By Christina Quick
It’s Saturday morning, and Nancy Le Cossec is busy preparing her home for a move. Dishes must be packed carefully to
prevent breakage. Tables and chairs need to be put away. Every small family
possession must be accounted for and stowed in its proper place.
Nancy knows the routine well. She’s been doing it nearly every
week for more than three decades.
The American-born woman and her French husband, Jean, are
Assemblies of God missionaries to the Roma people, or Gypsies, of France. Over
the years the Le Cossecs have learned to live as
Gypsies, uprooting every few days or so, doing laundry wherever they can, and
enduring the social marginalization that goes with eking out an existence on
the fringes of society.
The World Bank describes the Roma as Europe’s poorest and
largest minority. On average, they live 10 to 15 years less than others. They
suffer discrimination in virtually every arena, from education to employment
There are an estimated 300,000 Gypsies in France, and an
impressive 50 percent of them are believed to be born-again Christians. Most are
nomadic, moving from place to place just as their families have done for
centuries. Instead of wagons, however, they now travel in sleek camper
Their modern transportation isn’t the only sign of change.
Half the Roma in Europe today are under the age of 20. The Le Cossecs believe this new generation of Gypsies has the
potential to become a powerful force in the church at large.
“The gospel has made a great change in them, and today
they’re not as shy as they used to be,” Jean says. “They’re more open about
sharing their faith.”
As sojourners who are constantly on the move and interacting
with new people, Gypsy converts are in a unique position to spread the good
news of Christ far and wide.
“Their work, many times, takes them door to door,” Nancy
says. “It gives them an opportunity to take the gospel with them. They are bold
witnesses. Most Gypsies I know are not ashamed to share their faith.”
Yet the Le Cossecs’ job is far
from finished. Many Gypsies throughout France and across the European continent
are still unreached.
“There are many projects ahead of us,” says Jean. “And so
we’re praying if the Lord gives us the project, He’ll also provide the funds to
follow through and get the work done.”
CHRISTINA QUICK is staff writer for Today’s Pentecostal
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