“Dear Lord, please don’t let any violence erupt tonight. Please protect us, watch over us, and keep us from any harm or injury.”
Up until this point, I had barely been able to stay awake. Upon arriving in Transylvania to encourage Zsolt, the local missionary and church planter I mentor, the leaders of the Baptist Denomination unexpectedly asked me to be the keynote speaker at their Regional General Assembly. Forgoing sleep, I put all my energy into preparing a message for the attending pastors and leaders, and while God was gracious and really blessed our time together, I was completely exhausted afterward.
En route to our next scheduled meeting, evangelism in a Gypsy home a few towns over, Zsolt received a phone call. “Things have changed,” he told me. “Two feuding Gypsy families are coming tonight. We must lead a ‘reconciliation’ before we can do the evangelism.”
Now, it’s important to note that these “reconciliations” are more like interventions. If things go well, they are wonderful to behold. If things go badly, you don’t want to be anywhere nearby. Knives, stabbings, and beatings are all possible. So when Zsolt broke into his “protect us from harm“ prayer, I was suddenly wide awake, wide-eyed, and doing some praying of my own!
Zsolt is not a giant of a man. He is about an inch shorter than me and two inches wider, but he was definitely a giant that evening. The Gypsies could have easily said, “Who the heck are you? You have nothing to do with this. Get lost.” But they didn’t. Zsolt directed them through a process in which each person admitted his part in the feud. At first, no one would admit any fault, but Zsolt persisted and finally Miska (our host) admitted his sin. His admission was followed by others, and later each party was asking for forgiveness from each other and granting it.
After a brief prayer, a few of the Gypsy men who travel with Zsolt on his missionary journeys stood and shared their testimonies. Again, I was wide awake and wide-eyed. Since I met these men, they have been meek, mild, and loving. Their eyes and character exude nothing but love. Yet as they began sharing what God had done in their lives, how he had changed them, I truly could not believe my ears.
One man shared how, in a drunken rage, he had “strung up his wife.” That is, he hung her. I was relieved to hear the conclusion of his story, that a neighbor had heard the commotion and rushed in with a knife to cut her down before she died, but I was still dumbfounded that the meek and mild man standing next to me could do something so violent and hateful. And that was just the first testimony. One by one I heard stories the likes of which I’d never heard before—testimonies of the power of God radically changing and redeeming men’s lives.
After these testimonies, I was asked to speak. Again, God moved. Miska, our host who had been the first to admit his fault and be reconciled to the others, made a decision to be reconciled with God. Immediately my Gypsy brothers and sisters erupted in songs of praise. Instead of violence that evening, praise was erupting! And the praise continued all the way home. The men sang non-stop for the entire 40-minute drive back. At one point Zsolt leaned over and shouted, “Brad, we have made seven trips to this town, and there have been seven conversions!“ I thought to myself, “Something special is happening here.”
Four months later I returned to Transylvania and visited the home where this reconciliation had taken place. I found that a church had been started there, and the members of the new church were none other than the two, once-feuding families. Something special is happening, indeed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brad Baker serves local church leaders and ministry pioneers throughout Hungary and Eastern Europe with CRM’s Ethne Collective.