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Keith Holmes and Mary van Rheenen are a husband-wife missionary team (field personnel) with CBF. Their work is with the Romany (Gypsy) people of Europe, and they are based in Holland. They have 2 daughters Ellen and Rebecca. Keith's home church is University Baptist in Baton Rouge.

 Holmes-van Rheenen family

See video of their Romany work. Other posts by Keith and Mary here.

 

February 1, 2017
Dear friends,
 
The good news is I already had a flight reservation to join Keith in Spain today. He’s been there recording the New Testament in Euskara (Basque) with Faith Comes By Hearing and the Spanish Bible Society. The bad news is Keith phoned yesterday afternoon to say he was in the hospital. He’d been up all night with abdominal pain, phoned for medical help in the morning, and ended up in a hospital. The good news is various Basque members of the recording team came and sat with him for up to 5 hours while he waited on tests, saw this or that doctor, and waited on a bed. The bad news is the doctors there are not sure what’s wrong with him and he’ll be spending tonight (Wednesday, 1 February) in the hospital again. The good news is he is no longer in severe pain and—once I get there—there’s a sofa where I can spend the night with him if I wish.
 
That is, if I get there. The bad news is the air traffic control system in all Netherlands has had technical difficulties today. The good news is our flight has not been cancelled but, so far, is only delayed by an hour and a half. Please be in prayer with us about Keith’s health as well as the future of this project. The Basque recording, like my flight, be delayed rather than cancelled.
 
Our partners in Moldova have similarly had good and bad news. The good news is three key young men and one young woman have recently made a commitment to follow Christ. Please be in prayer that this commitment will take root and bear fruit. The bad news is the pastor, Petru Ciochina, injured his leg this fall. He is no longer in a cast, but severe pain still comes and goes. There’s more good news, though. Even though Merce, a young leader in the church, has gone to Russia to earn money, he continues to work for the Lord. He was very involved in one of these conversions and leads Bible studies with the others via Internet/Smartphone connections.
 
There’s also news about DAVAR educational programs. Alina Ivan, a long-term friend and Romanian educational expert, is currently visiting a site in Romania where DAVAR Start Games are being used. While there, she is also reporting on the actual educational situation of Romany children. (See http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/) The bad news is how bad the educational situation is. The good news is that Coco, another DAVAR partner, has been using Start Games as well as the Parent-Child Club materials with very good results. The bad news is most of her team have had to go abroad to earn money, it’s too cold to meet in the church building, and her car has problems. “Why is it so hard to do something good?” she recently wrote. The good news is that because of the good she and her team have already done, over 100 Romany children have learned how much Jesus loves them in word and in deed.
 
We have a lot of Good News to share!
 
Still praying,
Mary (& Keith)
 

 

December 2016
Dear friends,

Small things can make a big difference. Take this children's book, You Can Change the World by Jill Johnstone, for instance. The book describes different groups of people around the world and lists specific things to pray for by each group. The book first came out in 1993. The section about Gypsies includes this prayer request: “Please call Christians to translate the Bible and make cassettes in the Romany languages and their dialects.” We felt that call less than two years later, moved to Europe in 1996, and met the first members of the Wycliffe Bible translators' Romani team the following year. So yes, God works through small things to change the world. Children’s prayers have already changed ours!

 

This same book also has a section about the Euskaldunak of northern Spain/southwestern France. Outsiders call them Basque. Keith is heading to the Basque-speaking region of Spain this coming Thursday, December 8. He will need some world-changing prayer.

 

As part of our partnership with Faith Comes By Hearing, Keith will begin recording the New Testament in Euskara, the Basque language. Once that project is finished (possibly middle of February), he will record the New Testament in Castilian Spanish. Most Spanish Romany no longer speak their own language. If they are going to hear the Word, they need to hear it in Spanish. Basques, on the other hand, are unlikely to listen to any word unless it is in Basque/Euskara.

 

We need at least 5 people to join in prayer for this project. If you feel called to this, please hit reply to this e-mail. You’ll receive regular updates and sp ecific prayer requests. I'll close with prayer request #7 from Jill Johnstone's book:  Help Basque believers to share their faith and start a Basque-speaking church where whole families can worship You together. Your prayers will do just that.

 

Praying expectantly,

Keith Holmes & Mary van Rheenen

 

Join us in thanking God for:

*A Basque translation of the Bible;

*Basque Christians ready to assist with this recording;

*A new roof for a Romany widow in Moldova (story on http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/);

*Parent-Child Club and children's program led by Coco and her team in a Romany village (photos also on blogspot).

 

Join us in praying for:

*Keith's health; he has been suffering from a bad cold, but seems well enough to make this trip;

*Good communication within this recording team;

*Provision for Romany in cold places with inadequate heating and housing;

*Coco and her team as they share the Christmas story in the coming weeks.

 

Thanksgiving 2016
Hello All,
 
A lot of you have probably been traveling this weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends or family. We're on a different time from America in many ways. Keith and I traveled last week to a Team Transition Training in Madrid with several CBF missions teams. And this coming Sunday, rather than this past Thursday, we will be sharing a meal of thanksgiving with our church family at a potluck after the worship service.
 
A major thing we're thankful for is your partnership with us, in prayer and in so many other ways. We are also thankful for this training time. We know that some of you know about CBF, and some not as much. We wanted to share with all of you about the transitions in CBF that affect how we do things, particularly the new funding model. 
 
Under the old funding model, some field personnel, like us, were completely funded by the Offering for Global Missions. Others, who were appointed later, were funded by specific gifts from partnering churches and individuals. Now these two systems are being merged, and all field personnel will have their presence in the field (salary, housing, etc.) funded through the Offering For Global Missions and their day-to-day programming funded by partnering individuals and groups.
 
We encourage those of you who give to the Offering for Global Missions to continue. (Just in time for Giving Tuesday, there is a special, all-CBF campaign https://www.classy.org/checkout/donation?eid=107109.) In the past, some of you have also given to special projects. In this new funding model, instead of giving to specific projects you can support the work we do in a more personal way. Our programming budget pays for the actual, day-to-day things we do:  travel, internet connectivity, postage to send things like a copies of the Jesus video, paper to print out Scripture coloring books, etc.
 
We also have some new tools like a new webpage which makes it easier to partner with our ministry: https://www.classy.org/campaign/keith-holmes-and-mary-van-rheenen/c106976. Please note that while this page is up and running, some of the text and photos will be changed in the next few days. Giving is also not limited to the amounts listed in the four examples at the bottom of the page. Click on any "Donate" button and fill in how much you wish to give. Also, we were very surprised to see the names of the donors at the bottom of the page. If you (like us) would prefer not to have your name publically listed, then on the donation page check the box that says "Make donation anonymous" under your name. Please note that this just means your name will not appear on the webpage; we will still be informed of your gift. If you want to be truly anonymous, then you may mail a check to CBF designating the gift to our programming and asking that your name not be given to us.
 
Please contact us for more information about any of this. We will certainly answer e-mail but are also available to talk with you personally by Skype or by phone. We also plan to be in the States this spring, April through June or July, and hope to visit as many of you as possible. As soon as that schedule becomes clearer, we will let you know where we will be when.
 
In the meantime, we wish you traveling mercies if you are going to be on the road this weekend. We wish you good sense if you are going to be shopping. And we wish you well in whatever transitions you, too, may be encountering. We are very grateful that none of us need face any change alone.
 
Thankfully,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes

 

November 2016
Dear Friends,
 
Last week several things of eternal significance happened. And no, I am not going to go on about the results of the recent U.S. elections. On Wednesday evening, the same day we learned those election results, a young couple came by asking for prayer. They come from a country in Central Europe and are working here (legally) for a year or so in a warehouse for an online clothing business.* We met through church and have become good enough friends for them to just drop by. She had earlier asked us to pray for her husband, who was not (yet) a committed Christian. A couple of weeks ago he gave his heart to Jesus. They were both filled with joy. But since that time, they have had serious challenges. Fellow countrymen at work talk against them and accuse them of causing trouble with the boss. They share a house with eight or more of these same people, so the trouble follows them home. They feel so oppressed that they are wondering about leaving to go home, even though there is no work for them there.
 
