Today a guest post by our co-worker Helen. She gives an impression of our work in the village. I gladly share:
Winter arrived quite suddenly here in Croatia, with an immediate drop in temperatures and a permanent cold mistiness to the air. We’ve been enjoying a long, warm Autumn, but in the turnover of a week or so, everything around us has changed drastically. Our quaint little church here of Roma believers is still gathering, despite the cold, having found something steadily drawing us together: a love for Christ and deep care for each other.
In the picture: Laurens with a friend.
The cookstove had no fire lit when we arrived, so Taylor and Jelle set to chopping wood to get a fire going as quickly as possible. I must say since they both tend to have their hearts set on higher learning and all things scholarly, they aren’t especially gifted in these more down to earth tasks. After watching them struggle for a while with method and strategy, one of the Roma ladies took over and expertly showed them how to chop firewood. We were all impressed as she quickly amassed a pile of firewood which the church kids eagerly brought indoors.
After the kids raced the sticks of firewood inside, we built up the fire in the wood-stove until it was burning brightly. The church slowly beginning to warm inside, we all gathered together and waited for Morning Prayers to begin.
In our fluorescent-lit, quiet little sanctuary, the air a bit smoky from the wood-burning stove, we began, working our way through the liturgy, praying, and singing praises to the Lord.
We received a short homily from Deacon Bob, and one of our Roma co-workers shared a personal story of hers for our encouragement as well. Nancy was also able to bless us again with musical accompaniment on her autoharp too.
After Morning Prayers were finished, we set up a few rickety old desks together and spread out the sandwiches and drinks across them, putting together a plate for each person. As I snapped these photos, I was taken with the beauty of communing together over a shared meal in our small sanctuary, in view of the Celtic-style cross on the altar. Christians in a community united and eating together in quiet contentedness. These are the basics of living life together, of forming a parish community. There’s nothing like a shared meal, being nourished and satiated side by side, and the conversation and friendship that forms and strengthens in the midst of it.
A community is indeed forming with us here, and to accomplish one of the community’s greatest purposes: to bear one another’s burdens and support each other in this life. There are both private and public struggles here, some carried between only a few, and some borne by the entire church. Regardless, we gather around each other in these trials or mistakes that bring difficulty and uncertainty. This is one of the greatest purposes Christ has left to us, to be in each other’s lives, through it all.
Community forms around worship, around the Eucharist, and the sharing of a meal, and in the struggles in this life as we cling together. We remind each other of the promises of Christ, of His unfailing love and care for us. And we give listening ears, open hearts, time, and actively share each other’s burdens. This is what it is to be a parish and a Christian community.
The eyes of all do trust in Thee, O Lord, thou givest them their food in due season.
Good Lord, bless us and these thy gifts. O God of peace and charity, vouchsafe always to dwell with us. Glory, honour, and praise be unto thee, O God, which has fed us from our tender age and gives sustenance to every living thing. Replenish our hearts with joy and gladness that we, always having sufficient, may be rich and plentiful in all good works; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
– St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, Based on an English Primer, 1559
There’s so much love for each other in this little Roma church, and it grows with each passing day. Winter may have arrived, but the light of Christ warms our hearts together in community. A burning inner fire quietly glows outwards, like the small wood-stove in the sanctuary, softly and steadily warming the room and the hearts around it.
The original post can be found here. Thanks to Helen for her permission to share this.