The bus was had barely come to a stop, and Evan had already hopped out to join a group of black haired, dark skinned children playing a Gypsy version of duck-duck-goose. It was instant friendship, validated by the little ones squealing with laughter as they boldly raced and chased the lanky American clockwise and then counterclockwise around the circle. Before long Evan's brother, sister, and other team members joined the fun. They looked like giants; it was Gulliver and the Lilliputians. Before long nearly all of our team pitched in and showed them how to play our national pastime -- baseball (with a whiffle ball, and a big, red, plastic bat). A dozen or more intriguing eyes lit up. Some being deep, sparkling, brilliantly blue; others a haunting, stormy, shades of green.
Nicolai is the pastor of the Gypsy church. He took us around the densely populated, tumbled down village, strewn with every kind of discarded material imaginable. None of the roads were paved, and every visible electric wire -- snarled and running every which-way -- was an OSHA nightmare. Traveling along one of the potholed streets we came to a house that had been turned into a business of sorts. Nicolai told us that the church started there. It was an underground church forbidden by the communists. He said that 3 elderly Gypsy ladies started the church and eventually coaxed several young boys to join them -- they soon received Christ as their Savior. The church grew, persevered, and outlasted the communists.
One of our team members asked if any of those boys (they would be adults now) had persevered, were still in the neighborhood, and still following Christ. Pastor Nicolai responded, I am one of those boys.