Thursday I had a long Skype-conversation with Coco, a young Romanian Christian who works with Romany in a depressed area of her own country. She has started a children's outreach and a Parent-Child Club in a remote village to field-test Davar activities (http://davar-education.eu/). She also asked for serious prayer. A pastor she works with held worship services in this same village for six months, but stopped after he was met by men armed with sticks who threatened to beat him up. The village is also known for sorcery and witchcraft. She is taking a team of 2-4 Romany youth with her every Friday and requested serious prayer for them and for this outreach.
 
On Saturday, as Keith was preparing to leave for a research trip to Spain, we received an e-mail from a mother in Texas. Her daughter currently lives about an hour south of us on her university's three-month study-abroad program. There are no other Christians among the 85 students and staff who are also part of this program. Could we reach out to this isolated, discouraged young Christian and at least prayer for her?
 
Sunday, Keith traveled to Spain to prepare for recording the New Testament in Basque (Euskara). We know from experience that recording projects like this will also have a lot of problems if they do not have enough spiritual support. We are again looking for a team of 4-8 people who will regularly pray for this project. If you feel led to join this prayer team or a group to regularly pray for Davar activities, please let us know.
 
And speaking of teams, this coming Thursday, 17 November, I'll be joining Keith in Spain. Our CBF Central European Team will join several other teams for training on the new funding structure for CBF field personnel, in addition to having our yearly face-to-face meeting. Keith and I have been fully funded through CBF's Offering for Global Missions. Team members who have joined us in more recent years have had to raise the majority of their own support. This is rightly being changed so that we are all in the same situation. The Offering for Global Missions will fund everyone's presence (salary, housing). In the past, we have all been responsible for raising project funds. Now everyone will also be responsible for raising regular ministry funds (travel, supplies, etc.). Your prayers will particularly be appreciated during this time of transition.
 
Of course we should be praying for God's will to be done in current political transitions as well. But I would like to share something Coco, the young woman in Romania, told me. She has a degree in economics and gave up a good-paying government job to work full-time in God's Kingdom. Many friends and family members do not understand this at all. "My life is not for things that will not get to Heaven. This is what I live for." Eternal significance.
 
Still praying,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes
 
Join us in thanking God for:
*Coco and others willing to invest in the spiritual and educational future of Romany communities;
*Good cooperation with Bible Society in Spain and Basque church there;
*Christians who shine their light in difficult places;
*Our CBF missions team.
 
Join us in praying for:
*Coco's safety and effectiveness during these weekly gatherings (photos on http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/);
*Good scheduling for Basque New Testament recording (begin in December? or January?);
*Isolated Christians who need fellowship and encouragement;
*Up-coming CBF team and training meeting, 17-20 November.
 

 

October 2016
Dear friends,
 
Last month a group of us went to the Republic of Moldova to try something new. Instead of just doing something in the Romany village of Vulcanesti, we went with believers from that village to Schinoasa, another Romany village. There the children and youth who had attended so many programs in their own village helped lead a program in this other village. Theme:  Jesus came to seek the lost. Music: led by Vulcanesti musicians. Skit acted out by children & youth:  the Lost Coin. Did God lead us to try this new thing? We believe so. Did this new thing go exactly as we had hoped and dreamed? Of course not. Did God work through this, despite our many errors and failings? Dare I say, 'of course'? Yes, because this is how God always works when He decides to work through His children.
 
We tried something else new--a listening Bible study with the women in Vulcanesti. What if some of them couldn't read? They could listen, they could share, they could learn from one another. We could learn from one another (photos on cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot).
 
This is one of the best things about this mission team. They focus on we. Building relationships, visiting in homes, spending time listening--are more important than producing a program. For example, the planned program with young mothers did not work out. However, team members did visit with young mothers. God worked through those visits to teach and to touch all of our hearts in ways that would not have been possible if our plan for a structured program had happened.
 
Members of the Wycliffe/SIL Roma* Service Group, Ron, Debbie, and Zoltan, proved to be a very valuable part of that we. Together with local believers they prepared materials for children and adults in Ursari Romani, the language spoken in Vulcanesti. Zoltan agreed to try something else new once he returned to Romania. He is adding one of the Davar Start Games to the children's Bible club and the teens Bible club he leads each Wednesday night. Start Games teach people of any age the thinking skills needed to succeed in reading, writing, and math. Ron and Debbie introduced me to someone else who leads Bible clubs in Romany villages. Coco (Corneilia) works in a different part of Romania. She agreed to try out the Start Games as well as the Parent-and-Child Club, beginning sometime later in November.
 
Keith also hopes to start something new very shortly. The Bible Society in Spain wants to record the New Testament in Castilian (European Spanish, not Latin American) and in Basque (Euskara). I'm wondering whether it is a mere coincidence that we have an apparently unrelated CBF meeting in Madrid next month. Keith and I plan to combine the trip with a visit to friends in Spain--friends who regularly visit a Romany church there.
 
Will things go according to our plans? I sincerely doubt it. Will God work through all this anyway? I sincerely hope so.
 
Yours in Christ,
Mary van Rheenen and Keith Holmes 
 
Join us in thanking God for:
--safe trip to Moldova, including outreach to village of Schinoasa by Romany from village Vulcanesti;
--team members' attitude of we rather than us-and-them;
--openness of Romany women to try something new--a listening Bible study;
--good connection with Bible Society in Spain;
--God's willingness to work through His children.
 
Join us in praying for:
--plans that will be made during the CBF training and team meetings in Madrid, November 17-20;
--wise scheduling to record the New Testament in Spain, in Spanish and in Euskara (Basque);
--Zoltan and particularly Coco as they try out Davar literacy materials (davar-education.eu);
--on-going outreach and Bible study with the believers in Vucanesti, Moldova.

 

September 2016
Dear friends,
 
"I understand a new season starts later this month," our friend from Ghana observed. He's here on a one-year masters' program. Yes, we told him, the next season is called "autumn." Americans call it "fall" because the leaves fall from the trees. Our friends in the Romany church in Moldova will be celebrating their Harvest Sunday soon. And this year I will be there to celebrate with them.
 
Usually we go in spring or early summer, the time when fields and gardens are just starting to grow. We also sow and cultivate through children's Bible clubs, day camps for teen-aged girls, personal visits, and a special afternoon with the women of the village. This coming Saturday, September 17, I and five others will gather in Moldova at harvest time instead. Believers are mature enough to reach out to another Romany village. We will work with them to prepare an outreach program--and then to go and do the outreach program. 
 
Years of prayers, women's programs, and day camps for teenaged girls have also born fruit. A number of Romany women have come to faith. We will help lead a series of Bible studies with them on Jesus' interaction with women. The Bible studies do not rely on extra books or even the ability to read. Our prayer is that these women will learn tools for continuing to mature in their faith, to see the fruits of the Spirit develop more fully in their own lives, and to see the fruit of their living testimony in the lives of those around them.
 
Another thing we've been doing for years is reinforce the use of Ursari, the local Romany's heart language, in worship and in prayer by printing the hand-written collection of their own worship songs, translating memory verses and Bible stories into Ursari, and sharing Scripture portions that have been translated into related Romani languages. Our 6-member team includes three "Scripture-in-use" folks from the SIL/Wycliffe Bible translation team working with Romany in Romania. This time they want to work with those materials and with these believers to begin choosing a standardized spelling for their Ursari Romani.
 
For the last several years I've also been working with another team of expert volunteers to develop Davar:  bridging to literacy (http://davar-education.eu/). Davar includes games to stimulate literacy and math skills in older children and a new set of parent-child activities where care-givers learn to pass these skills on to their own children in their own language. All of that work--consulting, translating from Dutch to English, arranging for translation from English to Romanian, illustrating, reflecting, praying, is now bearing fruit of another sort. Alina Ivan, a Romanian preschool teacher extraordinaire, will be joining our team this year. She will be doing a field trial of Davar, especially the parent-child activities. If successful, she will stay on after the rest of us leave (September 29) to more firmly establish a parent-child group and to train local leaders to continue it.
 
And that's not the only thing coming to fruition. The Latvian New Testament which Keith recorded this past spring has been processed and is ready to be reproduced and distributed. He recently discovered that the Jesus video he had dubbed into Western Kalderash more than 10 years ago has been posted to YouTube. In three years' time the video has had 18,330 views; positive comments (in Kalderash Romani) come from South America as well as throughout Europe.
 
The harvest appears to be great. Thank you for working with us in the fields.
 
