Me and my big, kissable forehead!
I came to Florence to encourage my friends in ministry here. Among them are a couple, Pietro and Marta, who minister to gypsies, specifically the gypsy children here. They told me about a young gypsy who has been friends with them for many years. Sibohan was one of the first of their gypsy children to accept Christ.
So Pietro and Marta arranged a meeting for me with Sibohan. Almost immediately, Sibohan said, “She (indicating me) is the one you told me about!” and turning to me, “I recognize you because of your big forehead!” I had to laugh because a few years ago I wrote on my blog about a day when I was about to leave the house. I had looked into the mirror and said (without expecting a response): “Lord, why is my forehead so big?” and He immediately responded, “For kissing!” And in my mind’s eye, I saw Jesus kiss me on the forehead. But since I write in English, and Pietro and Marta only speak Italian, I hadn’t realized that they had read that, much less that they had told anyone else. Sibohan quickly apologized, afraid that he might have offended me or hurt my feelings. But I assured him that since that incident, I’ve never again regretted my big forehead.
With a little nudge from Marta, Sibohan proceeded to tell me about some of the difficulties he has encountered in the gypsy community since making the decision to follow Jesus. His gentle nature always set him apart from the rest of the gypsy boys, and with Jesus in his life, his natural gentleness is accompanied by sweetness and hope. His own family have accepted him, despite his Christian beliefs, because he is a person that is very hard not to love. So their main problem with him is that he hasn’t had any luck getting a job. The unemployment issue is usually a difficulty for gypsies, but in Sibohan’s case, it’s exacerbated by a herniated disk in his back, which means that all physical labor is out of the question. And on the issue of money, his family is sometimes very harsh with him. His father watched him eat one evening and said, “How is it that you can eat, but you can’t work?”
His family arranged a marriage for him two years ago. He hadn’t wanted to marry, and the girl they chose didn’t have any language in common with Sibohan (who speaks Serbian and Italian), Silwa spoke only Albanian. Even two years later, she only speaks a little pidgin Italian. Nevertheless, Sibohan began from the day of their wedding about his faith in Jesus. She, like him, was raised Muslim, and she understands that he is Christian. What has spoken more eloquently to her than his words (even if she understood all of them) is his gentleness and kindness and love for her and for their baby daughter. They have fallen in love, despite the fact that love is not considered an important factor in marriage in either gypsy culture or in Muslim culture.
So we prayed for Sibohan and for his family there in the park, and he was encouraged by our prayers. Never underestimate the power of listening and praying with someone. Sibohan returned home to the gypsy camp with a big grin on his face. God is good!
And for those who have asked, here are some pictures of me with dreadlocks and variously colored hair. Enjoy! 🙂