camps that had only recently acquired a source of running water and still lacked basic utilities; not so this year.
Here, roads were clearly marked and mostly free of litter; buildings were still made from cheap materials, but they were strong and durable, and houses were well built instead of haphazard. Some of the rural Roma families also subtly showed their relative wealth - healthy goats could be seen wandering around, and the presence of a power grid and electronics in the camp was astonishing.
Was this the result of social support, of the age of the camps, or of the industriousness of the camps' inhabitants? Was there some combination of the above, or another completely unknown factor? I did not get a chance to ask our guide about this, and so I still remain ignorant, but nonetheless impressed.
It's my belief that the children of a people foretell the future of those people. If this is true, then there may now be a growing hope for the Roma. Their energy, their wonder, their leaders and their communities are building a new future - one where, even if they remain marginalized, Roma people will still become productive and engaged members of society, contributing to the good of the community, the good of the country, and the good of God's kingdom.