Prayerfully,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes
 
Join us in thanking God for:
--the unknown person who posted this Jesus video on YouTube;
--harvest time, the faithful believers in Moldova, and the international team that will be working there;
--Romany women who have come to faith;
--the Latvian audio New Testament, now ready to be reproduced and distributed.
 
Join us in praying for:
--safe travel to and from Moldova, September 17-29;*
--outreach to village of Schinoasa by Romany from village of Vulcanesti;
--field trial of DAVAR, parent-child group; opportunity for this to continue in Vulcanesti;
--women's Bible studies and growth of faith among women believers;
--progress on future media projects in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and the Netherlands.

 


August 2016
Dear friends,
 
Our partners in Moldova have two specific prayer requests. Over the course of the past year, a number of Romany women have become believers. A baptismal service is being planned with a neighboring church. Will the Spirit move any or all of these women to make a public declaration of their faith and choose to be baptized as believers? Please pray with the pastor and the church there as well as us.
 
A couple of weeks ago 15 pre-teens from this Romany village had a chance to go to an overnight camp. This is a first for the kids in the village. There have been vacation Bible club activities in the village. There have been afterschool activities in the village. This is the first time that kids from the village have gone anywhere overnight. They loved it. Since that time, the parents of these kids have been attending worship services. The pastor requested prayer for these parents. Will the Word of God take root in their hearts?
 
In a month I will be going to Moldova, too. Two Dutch women who have been going for over five years will go along as well as three members of the SIL/Wycliffe Bible translator's Roma* Team. We have related prayer requests. For the past 10 years we have held day camps for children and teenagers as well as women's outreach programs in this village. We've seen evidence of fruit in the overnight camp, the children's responsiveness, the women asking to become Christians. The villagers have received much. Now we feel it is time for them to give, also. Instead of organizing a program for their own children, we are going to help believers in the village organize an outreach program for the children of another village.
 
This feels like going out on a limb to me, but my two Dutch teammates are not afraid to follow the Spirit. They propose building on the themes of the camp a couple of weeks ago (lost coin, lost sheep, lost son). The children from the camp will teach us what they've learned. They and other believers will work together to prepare a program. The children have already acted out the stories in camp; they might choose to refine one of these sketches. They have talented musicians and singers among them. People there are good storytellers and have powerful stories of God at work. Local leaders have connections with another Roma village about an hour away. They are visiting this other village ahead of time to establish relationships and think about logistics.
 
For the past several years we have been organizing a day camp for teenaged girls. The teenaged boys have become increasingly interested in having activities for them, too. This year we plan to have the teenagers help with these preparations for going to another village instead. Maybe, as part of that, there would be a music evening, a handwork evening, and a games evening. We have no idea how that will be received.
 
We plan to do another thing we have never done before. At the pastor's suggestion, we will be leading a series of small-group discussions with the women in first village. Theme:  Jesus meets women.** Bible study via listening and reading. Focus:  interaction in groups no larger than eight. I have a lot of questions about this, too. What will we do if 20 women show up? Will we have enough places to meet? Enough translators for ourselves or local leaders to guide the discussions? What if no women show up? Prayer would be appreciated for this, too.
 
We have heard that the people in this other Roma village only speak the national language, Romanian. The Wycliffe workers and I will be preparing some materials in Ursari Romani, the mother tongue of the people we already know. Why? Because any time the church doors are open, children show up. Bible story coloring books in their own language will keep them busy. The booklets may also intrigue their parents, stimulate a desire to read, affirm the value of their language, demonstrate that the Holy One will communicate in their heart language, and--who knows--lead to a small Scripture translation project in this language.  
 
That would be great. Keith is looking for more future media projects. Come to think of it, our partner in Moldova has one for him . . . .
 
Still praying,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes
 
Join us in thanking God for:
--great time working at family camp/English camp in Poland, July 9-14;***
--Romany women coming to faith;
--missions team to Moldova, both Dutch members and Wycliffe members;
--audio New Testament in Latvian nearly ready for reproduction and distribution.
 
Join us in praying for:
--response of Romany women/baptismal service in Moldova;
--on-going fruit from children's camps in village of Vulcanesti, including parents;
--outreach to village of Schinoasa by Romany from village of Vulcanesti;
--safe travel to and from Moldova, September 15-29;
--wisdom in choosing future media projects.

Focused on Student Success
July 2016
Dear friends,

Student success--a friend of ours serves as the academic dean of a community college. The entire institution's focus was student success. They do what they can to assist students in succeeding. As I write this, Keith and I are on our way to help with a family camp in Poland. Keith and his brother Ted will be helping with English lessons for advanced adults. Our sister-in-law  Bev and I will be leading the beginners.  Our motto is also student success.
 
Too many Romany students still do not study in institutions or with teachers who are even passively interested in their success. Take the Romany children in a village on the edge of the Hungarian-speaking portion of Romania, for instance. (Parts of Europe are even more linguistically complicated.) There is a Hungarian-language and a Romanian language primary school in the village. The Romany children are shunted into the Hungarian one. Is this because they speak Hungarian? No, it's because the Hungarian school needs more students to stay open. The Romany children speak neither Hungarian nor Romanian at home but their own Romani language. No provision is made for their first language, nor to the fact that they may not know the language of instruction when they start school, nor with the fact that any advanced education will be in Romanian. Learning Hungarian first, in this situation, is definitely not an asset for them.

Situations like this touched the heart of Marleen, a talented educator from our Dutch church. Marleen designed a Parent-Child Club where parents could begin teaching their children school-related skills in the language of their choice. This program was also written partly at the request of Hanneke, a Dutch woman who works with Romany churches in Romania. Hanneke wanted to do Bible study with Romany women, but the women always brought their small children to the meetings. The Parent-Child Club works with, instead of against, this Romany cultural situation. This is a complicated linguistic situation as well. I've assisted in getting the materials from Dutch to English so that they can be translated into other languages like Romanian. Hanneke and her helpers can organize the activities in Romanian; the Romani-speaking mothers can do the activities with their children in whatever language the children know best. This leads to student success. Romany children learn concepts and behaviors (like listening and taking turns) which will transfer to any formal school setting, no matter what language that school uses. The children learn them more easily because they already know the language and the "teachers." They can succeed. Success often leads to more success.
 
This approach reminds me of another Teacher who is focused on student success. He knows what we're made of and takes that into account (He knows our frame . . . Ps. 103:14). He purposefully uses language he knows we will understand--whether that be idioms common to housewives (Matthew13:33), day laborers (Matthew 20:1), or merchants (Matthew 13:45) . What language is He using with you?
 
Praying for student success,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes

Join us in thanking God for:
--creation and translation of Mother-Child Club materials (Dutch to English; English to Romanian; Romanian to . . . ?)
--dedicated co-workers like Marleen, who volunteers her time; Hanneke, who works as a nurse in the Netherlands to pay for her time in Romania; Petru & Olesea Ciochina, who are searching for viable employment so that they can continue to serve Romany in Moldova
--safe travel so far this summer.
 
Join us in praying for:
--family camp/English camp in Poland, July 9-14;
--better education for Romany children, particularly in the Republic of Moldova;
--final distribution and use of the audio version of the New Testament in Latvian (see Bible.Is for languages currently available);
--stable income for the many Romany who have returned to Moldova from Germany & Russia.
Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,  P.O. Box 102972, Atlanta, GA 30368-2972, make this work possible. 
Contributions to projects #80827 Romany Education, Moldova and #84822, Romany Outreach, Moldova, can be sent to the same address or made through CBF's gift catalog at http://www.cbf.net/giftcatalog/.

 

A Twenty Year Pilgrimage and Still Going
June 2016
Dear friends,

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
the drought of March has pierced unto the root . . . 
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage . . .
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.  
 
What, you may be asking yourself, does the prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales have to do with Romany or mission work? Or, if you successfully avoided reading Canterbury Tales in any literature class, you may be asking yourself--who was Chaucer? He was a 14th-century Englishman who wrote in the language people used every day, rather than Latin or the higher-class languages of Italian or French.  We are all for communicating in ways people actually understand. That's why Keith just spent 7 weeks in Latvia recording a contemporary translation of the Latvian New Testament. But that's not the only reason these lines always run through my mind this is the time of year.  This is the season when many of you do go on pilgrimage. Unlike Chaucer's travelers, you are not journeying to a holy site to receive a blessing. Rather, you are trekking to sundry lands to give and receive blessing. We currently call these pilgrimages "short-term missions."
I usually go on a short-term missions trip myself this time of year. A few regular volunteers go along to work with local Romany believers in Moldova. Together we lead a children's camp, organize a day camp for youth, and hold a women's program.* This year, however, we won't be going until the last two weeks in September. If you feel called to go with us--particularly if you feel called to work with youth--and especially if you truly enjoy working with teenaged boys--you would be more than welcomed to join us. Let me know, and I'd be happy to send more information.
 
