As we drove into Belgrade, Serbia with Trey and Randi, we stopped at a light, and two little kids came up to the window begging for money. It was heartbreaking. We saw all kinds of people trying to make an extra buck in many different ways all over Europe (another blog post), but kids begging was a little different. Randi said not to give them any because they have to give it to the adults in their family who use it for things other than the kids. She explained they were from the Roma community nearby, a group of gypsies basically, who set up camp in parking lots or fields. There could be hundreds of them, and once they are there, the owners of the land can't do much to get rid of them. They build their homes out of cardboard, or pieces of scrap wood they find around. One community had even built a restaurant in their parking lot. She said many of them have jobs and could probably live somewhere else, but because of culture, choose to stay their with their community. I wanted to take pictures of them, but she said many of them think if you take their picture, their soul is taken by the camera, but a snapped a few while we were driving by one day when we didn't see anyone.
The strange thing is, the children were actually clean and dressed nicely. We saw some taking a bath one day at a community water spicket. Some places you see extension cords coming from somewhere into the shacks, so some of them have electricity. The really amazing thing is that the Roma's have the largest Christian church in Serbia in a Southern city. I guess because they have nothing, some of them fully depend on the Lord for everything. Imagine that. There are people sent to Serbia to strictly minister to the Roma's. It was all very eye opening for me.
Yesterday morning I saw a facebook status from Operation Christmas Child, with this picture.
It brought me to tears and yet made my day at the same time, just remembering the sadness I felt when I saw that community, and yet the joy on that sweet little girls face. So emotional. We've made Christmas boxes for Operation Christmas Child for many years, but seeing a child holding a doll she received when I've actually seen how she lives, makes a huge difference. I can't wait to take my boys this year to buy things for their boxes and turn them in. I highly encourage you to participate. Collection week is Nov. 14-21st. We are collecting them in the preschool area at UBC until Nov. 17th. If you have any more questions about it, check out their website here or ask me. I don't usually buy a stuffed animal for my boxes, but I think this year, I will. Every child needs something to hug.