The Roma woman motioned the Rev. Doug Lindley to follow her. The locals would often gather around the visiting American missionaries and their interpreters, seeking their time and attention.
The woman was insistent, and Lindley obliged.
Lindley, the pastor at First Baptist Church of Burnet, and the Rev. Greg Lewis of First Baptist-Goldthwaite were in Romania this fall as part of a mission project the Burnet church began about six years ago in the Eastern European country, formerly of the Soviet Bloc.
“We’ve partnered with some pastors in the central part of Romania to do church plants,” Lindley said. “Where we’re working, the part of the country, there are a lot of Roma people — they were sometimes called ‘Gypsies.’ There seems to be a movement among the Roma people, a revival.”
Since the mission began, several members of the Burnet church have traveled to Romania to help establish churches, train church leaders, and build homes.
While there, Lindley and Lewis visited the communities where the churches were going and met many of the people.
Lindley described the area as what Burnet might have looked like a century ago.
“Many of the homes still had outhouses, and their indoor plumbing was very limited,” he said. “It’s getting better, but they are still making progress.”
Most of the homes were simple constructions with metal roofs, offering shelter but not much more. Heating and cooking were done mostly with wood.
“Usually, they had a small garden and maybe a livestock like a pig that was for food,” Lindley said.
Though a simple life, the Roma he met were mostly content.
“They were happy and grateful for everything thing they had,” Lindley recalled.
Teaching the Romanian pastors was a blessing for Lindley. He and Lewis each led classes for 14 men.
A major challenge for the new churches is supporting the pastors. The mission was able to provide a salary of $4,000 for one pastor. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a big step.
“A lot them will work outside the country to make money,” Lindley said. “They’ll go to Germany or England to work for months and then come back and live on what they earned.”
However, every time a pastor leaves and returns, it takes time to reconnect with congregants. Paying a pastor’s salary helps strengthen a new church’s roots.
The Roma woman who wanted Lindley to follow her led him to an 8-foot-by-8 foot building.
“It wouldn’t be anything but a shed to us,” Lindley said.
The roof, or what passed as the roof, was anchored with rocks and other heavy items. The door was a mess; the wind easily whipped through it. The walls sufficed.
Inside, two beds butted up against the walls.
“It was her home,” Lindley said.
Not just hers: Her husband and three children, and another one on the way, also lived there.
It didn’t even have a wood stove for heat or cooking.
Lindley, Lewis, and other volunteers fixed the door and fastened a stronger metal roof to the top. Someone managed to get a wood stove for the family.
While the church has helped build many homes, Lindley said the need for more remains. It costs about $3,500 to $4,000 to build a small but livable house.
“If someone wants to help out with that, there’s always opportunities,” Lindley said. “They can just contact the church.”
In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his followers, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
To First Baptist Church of Burnet missionaries, that includes a small village in Romania, where a family now has a roof over their heads and a door to keep out the howling cold, winter winds.
Those interested in supporting the ministry in Romania or helping to fund the construction of homes may contact the church at 512-756-4481.
First Baptist Church’s Main Street Bethlehem is 6-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday, December 6-8 and 13-15. The recreation of the town of Bethlehem during Jesus’ birth and live nativity is located at 300 E. Washington St. in Burnet. Visit the Highland Lakes Christmas Lights Guide for more holiday happenings.