But perhaps you long to go even later in the season, say November 17-20. We are looking for a 4-8 person team to do child care for a multi-team meeting in Madrid. Yes, Madrid, Spain. We no longer have children ourselves, but a child care team is essential for everyone at such a meeting. Again, let us know if you feel called.
 
Keith just returned from a trip of his own. He recorded an audio version of the New Testament in Latvian. He is deeply grateful for all of you who worked with him in prayer. Volunteers who pray regularly are a vital part of each recording project. Thank you, fellow pilgrims!
 
In a few weeks, we are going to do some volunteering of our own. Keith's brother and sister-in-law, Ted & Bev Holmes, are organizing an English language family camp in Poland. They needed extra English-speakers, and we volunteered. It will be interesting to be on the other side of a pilgrimage, so to speak.
 
Our own pilgrimage as field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship began 20 years ago this month. We were commissioned at a the General Assembly Richmond, Virginia. This year's General Assembly will be held in Greensboro, NC, June 20-24. That marks the beginning of a year-long celebration of CBF's 25th anniversary. This June also marks another 25th anniversary--Keith and I began our pilgrimage as husband and wife 25 years go. We hope to celebrate with a short trek of our own through a bit of Europe I have not yet seen. Who knows what fellow pilgrims we will meet along the way!
 
Praising God for the ways He works with and through each one of us, whether at home or in sundry lands,

Keith Holmes and Mary van Rheenen

Join us in thanking God for:
--completing the recording of the New Testament in Latvian;
--volunteers who helped create O Drom, a children's coloring book about Sinti Romany;
--publication of a children's Bible in Sinti Romany + faithful translators in this Romany language; 
--20 years of service with CBF and 25 years of marriage to each other;
--volunteer team through partner organization, CERI, who recently help children's program in Romany village of Vucanesti, Moldova.
 
Join us in praying for:
--final distribution and use of this audio version of the New Testament in Latvian (see Bible.Is for languages currently available);
--stable income for the many Romany who have returned to Moldova from Germany & Russia;
--summer travel, including our own time at a family camp in Poland, July 9-16, and those traveling to CBF General Assembly, June 20-24;
--team to Moldova in September, including someone to work with young men;
--child-care team to Madrid, November 17-20.

 
Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,  P.O. Box 102972, Atlanta, GA 30368-2972, make this work possible. 
Contributions to projects #80827 Romany Education, Moldova and #84822, Romany Outreach, Moldova, can be sent to the same address or made through CBF's gift catalog at http://www.cbf.net/giftcatalog/.
 
Original Chaucer written in Middle English (London dialect); much easier for Keith and I to understand now that we've learned Dutch!: 

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu engendred is the flour,

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye

(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes

 

All Nations Recording
May 2015
Dear Friends,


For the past several weeks Keith has been in Latvia recording a contemporary version of the Latvian New Testament. It's been an interesting time for him. 


They've had the only Roman Catholic cardinal in the Baltics record. Keith described him as a very venerable, very aged man. He did Simeon, the prophet who had been waiting in the Temple to see the Messiah. The Lutheran Archbishop of Latvia is doing Jesus. A Mexican TV personality did the lines where foreigners, like the Ethiopian official, speak. A Pentecostal pastor recorded Blind Bartimaeus. This apparently inspired him. When Keith visited his church the following Sunday, the sermon was on Blind Bartimaeus. At least one Orthodox priest recorded as well. Various Baptist pastors have done parts ranging from Mark to the devil. The project coordinator is another TV and radio personality. She is so busy that she persuaded her eighteen-year-old daughter to do the day-to-day stuff of finding lunches, assisting Keith in recording, and translating from English to Latvian. This is a good thing, since she is the most computer savvy (ultimate goal is to either design computer games or do computer animation) member of the team.
 
Keith has been very busy coordinating resources (job title: resource coordinator) and cooperating (sending agency: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship). I've had a few opportunities to do this, too. Two weeks ago Ellen and I hosted three delegates to the annual meeting of the European Baptist Mission International. First came a delightful woman from Cameroon. She preferred French to English, but we got along. She and I both attended a pre-conference workshop on the Church and Community Mobilisation Process. Then, two days after this first guest, the domestic and the international missions coordinators from the Hungarian Baptist Union arrived.
 
The Church and Community Mobilisation Process is a resource I would highly recommend. The process begins with Bible studies in the local church, be that in Tanzania, Scotland, or Tupelo, Mississippi. The process continues through the training of local motivators, the church connecting with their local community, and together using what they already have to identify and take action about local needs. Positive points:  church-based, scripture-based, locally-based, on-going process rather than one-time project.

I've also been cooperating with the SIL (Wycliffe Bible Translators) Romany Team. Or, rather, they've been cooperating with me. They connected us with a volunteer who has been updating the Davar website (davar-education.eu). And three or four of them are willing to join a team to Moldova. The last two weeks in September we hope to work with believers in a Roma village there. Together, we want to do a children's program, a youth program, and a women's program. If you feel called to come, too, particularly to work with teen-aged boys, let us know!

Roy Ann Carey, an artist from Village Baptist Church, Maryland, has illustrated a couple of Scripture coloring books we've used in this village in the past.  She recently finished illustrating a coloring book about Sinti Romany. Keith has made a lot of media materials in the Sinti language (dubbed Jesus video, 4 children's videos, recorded entire New Testament . . . ). This new coloring book resource should be available at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's General Assembly this June. Children and their parents will learn more about the life of Sinti children in the Netherlands. Proceeds go towards Romany Education. We hope to eventually translate it into Dutch and make it available to children, Sinti and non-Sinti, over here.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary as serving through CBF as resource coordinators. Thank you all for continuing to cooperate in providing the resources that make this ministry possible!

 

Trekking the US
November 20, 2015
Dear friends,

 
Keith and I have been trekking around the U.S. for a month and a half now. We've seen Boston, Niagara Falls, the Mississippi River in Louisiana and again in Missouri, Ft. Worth, St. Louis, and far too many airports. We will be traveling again from Iowa to Louisiana to celebrate Thanksgiving. For the first time in three years, we will eat turkey and count our blessings with extended family members. It has been a blessing to reconnect with many of you and to meet new friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you for partnering with us through your prayers, your financial gifts, and your gifts of time and talent. Over the past year, God has multiplied what you've given to do the following:
 
Reach Romany Women. In the past, men have far outnumbered women in the mostly Romany Bethlehem Baptist Church in Moldova. This past year, more and more women have opened their hearts to follow Jesus. Part of this is due to the long-term commitment of Pastor Petru & Olesea Ciochina. Part of this is due to young Moldovan Christians catching the vision to work with children in this village. Part of this is due to the long-term commitment of Dutch volunteers to return year after year to work with women, children, and teenaged girls. None of this would happen without your on-going prayers and the gifts that have helped, at least in part, to support the Ciochinas.
 
Romany Education Program. Petru & Olesea have started meeting with children. They are investing in personal relationships as well as assisting academically. They have permission to meet once a week in the school building after school. Generous gifts from some of you make this possible. Otherwise, Petru & Olesea could not afford gas money to drive the 12 miles from their home to the village. They, like many Moldovans, struggle with a limited income + rising consumer prices.
 
Income Generation. Petru & Olesea have started a chicken-and-egg pilot project with two widows in the village. They hope that this will be successful in increasing the women's financial independence and serve as a model for others. Two Romany believers from the village have also been successful enough in their own marketing businesses to consider investing in something in Moldova. Continued prayer for wisdom and timely action would be appreciated.
 
Dramatized Recordings of  the New Testament. The recording in the Sinti Romani language has been so well received that they are producing another 3,000 copies. The Eastern Slovak Romani version is reaching Romany in Ukraine, as well. Two other languages are currently being completed--a Turkish translation and a new Slovenian. For the later project, Keith was able to mentor a new recording team. Go to Bible.is and choose a language you would like to hear.
 
