Trinity’s 2017-2018 Mission Project
Outreach to Roma
Outreach to Roma (OTR) is an effort to share the gospel with the western world’s most mistreated ethnic group, a group numbering about 10 million people who are scattered across Europe. For hundreds of years the Roma people, or the Gypsies as they are also known, have been living on the margins of society and are still the victims of persecution and suffering. Their distinct culture, traditional clothing and inherent lifestyle have made them the object of suspicion and discrimination in many countries.
The Bulgarian Lutheran Church (BLC) continues to preach and teach God’s Word in four separate areas including a large urban area of Sofia in the West, Varna along the Black See in the East, and in Dunavtsi in the North among the Romani (a.k.a. gypsies). At present, there is one congregation and three preaching stations reaching out the Roma people. Many have been baptized and the congregations have hosted well attended Vacation Bible School programs.
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) doesn’t have a resident missionary in Bulgaria, so the (BLC) is learning to govern itself and its own budget.
Rev. IIiyan Boykov Itsov, has been ordained as the sixth pastor of the BLC. He speaks seven languages and is working in several countries of Western Europe. His home congregation is in the Romani village of Dunavtsi as his base. He prepares literature and seeks to establish congregations as the Lord opens doors. There are clan links among the Romani people all across the world, and since there is one basic Romani language used globally, it is the prayer of WELS Europe Administrative Committee that the Outreach to Romani project will reach many Romani across Europe with the saving message of the gospel. WELS continues to provide encouragement and assistance with theological education, as well as some financial support.
The reports from Missionary Itsov read like a modern-day Book of Acts. Outreach to Roma’s method of gospel outreach closely resembles the method the Apostle Paul used- a travelling missionary gathers groups and then leaves them to be served by local leaders. In Bulgaria, OTR has met with success. Itsov travels to Roma villages and shares the gospel. He gathers interested people and gives them initial instruction in the Word. With their help, he seeks a suitable place for worship and holds the initial services. After a few weeks, he asks the group to select a leader who is willing to study the Bible in greater depth and conduct weekly services reading sermons Itsov provides. Three such groups are now gathered in Bulgaria, each with its own leader and regular worship. Through the many family and friendship ties among the Roma people, members are directing Itsov to other individuals and villages. The OTR van goes out each week to three neighboring Roma villages and brings 20 people to the service at the Bulgarian Lutheran Church’s congregation in Dunavtsi. Itsov helps his congregation’s pastor here and right now the congregation stuffs as many as 25 people into a rented room the size of an American living room. But, God-willing, help is on the way! Itsov has received a loan to enable the congregation to purchase land and construct a small chapel.
The mission offerings this year will help the Outreach to the Roma in their efforts to spread the saving message of the Gospel to areas populated with Romani people. The children can bring in their offering at any time throughout the school year. Offerings will be collected at Chapel time and school coin drives will be held in the fall and spring. Thank you for your help and support!