Following is a post from guest blogger Sydni Brawley. Sydni is my daughter, the “middle child”, a 16-year old student, actress, babysitter, singer, sister, daughter and all-around hard-working young woman. Her passion for life, music and helping others drives her daily. She is one of the most passionate, committed people I know. I love her, and not just because she’s my daughter. She’s just a compelling, charismatic arresting people you meet from time to time. I’ve no doubt Syd’s going to impact her world in an important way.
Some people are pros at asking for money – and they become politicians. I am not one of those people. Which might explain why I am currently a week away from my Macedonia funds deadline with a $1,000 deficit.
Three summers ago I went to a national mission trip in Nashville, TN called M-Fuge. It was here that I learned about the Roma people for the first time and about the awful oppression they face in Eastern Europe. There are two sides of this story, on one a political struggle to obtain equality for the Romani people, and the other, a spiritual struggle. It was at M-Fuge that I was introduced to the Roma and in Belmont University’s auditorium that God broke my heart. Shattered is a better word. Never before had I heard God speak so clearly as that night He told me to serve the Roma people.
I returned to my tiny country town in Virginia with a massive passion. Every opportunity that I could find I told people about the Roma. I began researching their history and the possibility of a mission trip in Poland, where there are large communities of Romani people. One of the people I told was Jackie Heberle, a missions coordinator for PCC’s youth ministries and a missions leader for International World Changers. God moved through Jackie, and the next thing I knew a trip to Skopje, Macedonia was being planned for the summer of 2009 and I was going to work with the Roma.
Incredible spiritual and financial support made it possible for my older sisters and me to go to Skopje the first time. I will never forget this trip for as long as I live. It was my first plane ride and I was flying across the Atlantic Ocean! From a massive plane to Vienna, Austria and then to a miniature plane to Alexander the Great Airport in Skopje, Macedonia, we eventually arrived in a beautiful mountainous country.
For ten days I worked alongside nineteen other PCC team members running a day camp, which was on a simple fenced in blacktop. There we played Four-Square (that was a new game to the Roma, but they picked it up quickly!) traced each other in chalk, soaked one another in water relays, painted nails, presented puppet shows, taught dances, drew tattoos, and played guitar. We laughed and hugged. We got to love and be loved in return. And that was the point. In Macedonia, it is illegal to share about Jesus (which includes saying His name, handing out papers and Bibles and having conversations) without permission from parents. At the day camp we were running most children came alone without parents so getting that written permission was impossible. So my passion became to simply show the unconditional love Christ has for each and every one of those kids who had been treated like they were nothing by society. These beautiful children who because of their skin color and culture are refused equal opportunities in education, politics and other facets of life deserve to know what I take for granted everyday. That God loves them.
Two years ago I saw God working in the slums of Skopje, Macedonia without the 20 American missionaries ever saying His name. This summer we will be returning, working with families, speaking directly about God and His Son and I could not be more excited. Two years ago we were God’s hands we were able to plant seeds in the Roma people. This summer God has given us another opportunity to be his hands, this time to cultivate those seeds. If you can help, I’d be grateful.
Thanks for being part of my journey.
Sydni’s life is a whirlwind. She trusts that things will work out somehow, and I invited her to share her story with my blog and FB readers. If you’d like to partner with her in this journey by contributing financially to her trip, she’d welcome your contributions. Mail to Powhatan Community Church, P.O. Box 834, Powhatan, VA 23139 with ‘Sydni Brawley’ in the memo line.