Romany Language Materials. Thanks to generous financial gifts, Wycliffe Bible translators were able to go with me to Moldova this year. They helped translate memory verses, Scripture coloring books, and other materials into the local Romany language. Thanks to the generous gift of time and talent by one of you, a talented artist, we have created two new Scripture coloring books and are nearly finished with a coloring book about Sinti Romany.
 
Literacy. We continue to develop "Davar," a set of exercises which anyone can teach anywhere to any age group. The exercises or games teach necessary pre-reading and pre-writing skills. http://davarliteracy.weebly.com/ This has been a blessing to educators from the slums of Brazil to the mountains of Nepal.


Marleen Schonthaler, who started Davar, is now working on a "Mother-and-Child Club" series. These games and activities can be integrated into any program with mothers and preschool children in any language. The mothers are empowered to teach and interact with their children. Children learn valuable educational skills. Marleen freely shares of her gifts and talents. Your prayer support keeps her going; your financial support keeps me in the field where I can work with her, translate these Dutch ideas into English, and refine the program from a cross-cultural point of view.
 
There are more blessings we could share--a developing partnership with Parents-as-Teachers; on-going use of YouTube Scripture videos in Romany languages; developments within the Wycliffe Romany Team as well as the CBF Romany Ministry group. We've been blessed personally as well--Rebecca's transfer to Brandeis University in the Boston area, where my sister Connie lives; Ellen's activities back home in the Netherlands; our own on-going good health and safe travel. Thank you, again, for partnering with us. Your generous sharing continues to make this possible.
 
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Mary van Rheenen and Keith Holmes
 
Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible.  *Contributions to project #84822, Romany Outreach, Moldova, assist in the financial support of Petru & Olesea Ciochina. Contributions to projects #80827 Romany Education, Moldova; # 80821 Romany Scripture Media; and to #80823, Romany Microeconomic Development, Moldova, can be sent to the same address or made through CBF's gift catalog at http://www.cbf.net/giftcatalog/.
 
Off-field assignment:

Nov. 22, Sunday morning worship, Mary to First Baptist, Columbia, MO; Keith to Little Bonne Fem Baptist Church, Columbia  

Dec. 2, Wednesday, Missions Banquet, Calder Baptist, Beaumont, TX

Dec. 5 or 7, Orange City, IA

January 5, return to Netherlands

Contact us for more information or to schedule a visit.

 

August/September 2015
From Istanbul, Riga and Coming Your Way
Dear Friends,

This past year we've been to some pretty unusual places:  Istanbul, Riga, Târgu-Mureș, Ljubjana . . . . Now we're getting ready to visit Newark, N.J., Monroe, Louisiana, and Des Moines, Iowa. They don't sound as interesting (at least not to Americans), but they hold particular interest to us. After two and a half years in the field, this October Keith and I are beginning three months' "off-field assignment." We will be visiting family and sharing in churches. We are looking forward to it!
 
Our partners in Moldova, Petru and Olesea Ciochina, were also recently able to take a trip. After eight years in the field, they and their two children took a three-day vacation (their first ever) to Târgu-Mureș, Romania. One of the SIL/Wycliffe workers who joined us in Moldova this year helped arrange it. The church in the Roma village of Vulcanesti continues because Petru and Olesea have faithfully pastored there. They keep in contact with members who go abroad to work via Skype and other social media. They supervise a chicken-and-egg project in the village which may help keep more members at home. They have started an afterschool children's program to boost literacy and school attendance. In the past year, they have seen one person after another repent and choose to follow Jesus. They have less than $50 guaranteed income per month and have sometimes had to borrow gas money to drive the 9 miles from their home in Nisporeni to the church in Vulcanesti.* 
 
This is one of the reasons we have been praying for someone with the entrepreneurial skills and Christian dedication to join our team. This person/couple would to assist believers in, to begin with, Moldova. Seeking transformational development is one of CBF's mission commitments. It is one of ours as well. That's one of the reasons Mary is traveling to Bucharest for the second time this year. She's been invited to participate in a quilting workshop held at the Naomi Center. The other 11 participants will be local Romany women who make and market their own handcrafts. The skill of quilting will expand their opportunities.
 
Keith also has one more trip to make before heading Stateside. At the end of September he will be going to Slovenia (not Slovakia; Slovenia is further south). He'll be getting a new recording team for Faith Comes by Hearing started. This team includes someone we met while recording the Polish New Testament. Keith's really pleased to see them come on board. The Slovenian Bible Society is pleased to see them coming, too. They are all ready to offer an audio version of the New Testament to believers and seekers in Slovenian.
 
And then, after that, we will be heading to exciting places like Newark . . . and Monroe . . . and . . .. It will be exciting for us. We're especially looking forward to seeing our daughter Rebecca. It's been a year since she flew back to the States. She's transferred to a new school in Boston (let us know if you'd like to send her a card). Our other daughter, Ellen, will be staying here, taking care of the cats, and working on her future (let us know if you'd like to send her a card). We will all finally meet up again at Mary's mother's in Iowa for Christmas. In between times, we hope to see a good many of you!
 
Praying for traveling mercies,
Keith Holmes & Mary van Rheenen
Praise and Thanksgiving:
*Great home(s) waiting for us, full of friends and family;
*Up-coming recording project in Slovenia;
*Start of a new school year at a new school for Rebecca; family members who assist in this transition.
 
Prayer requested for:
*Continued growth and nurture for new Romany believers in Vulcanesti, including the parents of the chronically sick baby Ruslan;
*Education projects, particularly in the village of Vulcanesti, Moldova;
*Economic development coordinator for Romany in Moldova &/or Baptist pastors (none of which receive a salary);
*Good conclusion to and subsequent use of recording of the New Testament in Turkish;
*Housemate for Ellen, who will be staying in our house in the Netherlands;
*Safe travel between now and the new year.
 
Off-field assignment so far:
Oct. 18, Sunday morning worship, University Baptist Church, Getzville (Buffalo), NY
Oct. 22-November 5, Louisiana.
Nov. 6-8, Friday night Missions Banquet + Sunday worship, Agape Baptist Church, Ft. Worth, TX
Nov. 15, Sunday morning worship, Third Baptist, St. Louis, MO
Nov. 18, Wed. evening, Kirkwood Baptist, Kirkwood, MO
Nov. 22, Sunday morning worship, Mary to First Baptist, Columbia, MO; Keith to Little Bonne Fem Baptist Church, Columbia  
Dec. 2, Wednesday, Missions Banquet, Calder Baptist, Beaumont, TX
Dec. 5 or 7, Orange City, IA

Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible.  Contributions to projects #80827 Romany Education, Moldova; # 80821 Romany Scripture Media; and #85822 Romany Outreach, Moldova can be sent to the same address or made through CBF's gift catalog at http://www.cbf.net/giftcatalog/.

 

July 2015
Camping Out
Dear friends, 

Keith and I received our diplomas last week. Last month we took two days of Dutch exams:  reading, writing, listening, speaking. If we passed, we'd be eligible to apply for long-term resident's visas. (We would also be eligible to enroll in a trade school--always a handy option to have.) The results came in on Tuesday. Keith promptly mailed our visa applications on Wednesday. Then, Friday, we got rather attractive diplomas in the mail.
 
Just after Keith posted our visa applications, we learned that a good friend had passed in a different sort of way. He had moved from this life to the next. He and his family, like us, have made the Netherlands their home for the past 18-19 years. That may seem like a long time, but--again like us--this is just their temporary home.  As we waited with his immediate family for other mourners to gather, Keith reminded us all of our permanent home. "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." (2 Corinthians 5:1). Our friend did not need any paperwork to reside there. Neither do you.
 
Still camping out,
Keith Holmes & Mary van Rheenen
 
Praise and Thanksgiving:
*Great home waiting for us, full of friends and family;
*Passing our Dutch exams; having our applications for long-term residents' visas accepted;
*Wonderful trip to Moldova (photos and stories posted on http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot/); 
    more than adequate financial support for Wycliffe/SIL workers from Romania who joined us there;
    exceptional prayer support from the Netherlands as well as the U.S.
*Good meeting with Parents-As-Teachers international coordinator and Romany Early Years Network in Leiden;

*Up-coming recording project in Slovenia.

