Oklahoman finds home parallels while on mission in Ukraine
GLOBAL NETWORKING — Jeremy Basset, at left, director of Oklahoma’s Office of Mission, taught a missiology class for pastors in Ukraine in 2017 at the request of United Methodist leaders there. With him are Duvan Vargas, center, a Global Mission Fellow from Colombia, and Pastor Volodymir Prokip of Ukraine, who gleaned information about Project Transformation when he visited Oklahoma with Bishop Eduard Khegay of Eurasia in late 2016.
She teamed with young adults of the Ukrainian Methodist Church last year to plan and implement two literacy camps there for Roma children. She also served alongside young missionary Haley Henson.
In Oklahoma, Nichols di-rects Project Transformation as well as Young Adult Mission and Service. She and Jeremy Basset, Office of Mission director, first connected with church leaders at a meeting in Ukraine more than a year ago.
“I felt right at home,” she said about the small-group opportunity.
“Like my group, the women in the Roma village worried about their children’s health and happiness. Like my group, the Roma women struggled to be Christ-like in their work and home life. Like my group, the Roma women asked for prayers for their marriages and spiritual lives. It was a spirit-filled community of women supporting one another.”
For the literacy day camps, however, Nichols and the others needed to adapt Oklahoma’s Project Transformation strategy.
“I learned that, while literacy is the key to success for American/Oklahoma kids, Roma kids live a very different life,” she said.
“They have much less than our poorest students in the U.S. The stigma and prejudice against Roma people makes it hard to encourage charity toward them, so the children continue to go without.”
Yet she also learned Roma people are very invested in their children. The parents showed up to volunteer and to help overcome language barriers.
“We placed our energy in morning rotations that provided needed skills and resources — team games with conversations about loving one another and competing well” and fun snacks that told Bible stories creatively.
“The goal was to provide a healthy snack, arts and crafts that are skills-based, and music with instruments Roma children don’t have access to at home or school.
“The camp was a success because it was mission WITH the Roma community, not FOR it,” Nichols concluded. “I learned to close my mouth and be helpful in the ways the children’s caretakers, parents, and spiritual leaders needed me to be.”
That’s also her hope for every short-term mission participant.
Nationally, United Methodist Women studied the Roma of Europe in 2013-14. Materials: www.umwMissionResources.org.