Roma Village Finds Sabbath
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, March 28.
The 2,000 inhabitants of a Roma settlement in Slovakia considered themselves Christian. But none attended church. None had ever read the Bible.
After Slovakia’s independence in 1993, various missionaries started coming to the Rakúsy settlement. The first, a married couple, preached on the main street every Sunday. People gathered to listen but understood little because they had never read the Bible.
One villager, Peter Mižigar, was more interested in performing in his band than listening to the preaching. He played bass guitar at weddings and funerals. Usually, the band members, including his younger brother Pavol, spent the band’s earnings on alcohol. But Peter never drank while performing. He was the designated driver.
While performing sober, he noticed that every audience consisted of two groups: one with good manners and high intelligence, and the other with a more primitive attitude. The other musicians didn’t notice because they drank.
Peter watched the crowd with fascination at concerts. The distinctions between the two groups of Roma disappeared as they drank. When people were drunk, the rich ones stripped to the waist and behaved the same as those who were poor. Every event ended with a drunken fistfight, even the funerals.
When an audience turned on Peter and the other musicians in a drunken frenzy in the Czech Republic, Peter and his brother decided to quit. “I’m going to stop playing worldly music,” Pavol said. “I would like to play to God.”
Pavol had been listening to Christian music shared by visiting missionaries.
Soon, Peter, Pavol, and the other band members were playing Christian music at Pavol’s house. During one session, Peter noticed a Bible lying on the table.
“What kind of book is this?” he asked, picking it up.
Pavol snatched it away. “Put it down,” he said. “It’s not for you.”
Pavol was studying the Bible and didn’t want to share it.
While Pavol and the others were playing, Peter slipped the Bible under an arm and left the house. At home, he read the Bible for the next month, going through Revelation and then the gospels. After a while, he admitted to his brother that he had taken the Bible. As the younger brother, Pavol could ask only that Peter returned it once he finished.
One day, Peter came across Mark 16:16, where Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
He closed the Bible and opened it. The same verse stared back at him. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Three times Peter closed and opened the Bible, and every time it opened to the same verse. Peter grabbed the Bible and ran to his brother’s house. Pavol was jamming with two friends.
“Please come and baptize me,” Peter said.
He didn’t know anything about baptism. He just wanted to obey Jesus and be baptized.
“You want me to baptize you?” Pavol said.
“Yes, it is written here clearly that whoever is baptized will be saved,” Peter replied.
Pavol was hesitant, but Peter was adamant. The two brothers and their two friends waded into a three-foot (one-meter) deep brook outside the settlement and baptized one another. They confessed their sins to God and sought forgiveness. Afterward, they experienced a tremendous joy and spoke about all of heaven rejoicing about their baptism.
After that day, the four men stopped cursing, smoking, and drinking. Neighbors were astonished. Before, when the men had drunk, people had fled in fear.
The four friends decided to study the Bible together daily. Sometimes they started at night and read until morning.
Other people joined the Bible group. Often 50 to 100 people were packed in Peter’s joint living room and kitchen.
During a late-night session, Peter’s attention was drawn to Mark 16:9, which begins, “Now when He rose on the first day of the week.” Peter remembered that Jesus and his followers had rested on the seventh day, Saturday, and wondered why missionaries visiting his settlement worshipped on Sunday.
No missionaries were able to answer Peter’s question.
The Bible study group kept on reading and found the fourth commandment. They began to keep the Sabbath.
One day, Peter mentioned his perplexity about Sunday to a stranger visiting a Roma relative. The man, Josif, happened to be a Seventh-day Adventist, and he told Peter that there is a church that keeps the biblical Sabbath. At Peter’s invitation, Josif spoke to the Bible group. Later Josif took Peter and his friends to visit Adventist churches in the area. Peter especially was impressed with the quiet reverence of an Adventist communion service.
Peter’s living room became an Adventist house church with Sabbath worship services and other programs.
Peter, his brother, and 24 other members of the Bible group were baptized into the Adventist Church in 2015. Ten more people were baptized over the next two years. In 2018, an Adventist church was constructed on the outskirts of the settlement, and it is packed with about 100 people every Sabbath.
This is the church that God built from the ground up in Peter’s living room.
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help fund programs for vulnerable children at the church in Rakúsy, Slovakia. Thank you for you generous offering for this project and the others in Bulgaria, Germany, and Spain this quarter.