Prayer requested for:
*Keith's trip to Slovenia, August 3-6, to prepare for a recording project with the Slovenian Bible Society;
*Continued growth and nurture for new Romany believers in Vulcanesti, including the parents of the chronically sick baby Ruslan;
*Education projects, particularly in the village of Vulcanesti, Moldova;
*Economic development coordinator for Romany in Moldova &/or Baptist pastors (none of which receive a salary);
*Good conclusion to and subsequent use of recording of the New Testament in a Turkish dialect;
*Transitions for our daughters Ellen (new work) and Rebecca (new school, Boston area);
*Plans for up-coming time in America, October-December 2015, including schedule of speaking opportunities.

 

 

June 2015
No-Frills Update
Dear friends,

Last month we sent a no-frills prayer letter. This month we are sending a no-frills update with praises ++ mixed in.

Keith's Recording Projects:  Latvia. Last month Keith went to Riga because the Latvian Bible Society is interested in recording a dramatized version of their New Testament. ++Thank God for good connections, good communication, and finding a good place to record. He will not be recording there this summer, though, since everyone there seems to go on vacation in August.

Dutch. Keith is hoping to record a Dutch version of the New Testament this summer instead. It is an easy-to-understand version. There are a couple of issues that need to be worked through first. Keith is really praying that this will come through quickly.

Turkey. ++Our partners in Turkey have almost finished proof-listening to their recording of the New Testament. They are now at the correcting stage.  Once they have finished this, Keith will go back to Istanbul to wrap up this project. On-going prayer appreciated.

Bulgarian Romani. The entire New Testament plus some of the Old Testament was translated into the Romani dialect widely used in Sofia. The translation needs tweaking before it can be recorded. However, the digital files for that project had been lost. ++In preparation for that tweaking, this translation has been scanned. The scanned digital files are now being checked, in part by Keith. He was writing Cyrillic letters on the family whiteboard this evening to describe some of the challenges he was facing. Hopefully he will not be the only checker.

Mary's Annual Moldova Trip. Tuesday, June 24, Mary and two women from the local Dutch church are flying to the Republic of Moldova. Three members of the SIL/Wycliffe Roma Bible translation/Scripture use team in Romania will be driving over to join them. ++A big thank you to a church and a couple of individuals who have donated enough to cover their costs for room and board ($12/day).

Local believers will help us organize a children's program on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday followed by a day camp for teenaged boys and girls on June 30-July 4. We did a little bit of a program with the boys last year. This year will be the first time we're trying something more structured. ++That's possible in part because two of the SIL folks are men.

We need serious prayer support throughout these two weeks. If you would like to receive regular prayer requests and updates, please contact us.

Romany Church in village of Vulcanesti. ++Mecrie, the father of baby Ruslan, will also be helping throughout these two weeks. The pastor in Vulcanesti reports that Mecrie has been very active in church. In fact, he played a significant role in the recent conversion of a key person in the village. Ruslan remains about the same. We have now received an English translation of his condition from the doctors in Moldova. Though he has difficulty breathing on his own, he could be moved for treatment. Ideas, suggestions, recommendations are most welcome.

Daughters in transition. Ellen is still waiting to hear about several volunteer positions which will help her decide career/future directions. ++Rebecca has been accepted into Brandeis in Boston and will transfer there for her last two years of school. Now a summer job to help pay for that school would be nice . . . .

Us in transit - Visa renewal. We are in the process of applying for a long-term residents' visa. As part of that process we had to take two days of Dutch language exams (see cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot, June 14). We think we passed, though it will be another four weeks before we hear for certain.

Visit to US - October-December 2015. Our primary purpose will be reconnecting with family, friends, and churches. Let us know if you would like us to come by. 

And thank you for praying with us.

Yours in Christ,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes

In addition to the ++praises above, we'd appreciate prayer for:

*Recording projects
*Ruslan

Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible.  Contributions to projects #80827 Romany Education, Moldova; # 80821 Romany Scripture Media; and #85822 Romany Outreach, Moldova can be sent to the same address or made through CBF's gift catalog at http://www.cbf.net/giftcatalog/.

 

Mom Loves Me Best
February 2015


Dear friends,

"Mom loves me best!" Did you ever hear that from a sibling? Or from one of your own children? Or did you ever say (or think), "Mom loves you best!" I've heard that sort of thing from brothers and sisters in Christ, too. Sometimes it seems like God hears other people's prayer better than He does mine. Or other people think that He hears ours better than He does theirs.

For example, last month we asked for help. And we got help. Five of you responded to our request for 3-7 prayer volunteers for the recording project in Turkey. Keith had a good trip to Istanbul (January 19-23). His partners there quickly caught on to the software used by Faith Comes by Hearing. As of yesterday, they had already recorded 34% of the New Testament! We can see how God answered a lot of prayers.

We had also asked for 3-7 volunteers to help this summer in a Romany village in the Republic of Moldova. Two people immediately contacted me, and yesterday I heard of a potential 3rd. We plan to arrive on June 24 and spend the first several days with local volunteers to finish planning an afternoon program for children and an evening program for teenagers. The next week we hope to do these programs, followed by a women's gathering sometime over the weekend of July 4 (yes, I know, but the fourth of July has no special meaning in Moldova), to return on July 7. We are praying for 2-4 more people, especially a couple of guys who can help with the teenaged boys.

Additional help came for Davar, a reading readiness program for teaching people pre-reading and pre-math skills. A church donated enough funds to have it translated into Romanian and at least one Romani language. Two different volunteers (our daughter Ellen and a British guy currently serving with Project Ruth in Romania) offered to help put this online. This has been a long-term prayer request of ours. An SIL/Wycliffe worker in Germany has further developed a German-language version and is successfully using it with refugees there.

But these answers to prayer are nothing compared to the stories we heard from an Iranian pastor in our own church. Jesus appeared in person at a woman's door. A young girl healed dozens of people by praying in the name of Jesus. And then there were the accounts we recently heard from Sinti Romany believers in their own worship service. A man told how he suffered from a condition that left him without any white blood cells in his body. Two Sinti brothers in Christ came and prayed for him. The next time his doctor ran blood tests, the doctor could not explain why the man's white blood count had become totally normal. (For more Sinti stories, go to cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.) I've never had anything like that happen when I prayed. Have you? Does God love these people more? Does He love Ruslan and his parents less (Romany baby in Moldova who has run a fever for most of the nine months of his life)? A lot of people are still praying for them.

But wait a minute--why does God listen to any of us anyway? I don't know about you, but I don't spend much time listening back. If I were God, I'd have gotten irritated with the whole lot of us a long, long time ago. Instead, God continues to invite us to communicate with Him, sometimes going as far as physically ringing the front doorbell. Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children (1 John 3:1, The Voice).

On our way to answer the door,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes
 

Praise and Thanksgiving: 

*For progress on the recording of this version of the Turkish New Testament;
*For the publication of the entire Bible in Baltic Romani, dedication in Minsk, Belarus, March 20-22;
*For the on-going development of Davar;
*For God's unreasonable, on-going love.

Prayer requests:

*For Mary's trip to Bucharest, Romania, and Moldova, February 14-24, for safe travel and good connections with partners there;
*For Mircea, Ana, and their baby son Ruslan, a Roma family in Moldova;
*For our up-coming off-field assignment in America, October-December 2015;
*For a full team of volunteers to work in Moldova this summer.

Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible.  Contributions to Romany Education, Moldova, and Romany Outreach, Moldova, can also be made through CBF's gift catalog at http://www.cbf.net/giftcatalog/.
For other stories, go to: cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot; information on Romany Education available at http://romanyeducation.blogspot.nl/ (both also on Facebook); DAVAR website still under construction.

 

Help Wanted Ads
January 2015
Dear friends,


Both of our daughters are looking for work, Ellen here in the Netherlands and Rebecca in America. They are taking a break from formal education to get educated in a different way. Keith and I, on the other hand, are not scanning the "help wanted" ads. No, we're more inclined to write them.

