I Was A Gypsy Mama
It wasn’t a question of whether to go or not. It was a question of obedience. Over the past several months, the Lord had been teaching, growing and stretching me in great ways. It was my birthday that day. Bags packed. Passport and airline ticket in hand. I was scared. Was I really leaving my job, my home, and my family for a couple months to live with people that I didn’t know in a place I was unfamiliar with? Four international airports, a bus, a train, a car, and thirty-two hours later, I found myself standing in a little Roma (gypsy) village in southern Romania.
This was the real deal.
Four of us had come from around the world to live and serve in this village for two months.
There were two other young women and a young man on the trip with me. Being the eldest participant in the group and living in a culture where age carries great weight, I inevitably defaulted to the mama role.
The two young women that were with us in this village were as opposite as could be, especially when it came to men and interacting with them – one was very conservative and leery of men while the other was much more friendly and forward with the opposite sex. From the outside in a Western culture, there wouldn’t have been much thought toward the differences of these women. It would have been a personality difference and nothing more. However, since we were as far away from our ‘normal’ as possible, it wasn’t as easily dismissed.
As the ‘mother’ of the group, I had conversations with each girl. The conversations wrapped around and addressed their behavior. I reminded them that they both came here with the same purpose – to love and serve others just as Christ came to love and serve us. However, running from interacting with men or throwing yourself in front of every guy you saw was detracting from the goal of living out the Gospel. Initiating each conversation with the girls was uncomfortable, but the importance and necessity of it was great. Seeing the girls each independently grow and learn was encouraging to me as their ‘mother’.
In addition to conversations about behavior and growing in grace, some of my other mother duties were more practical. I was called upon on all hours of the day and/or night when team members felt sick. One night, one of the girls woke up violently ill. I was worried as this young woman had already gone to the hospital a couple weeks earlier and we had limited access to reliable healthcare facilities. Along with the non-English speaking pastor and another Romanian to translate, I went to the hospital with this young girl in the middle of the night. When we arrived at the small hospital, we woke up the doctor on call and stepped in to a small cold, empty hospital. The pastor and translator waited outside while I stayed with the young girl. Between cold sweats and waves of nausea, the pale white girl cried out of pain and fear.
The duties were plenty; from helping with meals, getting everyone out the door, and staying on track. By just being available to team members throughout the day, I found myself in this role. While being a gypsy mama was unexpected, it was necessary. It was so helpful for the other young adults in the group and made them feel confident and able to grow in their journey. It meant the world for them to know that there was someone there that loved and cared for them physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. They were able to achieve far more than they would have hoped for if they didn’t have that support and motherly figure.
For me, one might see the extra role as a mother to these young adults as an added burden. In addition to being the ‘mother’, I also had a full-time role as an English teacher to the children in the village. I had very little downtime or personal space. However, it wasn’t a burden. I had grown to love these other team members and I found it to be an honor to take the role of ‘mother’. As most mother’s experience, your role and duties requires you to give and to sacrifice. It was the same for me. I didn’t take on the role of mother in order to get something, but knowing that I would need to give and sacrifice for the sake of others. However, as we often hear that one must give in order to receive, I found by investing all of myself into the experience of living in a dusty little Roma village rich and fulfilling. By loving, I received love. By giving, I gained blessings. By serving, I experienced joy. For a short while, I was a Gypsy Mama.