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Richard Marshall recalls a memorable visit to Romania.

Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world’ John 8:12. But he also said ‘You are the light of the world’ Matthew 5:14. How do we experience this reality?

I was privileged to travel with seven others to Romania in December 2015 taking shoeboxes filled with presents to poor Roma* communities and to children in two orphanages.

Significantly, we partnered Christians in the local churches who have a ministry to these deprived and vulnerable people 24/7. Ours was just an eight-day period of hard yet rewarding work as we delivered food parcels and shoeboxes to very grateful recipients and prayed with folk in their one-room homes. The Romanian brothers and sisters that we met have a holistic love for these poor people in their midst. They share practical things such as wood to keep warm over winter but they also openly preach the Gospel and it was exciting to participate in church services in the deprived communities.

Light in the dark winter nights is even brighter. Back in the main town we joined a Christmas procession with lights from candles and torches shining the way as we sang carols and prayed over buildings of significance such as council offices and schools and, together with the mayor, asked for God’s blessing on those in authority in the town.

We also introduced and led a number of Christingle services in the Roma villages using the symbols of an orange (the world), a red ribbon (blood of Christ), sweets (fruit of the earth) and a candle (Christ the light of the world) to share the Gospel – the oranges and sweets were soon consumed!

Without street lights, distributing shoeboxes after dark walking on muddy paths was somewhat hazardous but worth it just to see the delight of the recipients once inside their homes, and back outside seeing the stars in the heavens - clearer than we have ever seen before.

‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out’ John 1:5. We were privileged in one Roma village, which members of the church had visited for years, to pray with people for the first time sharing the Good News of Jesus’ birth, singing carols and listening as a number of the Roma community sang back to us. Then, what excitement as two people came forward to commit their lives to Jesus. The light is now shining in their hearts.

* Roma people are commonly called gypsies.
(Image by davosmith at openclipart.org)

Richard Marshall is a member of the board of OC International-UK, the charity with the working name One Challenge.