Keith has gotten help, lots of help, with his next project with Faith Comes by Hearing (www.Bible.is). While recording projects in Romani languages take precedence, he is also available to do the recording of the New Testament in other European languages. He has done a total of four New Testament recordings with them so far, two in Romani languages (Sinti; Eastern Slovak Romani) and two in other European languages (Portuguese; contemporary Polish). He'd been asked to look into a Turkish translation. So he did. And he found that there were competent people in Turkey who could do the recording. He just had to set it up in the beginning (one week) and wrap it up in the end (another week). Since it takes 6-8 weeks to do a dramatized recording of the New Testament, Keith and I were rejoicing over this answer to prayer.

Next week, January 19-23, Keith will be in Istanbul for the setting up. He still needs a lot of help. Christians in Turkey will be finding the "voices," providing a recording studio, arranging the "proof listening," and doing the actual recording. Keith will be training them to use the Faith Comes by Hearing programs. He will be making the final arrangements. He will be working in a different country, a different culture, and a different language. He cannot do his part and they cannot do their part without prayer support.

HELP WANTED:  3-7 prayer volunteers to pray specifically for this project. No travel or previous experience required. All applicants will receive specific prayer requests and regular updates. To apply, hit reply to this e-mail.

I have also gotten lots of help with projects in the Republic of Moldova. Last year, seven volunteers from the Dutch Baptist churches here in Arnhem went with me to work with Romany believers there. Together, we did a vacation Bible school program for children; visited Christians in another Romany village, did a day camp for teenaged girls; started activities with teenaged boys; visited in the village and organized a fun afternoon for the women. This summer, I hope to go again.

HELP WANTED:  3-7 volunteers to work with Romany believers in the village of Vulcanesti. June 19-July 6 for children's work/youth work. Requirements include willingness to give and receive spiritually; flexibility; reasonably good health. Knowledge of Romanian, Russian, or Usari Romani helpful but not necessary. For more information, go to http://www.thefellowship.info/region/#Europe or contact me directly.

This past year our partners in the Republic of Moldova have been helped through a grant from the Texas Christian Life Commission. They have been able to deliver food packages to the most vulnerable people in their village. This help has made a significant difference, in the short term. In the coming year, our partners in Moldova hope to work further towards a long-term difference. They want to help two families in the village begin raising chickens. They, like many Romany and many Moldovans, want to find sustainable ways of making a living without leaving the country in search of work.

HELP WANTED:  see http://www.thefellowship.info/missions/serve/asyougo/ for descriptions of three open positions working with Romany, including the Romany Economic Development Coordinator.
I have also been very busy with Davar, a reading readiness program designed for people who still need to learn how to learn and for people who need to learn how to teach them. Soon I will begin learning myself, by taking an online course on multilingual education (see latest entry on cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot or Facebook page). I'm grateful for the help we've received in developing this from our daughter Ellen, who is illustrating the lessons, to our friend Alina Ivan who has begun translating them into Romanian. It's easy to see how much help is still wanted. It's also good to look around and see how much help has already been received.

Still praying,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes

Praise and Thanksgiving: 
*Great visit Poznan, Poland, after Christmas, and Keith's brother Ted in Warsaw over New Year's;
*Partners in Turkey, Moldova, the Netherlands, and America;
*For Romany who have come to faith, in part through the resources you have helped provide;
*For people with the gift of giving.

Prayer requests:
*For Keith as he travels to Turkey, Jan. 19-23, and for good communication with the recording team there;
*For Mircea, Ana, and their baby son Ruslan, a Roma family in Moldova;
*For our daughters Rebecca and Ellen as they sort through future options;
*For Christian business persons called to create sound economic development opportunities in Moldova.

Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible (NOTE CHANGE OF ADDRESS).

Contributions to Romany Education, Moldova, and Romany Outreach, Moldova, can also be made through CBF's gift catalog at http://thefellowship.info/Give/Gift-Catalog.
For  information on Romany Education available at http://romanyeducation.blogspot.nl/ (both also on Facebook).

 

 

 

Babies at Christmas
December 2014
Dear Friends,

A family living a couple streets over recently welcomed a baby girl named Inouk into their lives. I don't know them at all, but I know this about them because it's a Dutch custom to announce a birth or an adoption to the entire neighborhood. They put a big wooden cut-out of a stork in the front yard or a string up a mini-clothesline with baby clothes (pink or blue) or hang a big sign of some sort in the front window. Good news! Let's share it!
 
A family in the Roma village Vulcanesti, Moldova, welcomed a baby boy named Ruslan into their lives about 8 months ago. I know this because the pastor there e-mailed me with a prayer request for Ruslan and his parents, Mircea and Ana. Unlike Inouk, who was probably born at home (professional midwife) and has happily stayed there ever since, Ruslan was born by C-section and has been in one or another hospital ever since. At first doctors didn't know why he continually ran a high fever. Now they have diagnosed Ruslan with Krabbe disease, an incurable genetic disorder which usually results in death by the age of two. In the meantime, both his parents have come to faith. They have also racked up over $40,000 in hospital, doctor, and related bills. The church in Vulcanesti has been praying for this situation. The Moldovan Baptist Union has requested prayer (http://baptist.org.md/ro/?p=7894; includes photos of Ruslan--a real cutie!). Our church in Arnhem has been praying. And now I'm asking you to pray, too, for a Christmas miracle--for healing for the baby; for spiritual,  financial, emotional relief for the young parents; for hope and joy in the face of fear.
 
Mircea and Ana are not the only new parents who've needed divine reassurance. Both Jesus' father (Matthew 1:20, 21)  and mother (Luke 1:30, 31) had heavenly messengers tell them, "Do not be afraid." Unlike Rulan and Inouk's parents, they were also told what to name the baby:  Jesus, a form of Joshua, meaning "the Lord saves." This is indeed good news. Shall we share it?

Still praying,

Keith Holmes & Mary van Rheenen
 
Praise and Thanksgiving: 

*Opportunity to visit Poznan, Poland, after Christmas, and Keith's brother Ted in Warsaw
over New Year's;
*Keith's safe and productive research trip to Turkey;
*That a Christian radio station in Istanbul will be doing most of the actual recording of the
project there, so
*Keith will not be spending another 6-8 weeks away from home.
 
Prayer requests:
*For Mircea, Ana, and their baby son Ruslan;
*For our daughters Rebecca and Ellen as they sort through future options;
*For the translation of Davar, a reading readiness program, into Romanian and then into Romani;
*For Christian business persons called to create sound economic development opportunities in Moldova.
 
Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible (NOTE CHANGE OF ADDRESS).
Contributions to Romany Education, Moldova, and Romany Outreach, Moldova, can also be made through CBF's gift catalog at http://thefellowship.info/Give/Gift-Catalog.
For other stories, go to: http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/;
information on Romany Education available at http://romanyeducation.blogspot.nl/ (both also on Facebook).

 

 

Homesick for Poznan (Poland)
November 2014
Dear Friends,

Have you ever been homesick for a place where you only stayed a brief time? I'm homesick for Poznan, a surprisingly artsy city in Poland. Last autumn Keith, Ellen, and I lived there for just over two months. Keith and Ellen were working on a recording project for Faith Comes by Hearing. I was doing support things like making coffee for the break times, brightening up the all-black recording studio, and getting to know a wonderfully creative group of Christians. You can hear this recording of a contemporary translation of the New Testament at http://www.bible.is/POLNCV/Matt/5/D. I've randomly chosen Jesus's Sermon on the Mount.
 
I miss spending time with Katya, a committed Christian and talented artist who volunteered to be a "proof-listener" almost every day. I miss getting to know people like Krystyna Zaremba, chief proof-listener, psychologist, and German translator; artist Kuba, the "voice" of Paul; another proof-listener married to an American artist and her sister, who combined sports with visual arts; the jazz musician who offered the use of his studio; and a host of other wonderfully creative people. Many were involved in creative outreach like a Christian arts center, a coffee house which also offered conversational English classes, and a motorcycle club with a Bible study.
 
I miss the big, tasty Polish potatoes (don't know why Dutch ones are so small); the string of little shops within walking distance of our rented apartment; the big, cheap pumpkins (don't know why they're so expensive here); a certain soft Polish cheese (somewhere between cream and cottage cheeses, great with Mexican dishes); and the simplicity of living in a rented apartment with just the essentials rather than all the clutter we've collected in our own home. 
 
