Stories from the Field

Music to Reach the Hearts of the Roma

The Roma are a people on the margins. Also known as Gypsies or Romani, this traditionally nomadic people group has long faced discrimination and persecution. Their roots can be traced back to India, where their name, “Rom” means “man.” Thousands of Roma live in Albania, where suspicion and fear of their “mystical” culture have forced their communities to the outskirts of society.

 The Roma may be on the margins of society, but God has not forgotten them. Their greatest need is to know Christ’s love and the hope found only in Him. For over 10 years, Christar workers James and Dawn* have been serving among the Roma in Albania. They share how music is giving them a new way to share truth.

Over the years, we have sought to bring truth to the Roma in a way that spoke through their own culture. Though they have no country to call their own, they have a strong sense of identity. As we have engaged their culture and communities, we’ve found that music is their heartbeat.

A crisis of faith

One day, we thought, “What if we used music to share the gospel story and a biblical worldview with the Roma? But not just any music—we need to tell them through their music.” I wear many hats; but I’m not a musician. Even so, I began writing the lyrics, basic spiritual truths, that would form the framework for our first song. A local Roma believer helped me find a traditional tune, and we recorded it right there on my phone. He named it, in their language, “Roma, listen to Him!”

We needed more than one song. In fact, we wanted an album of songs to reach a wider audience. To do that we needed artists and funding. I needed more faith.

Who will help?

We extended news of the need to the churches and individuals who support us, and they joined us in the vision, praying and giving to help make the album a reality. Soon, we had funding for the project, but I still needed someone who could take our phone recording and the eight sheets of lyrics I’d written and transform them into music that truly belonged to the Roma.

Where do I go?

“Lord, where do I go next?” I asked. I tried local churches, but most of their music was Western music simply translated into Albanian. They weren’t connected to the traditional styles of the Gypsy communities around them.

My search took me to a friend of a friend who knew a local mainstream Roma recording artist. Hewasn’t a believer, but a follower of Islam. However, for a price, he was happy to recruit local artists and record our music.

People need to hear this!

The day I brought the lyric sheets for the Roma musicians that were hired to produce the album, one of the men started looking through the words. Suddenly, he stopped me and said, “This is good stuff! People need to hear this!” How sweet it was to look at this man and answer, “You, my friend, first of all need to hear this!”

Today, we have nine YouTube music videos. We have a Facebook page where those who are interested may contact us with questions the music has raised in them. We have also initiated a network of workers around Albania who are eager to reach the Roma around them. And we use the music in a church that meets in homes or courtyards in Roma neighborhoods. We have faith that God will use these words and videos and music to draw hearts that are far from their Creator to return to Him in worship that is uniquely and beautifully theirs.


How can I get involved?

Pray:

  • Praise God for fresh ideas and creativity! Pray that these music videos will cause His glory to be reflected in the hearts and lives of the Roma.
  • Pray that those touched with the gospel through this project will come to know Christ and in turn share Him with their families and communities.
  • Ask God to continue to open doors for the team to bring eternal hope to many in Albania as they provide medical education and care.

Serve:

Experience these music videos with English subtitles, and consider how your skills might be leveraged to share the love of Christ with the least-reached.

Give:

Your gift will help us cultivate Christ-honoring transformation in communities where He is yet to be worshiped. By giving where it’s needed most, you will enable us to address the most pressing needs within the ministries of Christar around the world.