Baptists provide opportunities to oft-shunned Roma people

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Posted: 3/07/08

Wes Craig visits churches and ministry centers to learn how Project Ruth can help facilitate the needs of Roma church leaders. (CBF photos courtesy of Wes and Susan Craig)

Baptists provide opportunities
to oft-shunned Roma people

By Carla Wynn Davis

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

BUCHAREST, Romania (ABP)—Susan and Wes Craig learned early during their three-year assignment to Romania that most locals are disgusted by the minority Roma people, often called “gypsies.” And that’s what made a particular church meeting so powerful.

While talking about his work at the Gypsy Smith School, which provides education and training to Roma church leaders and evangelists, Wes Craig noticed a Romanian man with his hand on the shoulder of a Roma boy. Their relationship seemed like that of a father and son—something that flies in the face of Romanian social norms. Craig said he saw, in that simple act, Christianity at work.

“A Romanian treating a Roma like family is a demonstration of the power of the gospel and a testimony to how God can change a heart,” he said.

Susan Craig ministers at the Ruth School for Roma children.

Supported by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Craigs have worked with the Roma people since 2006. They are part of Project Ruth, a Bucharest-based charity established in 1992 to help Roma children, who often drop out or fall inescapably behind in school. The organization’s Ruth School helps children re-start and finish their education.

“At Ruth School, (the children) all are given the opportunity to receive a school education through grade eight,” said Susan Craig, a Houston native. “At the end of the eighth grade they take a national exam, and if they pass, then they can continue their education at an academic high school.”

Susan Craig works in the Project Ruth office as a coordinator of activities, volunteer trips and day-to-day logistics.

Her husband works in theological and leadership education with Roma pastors at the Gypsy Smith School. The school helps Roma like Sandu, a friend of the Craigs who continues to serve as the administrator of his church even though his non-Christian parents harass him for his faith.

The school gives Sandu the support he needs to grow as a Christian, Craig explained.

Wes Craig banters with some Roma childen.

“At the school, Roma church leaders are encouraged and further equipped for the ministry (to which) God has called them,” he said. “For the Roma of Romania to be reached with the gospel, it really must come through Roma reaching Roma, and this is one way we can encourage and support this.”

Project Ruth survives on donations and involvement from churches in the United States. The Craigs’ church, DaySpring Baptist Church in Waco, provides prayer and encouragement. And a group from the church will visit them this spring.

Boulevard Baptist Church in Anderson, S.C., has also long helped the ministry by sponsoring children at Ruth School, raising financial support for specific projects and sending teams of church members to help in tangible ways.

It’s just a simple example of how a local church can make a lasting and meaningful impact in the world, both Wes and Susan Craig agreed.

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