I miss being close enough to family to spend time together. Keith's brother and sister-in-law Ted and Bev Holmes live in Warsaw, just a 2 or 2 1/2 hour drive away, where they serve as church planters with another mission board. They came to visit once. We went to visit twice, including over Thanksgiving. It's been a long time since we celebrated Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day with fellow Americans. Usually we invite some Dutch folks over for supper on the Saturday close to the day and explain the reason behind the celebration (and the traditional foods). Usually we do not have turkey since a) it's hard to find here and b) a whole turkey would not fit in our little Dutch oven.
 
In the coming week, we'll be sharing photos of our experiences in Poland along with written "snapshots" of some of these brothers and sisters in Christ on http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/ (also on Facebook). We'd love to hear your own reflections on being homesick. And we're thankful that, though all Christians are sojourners on this planet, we can find family and a taste of our future home wherever followers of Jesus gather.
 
Yours in Christ,
Mary van Rheenen & Keith Holmes (with Ellen & Rebecca)
 
 
Praise and Thanksgiving: 
*Volunteer artists working on three different projects;
*For the dedication of the New Testament in Eastern Slovak Romani on November 9; a recording of this is also now available on Bible.is.
*The development and use of Davar, a reading-readiness program designed with Roma children in mind;
*All of you who support this work in so many different ways!
 
Prayer requests:
*For the use of the Eastern Slovak Romani New Testament and this new translation in Polish;
*For wisdom in choosing the next media projects;
*For our daughters Rebecca and Ellen as they sort through future options;
*For Christian business persons called to create sound economic development opportunities in Moldova.
 
Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible (NOTE CHANGE OF ADDRESS). Contributions to Romany Education, Moldova, and Romany Outreach, Moldova, can also be made through CBF's gift catalog at http://thefellowship.info/Give/Gift-Catalog.
For other stories, go to: http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/;
information on Romany Education available at http://romanyeducation.blogspot.nl/ (both also on Facebook).

 


10-9-14
Harvest Time
Dear friends,
 
The fields are white with harvest . . . as Jesus observed in the Palestine of his day. We were recently on vacation in Wales and saw fields cream, gold, and beige with harvest. We've also been in contact with co-workers throughout Eastern and Western Europe where the fields are also ripe for harvest, more like the harvest Jesus had in mind. And, indeed, more workers in these harvest fields are needed.
 
In the Republic of Moldova, our partner Petru Ciochina reports that two Christian students had been working with the children during the afternoon worship services. Consequently, more women were coming to the services and listening attentively. This Roma church has historically had more men members than women, so this is a positive development. Pray with us that the Lord will continue to provide workers when these students return to their university studies.
 
This development is directly related to the work short-term teams have done with children, youth, and women in the past summers. We are looking for short-term workers (10-15 days) again this coming summer. If you have the gift of working cross-culturally and feel led to explore this opportunity, please contact us for more information. Posts and photos related to previous trips can be seen on  http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/, June 2, July 21 & 28August 4, and Tuesday, October 7, 2014.

Due to the unrest in Ukraine and Russia, many Roma in Moldova are at home rather than working abroad. A number of believers are ready and willing to stay home, to build up the local church and provide more stability for their community and their families. They are looking for honest ways to earn a living. Pray that the Lord will provide them with the inspiration, guidance, and perseverance that they need. Pray also for an economic development coordinator to join our CBF Romany Team. The need is great throughout Europe. CBF also has two other requests for work with Romany:  one located in Bucharest, Romania, and the other in the Middle East (see http://www.thefellowship.info/missions/serve/asyougo/ for more details).
 
What does the harvest look like where you are?
 
Yours in Christ,
Keith Holmes & Mary van Rheenen
 
Praise and Thanksgiving: 
*Volunteer artists working on three different projects;
*Encouraging news from Moldova;
*People who are willing to work in the harvest;
*All of you who support this work in so many different ways!
 
Prayer requests:
*For wisdom in choosing the next media projects;
*For the development and use of Davar, a reading-readiness program designed with Roma children in mind;
*For our daughter Rebecca, as she studies at Truman State, Kirksville, MO and our daughter Ellen as she sorts through future options;
*For Christian business persons called to create sound economic development opportunities in Moldova.
 
Contributions to the Offering for Global Missions (or Keith Holmes Ministry), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 160 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 500 Decatur, GA 30030 make this work possible (NOTE CHANGE OF ADDRESS). Contributions to Romany Education, Moldova, and Romany Outreach, Moldova, can also be made through CBF's gift catalog at http://thefellowship.info/Give/Gift-Catalog.
For other stories, go to: http://cbf-romany-ministries.blogspot.nl/;
information on Romany Education available at http://romanyeducation.blogspot.nl/ (both also on Facebook).

 

8-27-14
The Blessing in Front of Your Nose
Dear Friends,

Back when I was in college I spent two summers in Kodiak, Alaska, as a student missionary. The pastor of that church had gone to New Orleans seminary. One day, while he was going through the line in the seminary cafeteria, he asked the African-American woman serving him if she knew Jesus. She stopped, put down the big serving spoon, and said, "Yes I do, but in the four years I have worked here you are the first person who has ever asked."

Recently I was in Bulgaria for a week-long Wycliffe Romani team meeting at a Christian conference center two hours from the capital, Sofia. While I was in Bulgaria, I also wanted to meet with the Adventist Publishing House “New Life.”  Twenty years ago they had published O Neevo Zaveti, a translation of the New Testament in one of the Romani languages spoken in Bulgaria, and I wanted to talk with them about recording the whole New Testament with our partners, Faith Comes By Hearing.

 
Towards the end of the week of Wycliffe meetings I discovered that Mladen, a young Roma man who worked at the conference center, could speak some English. Everyone knew he was a Christian because he always had his Bulgarian Bible with him and in the evening he played the guitar and sang Christian songs with the rest of the musicians in our group. One morning at breakfast I showed him my copy of O Neevo Zaveti and asked him if he could read it. He could, and he was very excited to see it. One of the Wycliffe team members nearby told him that this was a meeting of Bible translators working in the Romani languages. He said, "THAT'S what you are doing here?" 

The translator asked him what his favorite verse was. John 3:16. I turned to it, and he read it out loud with only a bit of hesitation. He asked if he could have the book. I told him he could borrow it, but I need it for a meeting on Monday. An hour later, at the morning coffee break, he came up to us and read out loud the whole story of Jesus at the house of Simon the Pharisee and the woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears. I asked him if this was exactly his dialect, or just near his dialect, and what did he think of the quality of the translation. He said it was definitely his dialect, but he had encountered 2 or 3 words he was not familiar with. He would have to study it more to judge the quality of the translation.
 
On Monday the head of Wycliffe’s Bulgaria Romani team and I went to the offices of New Life Publishing House to discuss recording O Neevo Zaveti for Faith Comes By Hearing. The assistant director we spoke with was very enthusiastic about the idea since many Roma do not read. However, there are a few problems. When it was printed in 1995, it was still back in the days of little 3.5” floppy discs. The disc apparently went to the printing house and never returned. The translator was working on the Old Testament and was nearing completion when he passed away. They have electronic files for the Old Testament, but not for the New. During the meeting we talked by phone with a Roma pastor who had helped with the distribution of the printed version twenty years ago. He explained that the translation was in rather bookish, formal speech which was not widely accepted by people as normal conversational Romani. This explains Mladen’s reaction.
 
We now need to decide whether to record this New Testament as it is or if the Wycliffe team should use it as a basis for revision. In either case, the first step is to get it back in digital form. Please pray for wisdom for the Wycliffe team and for us in this matter.


One thing has already been made clear so far:  Do not neglect to engage in conversation with the people right in front of your nose. Just like Mladen, they might be the person God intends to be a blessing to you--or for you to be a blessing to them.
 
Richly blessed,
Keith Holmes & Mary van Rheenen
 
Praise and Thanksgiving: 
*Good contacts and good meeting in Bulgaria + good potential plans;
*Our daughter Rebecca safely returned to America where she is starting her junior year at Truman State, Missouri;
*Volunteer artists working on three different projects;
*Encouraging news from Moldova; two local Christians have continued doing children's work every week during the worship service in a Roma village; consequently more women are attending and "listening attentively."
 
Prayer requests:
*For wisdom in deciding whether to first revise this Bulgarian Romani New Testament or to first record it;
*For follow-up on the contacts and questions raised by this New Testament translation;
*For the development and use of Davar, a reading-readiness program designed with Roma children in mind;
*For Christian business persons called to create sound economic development opportunities in Moldova.