I have often thought of the New Testament church and tried to imagine what it would have been like to live in that time. After spending the last two days in Pirot Serbia, I no longer have to wonder. These people, more than anyone I have seen in my lifetime, are living out the New Testament church.
Monday night we attended a Roma church where they were having an ordination ceremony for Siki, who is the first deacon in Pirot. Marijan has been working with several men in Pirot to raise them as leaders so they will be able to lead community. Siki, is one of those men and I can tell you from first hand experience, the Lord is raising a great leader. The room where the ordination took place was full of people, many of them having to stand. They were not concerned with the fact that it was cold, they did not care that they were standing. They were there to worship the Lord and support the man He chose to be their leader. Once again, I did not understand the words to the songs, or the prayers, but I could feel God’s presence.
Tuesday we visited homes of church members in a Roma Mahala.
The Roma people are so welcoming and hospitable.
Even though we were there to encourage them, they encouraged us! They shared with us how the Lord was working in their lives, prayer needs they had, and stories of how others had helped them or they had helped others. Many of them asked prayer for jobs, family members who were not saved, and for health related problems. Many of the families we visited with told us that others had noticed a change in their lives, and how the people who had noticed changes had then become believers themselves. Siki also shared with us that he had noticed that when people gathered together, even outside of church, they no longer gossiped but talked about what they were learning about in the bible. I was amazed that every single house we went to, our hosts would pull out their bible and a notebook. Their bibles looked as thought they had been dipped in highlighter, and their notebooks were filled with writing. As we shared encouragement with them, they took notes on the verses we shared and points we made. Talk about conviction, I could not tell you the last time I took notes (sorry Kevin).
While visiting with these people I was reminded of a passage that Paul wrote when instructing the church:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
– Romans 12:9
This verse describes the Roma people of Pirot. The spiritual fervor they have for the Lord is contagious. They shared many hardships with us, hardships that as Americans would never face. Over and over we heard these stories, and every time they always said they were trusting in the Lord, and they have joy because of Him. They graciously shared what little they had with us. They serve one another. They share boldly what the word of God says, and they are fervent in their prayers for those who are not saved. They are devoted to serving the Lord.
If I take one thing away from Pirot, I want it to be the confidence these people had. They were confidant in who they are in the Lord. They are genuine, loving and passionate and make no apologies. That is the kind of believer I want to be; fervent, devoted, and unapologetic.
Why aren’t we all, as believers, living this way? It isn’t just something that happened hundreds of years ago. It’s real. It’s happening today. We have no excuses.