Missionary couple ministers to Roma minority in Slovakia

By August 14, 2009

Slovakia (MNN) — Slovakia has one of the largest Roma, or
Gypsy, populations in all of Europe, with unofficial estimates as high as nine
percent, according to Operation Mobilization.

Throughout Slovakia, most Roma live in segregated ghetto-like
communities, where unemployment is high and residents have little access to
electricity, gas or garbage collection. Education rarely continues past
elementary, and they face social exclusion and discrimination constantly, which
limits employment opportunities, education and public services.

Since August 1991, Brad and Karla Thiessen have ministered
with OM in Kosice, Slovakia. Their language school, Word
, offers language courses and English camps to the Slovaks.

While their Word Art ministry
helps the Slovak population, they also serve the Roma minority by helping them
learn life skills for future careers. Through their non-profit organization, Life Art, they teach Roma skills, such
as carpentry and sewing, to help them find jobs and earn a living.

A wood-working course is offered three to four times a
year, and anywhere from three to eight students enroll in the class. Five
students finished Life Art's last
sewing class, and Karla Thiessen hopes to see a business established for these
women to sell their work eventually.

In addition to carpentry and sewing, Life Art recently created a curriculum for Art Therapy and is in
the process of becoming accredited.

Since 2004, OM has partnered with the Thiessen and Life Art to raise prayer and financial
support and provide the ministry with the tools they need.

The Thiessens also bought a manor house, with a vision
to see it used by the community for weddings and festivals.

However, the
once-beautiful building needs many renovations. Several people have been
working on some repairs and updates this summer, but more still needs to be done before the
Thiessens realize their vision and can rent out the building.

Though the Life Art
program is accredited through the Slovak Ministry of Education, it does not
receive any financial help from Slovakia.

OM said, "Life Art
always seems to be on the verge of closing down because of lack of finances. They
need a steady $2800 per month to cover rent, accounting services and salaries
for the teachers leading the courses."

However, through all these challenges, the Thiessens know
everything will work out according to God's plan.

"God knows the future, so we always just try to trust Him,"
Karla said, according to OM. "Our biggest need is for people not only to give,
but to really pray that God's will be done through this work, and that our lives
will give Him glory. Pray for wisdom. Pray for discernment as to what to do
with our time. Please pray for finances to keep the work going. Thank you very
much to anyone that partners with us in doing this work here in Kosice."

To learn more about Life Art and OM's
ministry to the Roma, and be an answer to Karla's prayers, visit their Website.

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