7 years ago my husband was invited to travel with UK based organization, Next Level International, and a team of pastors to go into the unreached communities of central Europe and help train church planters. When we think of the unchurched it's hard for us to imagine that anyone living in the world today (unless they live in a jungle) doesn't know the story of Jesus. But it's true!
One one trip in particular Aaron was settling into his seat on an airplane when a conversation was struck with a young man sitting next to him. The young man asked what an American like Aaron would be doing going to his country. Aaron answered. "I help plant churches." The young man asked, "What's a church, I don't understand this word."
Over the years we've continued to travel to Slovakia & the Czech Republic, trained leaders, spoke at conferences and literally helped train the men & women who are spreading the good news of the gospel in the most amazing, divine ways.
This summer, part of our team was invited to help a church plant in the Czech Republic in a small obscure town that is still reeling in the aftermath of living under the rule of communism. In July a team from America & Canada went to partner with the church to do a community outreach.
First the team cleaned up an area where trash was accumulating not far from the football field where children gather to play.
Jesus says this is not ok. Our love for God compels us to pick the trash up off the ground, restore the land, feed the people and tell them they are better than trash. They are precious. And God loves them.
It was a wildly successful outreach and the church has had an open door to share the
gospel free-er than ever.
gospel free-er than ever.
As the church reached out to the Romani Gypsy families they couldn't ignore the abject poverty these beautiful, dark skinned people were living. And the believers began to ask, "What can we do to end the cycle of poverty in their lives?"
After much prayer and strategic planning it was discovered that these families are raising environmentally disabled children. Children that because they have no toys, no books, no paper, no crayons, no preschool, no opportunity to learn they had no future. No chance to change their stars. Romani children are entering school delayed not because they have medical or genetic deficiencies but because no one has ever read with them, stacked blocks with them or gave them a bright start.
Our research shows that with these delays the children are failing to learn before they even get the chance. The children are enrolled in "special schools" and failing and dropping out. In fact, many of the girls who drop out later get caught up in sex trade rings.
Again, I'm sure Jesus is not ok with this.
"If only we knew someone who could help teach these parents" the church in Czech said to our team leader.
"We do!" he said.
For 18 years I've been working in Early Childhood Development and Parenting Education. It's my "JOB" to teach parents, lead playgroups, provide home visits and help families develop a love for reading. And I am going to take all the knowledge and life experience to the Romani Gypsy families and I am going to help them give their children a better start.
I am thrilled, as I am sure you are as well that one of your congregants, Karen, has agreed to go on this trip with me. At the last minute we had a spot open up on our team and I didn't hesitate for a second to invite her to go. Karen's combined experience in working with at-risk families as our PreK secretary and her massively impressive administration skills are going to be a HUGE assets on the team.
Your support is crucial and we don't take it for granted. Knowing that your behind the project, that you support us in prayer is imperative. It is just a confirmation that the whole trip is divinely orchestrated. I can't thank you enough for your interest. Thank you for supporting Karen as she is brave on this, her first mission trip.
If our Parent Education is successful (and we will do the workshop twice) once in Czech and once in Slovakia, it is our dream that we could develop the entire project into a reproducible program. It is our hope that we can train others to continue to the work all over Central Europe.
You see, here in the states if You wanted to learn about a baby's brain development you'd go to your smart phone or computer and Google it. But what do you do if you don't have a computer? Heck, the places that we are going some of the families we'll be working with live in such abject poverty they have no running water. There is no Google. There are no pediatricians to telephone. No library with books. No toys to play with.
So part of our trip will be to present every Roma family that completes the training a TOOLBOX:
That is a collection of items that are imperative to a child's growth and development: A Curriculum in their own language, Balls, Blocks, Crayons, Markers, Paper, Music Sticks ....
This is what you are doing. I know Karen and I are the ones physically going but this is what WE are doing. TOGETHER. I am honored for your interest in the trip and I thank you for your love, support and prayers.
If you are interested in sending a Parenting Toolbox to a Romani family in Slovakia or the Czech Republic you may do so by contacting me at starski(at)hotmail.com and we can make arrangements for a safe, online, tax deductible gift.