not a country
you normally hear about. But God is doing a work among the Gypsies
Bulgaria has a population of over 7.5 million. Approximately 84
percent of the people are of “Bulgarian” ethnicity, with
about 7 percent “Roma.” The Roma are a distinct ethnic
group that originated from Northwest India.
Their dark skin originally gave them the name “Egyptian” which
was shortened to the term of “Gypsy.”
The Roma live in small enclaves scattered all over Europe and beyond.
Most Roma groups in Europe are greatly discriminated against – suffering
from unequal wages, employment and education.
The Gypsy slums and ramshackle neighborhoods provide the perfect
setting for outdoor evangelist crusades. Unlike the stereotypes held
about them, they are some of the warmest and most loving people one
has ever met. Their hearts are wide open to the Gospel, and they
have been embracing the message of the cross in revival proportions.
With affection, they are responding to the outpouring of the Holy
Spirit. Being the poorest of the poor they do not have a “reputation” to
lose, and therefore are not ashamed to let themselves get lost in
worship, or of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
During last years summer Global Celebration trip, the team traveled
from neighborhood to neighborhood praying and laying hands on the
Gypsies. The Lord did many miracles among them – the deaf heard,
the blind saw, the lame walked and families and communities were
set free from curses and involvement in witchcraft. The testimonies
of changed lives are endless.
Known as the rose-oil capital of the world, Kazanlak is home to
one of the largest Gypsy slums in Bulgaria. It is also an
apostolic hub and leadership training center for Global Celebration’s
work among the Gypsies of Eastern Europe. Send the Fire Ministries
has partnered with Global Celebration and is joining together in
this alliance, stationing its home base in Kazanlak, Bulgaria,
as we look forward to radically impacting this community with the
Gospel, and getting involved in lives that will be changed forever.
Because most of the Gypsy pastors and leaders in Global Celebration’s
apostolic network are Turkish speaking, our ministry in partnership
with Global Celebration also travels to Gypsy neighborhoods in neighboring Turkey to
water the recent plants there. And just this past spring, Global
Celebration and Send the Fire Ministries journeyed into the garbage
dumps of Bucharest, Romania to reach the lost and
forgotten Gypsies there. These are exciting times!
ONE HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE GYPSIES
BY A ROMANIAN MISSIONARY
THE ORIGIN OF THE GYPSIES
by John M. Kachelmyer
First, it should be noted that not even the Gypsies know much of
anything about their origins. I have a rare book written in Romanian
by an educated Gypsy entitled, “Origin of the Gypsies.” The
author says, in short, that no one knows much about where the Gypsies
came from except that they came from India 500 to 700 years ago.
What their status was in India and why they left is unknown. In order
to fill up the book, since he had nothing else to say, the author
includes a dictionary of Gypsy-Romanian.
I checked the Encyclopedia Britannica and discovered that the learned
authors do not know either. Therefore, I have developed my own
theory which has been received with some interest and enthusiasm
by the Gypsies.
First, what we do know about them is this: they originated as a dark
skinned tribe of people in northern India. Their language to this
day, though it has separated into many dialects, still remains Hindi
and Sanskrit roots. A missionary to Nepal, who spoke Nepalese, told
me he could understand much of the Gypsy language.
The Gypsies call themselves Rom or Romi (sometimes spelled Rromi).
In Hindu the word “Rom” simply means “man.” When
they first arrived in Europe, the fair-skinned Europeans inquired
where these dark-skinned people came from. Some gypsies had migrated
up from Egypt so the word spread that they were Egyptians, or “Gyptians,” which
became our present word, Gypsy.
Whatever the skills the Gypsies may have originally had are slowly
being lost. They have no knowledge of farming or even gardening
but this may be the result of centuries of nomadic living. They
retain a knowledge of metalworking and, in Romania, have a kind
of monopoly on making rain gutters, drain pipes and ornamental
metalwork for buildings. Often one will see them standing by the
side of the road selling metal funnels.
They are also noted for music and seem, originally, to have been
musicians and entertainers.
I have knowledge only of the Gypsies in Romania. When I first arrived
in Romania in 1993, Gypsies could still be found traveling the highways
in colorful caravans or camped by the roadsides. They were a clannish
people and avoided contact with the Romanian population unless necessary
for some gain. They were so clannish and resistant to attempts to
organize them that the communists didn’t know what to do with
them and left them pretty much alone.
There was a large ethnic German population in the Transylvanian region
of Romania (the northwest) that had been there since the year 1180
when they arrived upon the appeal of the Hungarians to help resist
the invasion of Europe by the Muslim Turks. After WW II, and during
the Communist era, the Germans were treated so atrociously that,
when the fall of communism came in 1989, the German government
offered citizenship to all ethnic Germans; and about 95% of them
returned to Germany after an 800-year absence.
What this did was leave hundreds of houses in farming communities
vacant. The Gypsies, always ready to take advantage of anything,
moved in. As many as four families of Gypsies would take over a
four room house-sometimes more. This virtually put an end to their
nomadic existence. It provided them with housing but left them
with no marketable skills. To this day, most live from hand to
mouth in dire poverty. Those knowing metalwork fare better, as
do those who provide the music at weddings and funerals.
There is a small strata of wealthy Gypsies in the cities who make
their money by trading on a large scale and through business with
gold and jewelry. The wealthy Gypsies have nothing to do with their
Now let us return to India. The question remains, why did the Gypsies
leave and why did they migrate west? I have developed my theory,
not on the basis of what they did, but on the basis of what they
Five hundred years ago, as now, Hinduism was a powerful social as
well as religious force in India. It controlled every aspect of
the people’s lives with powerful customs. The question is
then, why weren’t the Gypsies Hindus? It is clear that when
they live in India they were not Hindus, for if they had been,
something of Hinduism would have stayed with them-even some small
custom, some god, some idol, some expression, some religious idea;
but there is nothing!
And when they arrived in Europe, whenever they came into contact
with what was called Christianity, for the most part they rejected
organized religion to the extent that idols and icons were involved.
At least the Romanian Gypsies did - a strong aversion to idolatry
that is remarkable.
Evangelical Christianity is fairly new on the scene of Romania. It
was suppressed under communism but it is now spreading from western
Romania to the eastern part. At the same time, the Gypsies, who rejected
the Orthodox Church and Roman Catholicism, are now accepting the
Bible-based, evangelical doctrine eagerly by the thousands with no
resistance. They still have centuries of “baggage” to
shed because they have had to live by their wits, which includes
being con-artists; yet the move toward God is intense.
Therefore, I surmise that the tribe of the “Romi” of
India had once known the true and only God; or, if not, they knew
of Him. They utterly rejected everything to do with Hinduism and
the pagan gods. Perhaps they were evangelized even in apostolic times
- and not later because of their aversion to the organized church
which developed after apostolic times. With Hinduism pressing on
them from all sides, and with a spark of knowledge that they had
once come from the West (or that the evangelists came from the West)
they decided as an entire tribe to leave India and head west to search
for the true God. Only now, after many centuries of wandering, have
they finally found the object of their yearning.
This is my opinion and, so far, no one has countered it.
John M. Kachelmyer
Targu Mures, Romania