I'm reminded of this every time Ivan, a Roma boy who happens to live in our neighborhood in a little Roma settlement just behind our home, comes over to ask to play with JJ almost daily. When he started coming over, he liked playing with JJ but soon became very curious with JJ's material possessions. Ivan began bringing JJ "treasures" he'd found - cool metal coils, a shiny disc, etc... and in return he wanted JJ's toys. This is something we knew was very much within his cultural every day norm, however early on we realized we wanted him to see JJ as a boy, as a person, not just someone he could get new items/toys or things from. Out of necessity the Roma people seem to be very resourceful in looking for objects wherever they can find them and use those objects, whether it is scrap metal, or clothing or old frames, to trade or sell.
But vice-versa we wanted Ivan to know we see him as a boy, a person, not just a Roma kid who is a nuisance to us, as many people see them, for the Roma are very much considered as a "less than" people group. As a people group, many see them as a people stuck in a cycle of poverty and unemployment, a people who live in shacks for homes. What some people don't know is that some Roma, even in this area, are fixed, and many still roam from home to home. Every Roma village near us in Zagreb is very different from the next, and many do not live in shacks. Some are educated or want to be. One of the sad realities in Croatia though is that even the educated Roma are not given the same opportunities, thus unfortunately helping to continue a cycle of... poverty, unemployment, etc... Of course the Roma and their history is definitely not as simple as I am stating it. It is a long and complicated one.
But every day when Ivan comes by, I'm reminded of how life is ministry...when we don't have to visit a gypsy village as part of a summer ministry "program" we have, but when on a summer day a Roma family enter our back yard after an invitation from my husband, to sit and have juice and cookies and get to know each other a bit. There sat a mama of 11 children...and some other relatives came that day....one of them was Ivan. And he's come back ever since.
When life is ministry, when the lines aren't clearly stated, when you don't know when your job "starts" and "ends", when you don't know how God is working, but you feel that nudge to be faithful and you hope in some way you are being used, planting a seed, being Christ. These are the times I believe God stretches us, and grows us and in turn teaches us that following him is a full-time every day kind of job.