In Central Asia, there are over 100 different ethnic groups. While most Americans are ignorant of many of these groups (Inguish, Avar and Kalmyk), others are better known (Tatar, Russian and Kazakh). One group is called, “Segani,” which we know by another name in English, “Gypsies.” In my minimal experience with Gypsies, I have found them to be a truly colorful and mobile people.
They can pull up their proverbial tent stakes at a moment’s notice and travel…not just to another town, but to another country. We used to have about 30-40 Gypsies worshipping in a church that I was helping with several years ago. Then suddenly, they were all gone. When I enquired about them, I learned that they were in Moldova!
For this reason (among others) ministry to the Gypsies must be flexible. Once in 2003 I was invited to speak at a Gypsy Bible School. This was really a conference/rally full of prayer and worship (and Gypsy music is beautiful). The leaders were Gypsies and workers from France, the UK and the US, and they asked me to share two sessions on the book of Psalms. Even though I needed to have an interpreter, there was none available, and so I had to teach in Russian.
I taught a two-hour session, each day, for two days. There were about 40 Gypsy brothers in class, and I already knew many of them. We had a spiritually refreshing time, laced with lots of fun. And whenever my Russian language skills were lacking, my Segani students would help me.
As I was concluding the final session, I really felt Spirit-led to have a time of corporate prayer. I invited my students to gather in the front of the classroom and lead out in prayer. After a few prayed, I concluded. I don’t remember much of what I prayed, but I do remember my final words:
“Lord, we thank You, because You are our Shepherd; and we are Your sheep.”
Suddenly, there were sounds of chuckling and slight laughter. I opened my eyes and asked, “what happened?” One of the brothers named Igor (pronounced “Ee gur”) looked at me and repeated the last phrase, using the correct term for “sheep.”
We had a good laugh, and then I correctly repeated the last sentence and said “Amen!”
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.