God is doing something remarkable in the Pitsmoor area of Sheffield. Scores of Slovakian Romanies have been finding faith in Jesus. Many have joined Jesus Fellowship Sheffield. One of them, Cyril Dunka, tells his inspirational life story.
It is July 2005 and Cyril has just fallen down some stairs in his home in Zehra in Slovakia and broken his ribs during a fit.
“I was ill with secondary epilepsy and I lived in fear of what might happen to me” remembers Cyril. “My wife got the idea of me going to visit England. I was afraid and said to her ‘If I go England I will die.’ She tells me, ‘Cyril, I feel that it will be good there for you and that you will be made well and that you will get work.’ I listened to her and left for England.”
He arrived on the 25th August with only enough money for three weeks’ food. He stayed with some fellow-Romanies, Janu and Lida, and was immensely grateful to them – but he still wasn’t sure what to make of their talk of Jesus and a Jesus Army leader, Andrzej, who had helped them so much.
“I wasn’t sure whether to believe them or not,” admits Cyril. Yet his curiosity was stirred and he couldn’t escape the feeling that there was something in what his friends were telling him. “I kept feeling something continually drawing me to the Welcome Centre in the church building in Sheffield where I knew the Jesus Army met. For two days I walked around the building but it was locked. On the third day it was open at about 7:45 pm. I went in and saw an English Vicar. ‘Are you Andrzej?’ I asked him. ‘No’, he said, ‘Andrzej will arrive in ten minutes.’ I waited.”
He met Andrzej and stayed for the Jesus Army meeting though he found it very strange and different to his experience of Catholic church back in Slovakia.
“I thought I was at a disco!” is how he puts it. Yet Cyril was going to experience God’s power in a way that was far more real than he had expected in his wildest dreams.
“Towards the end of the meeting Andrzej asked who wanted to receive prayer for healing. I immediately believed and answered ‘I do.’ He asked me what was wrong with me and I said that I have a headache. I didn’t say that I was suffering with epilepsy and broken ribs.”
Andrzej prayed for Cyril, putting his hands on his head and asking Jesus to heal him by the power of His Spirit.
Cyril describes the result of that prayer: “I no longer had the headache – or the rib pain! I stopped taking my tablets. A week later I’d had no fits. Before this, despite medication, I was having two fits every week for many years. I have not had any fits now since Andrzej prayed for me. I was immediately healed; Jesus healed me.”
Naturally, Cyril was very excited about going to the next meeting. He got to know more people and grew much closer to Andrzej.
On the 1st October 2005 he was baptised. He describes the experience with simple eloquence. “At my baptism I spoke in new tongues. The Holy Spirit rested on me. I prayed to God, I sang out my praise to Him –I was happy. Before leaving for England I had said that I would die here and I did die – to my old sinful life, in baptism!”
What is happening now in Cyril’s life? As he puts it: “Very much...
“I now appreciate and know Jesus Christ more than before. He has truly changed me and indeed he has changed my whole life. I have a lot of joy. Jesus says ‘Do not accumulate treasures on earth where thieves break in and can steal but rather store up treasure in heaven where rust and moth cannot destroy.’ This real treasure I am storing up in my heart is Jesus and His love which I can share with others. I want to serve Jesus. I have given Him my life. He loves me and I love Him.”
Cyril recently travelled to Slovakia together with Andzej, Janu and Jesus Fellowship apostolic leader, Ian Callard, to visit the growing work of God among the Romany population there.
“It was like living the New Testament,” recalls Ian, “with healings and people receiving the Spirit with joy. There are some very poor families – seven people in a one-roomed timber house, living on £100 per month. There are very few jobs. Our Romanies in Sheffield had sent a collection to buy groceries.
“At Cyril’s village, Zehra, we led several members of his family to the Lord. Then, in other homes, we saw more people finding faith, being healed and receiving the Spirit. There are possibly 20 people ready for baptism, and we’ve committed them to the care of four brothers with trustworthy hearts and a desire to serve.”
A new church, “Church of the Red Cross,” has been started in Zehra. Cyril enthuses, “This is not a joy just for us but for the holy angels in heaven and for Jesus Himself!”
Back in Sheffield, the Spirit’s movement among the Romanies continues to gather momentum. About 80 Slovakian Romanies have been baptised over the last year. Jesus Fellowship Sheffield is now about 50/50 British/Romany (with the balance just tipped in favour of the Romany contingent).
The congregation is rising to the challenge of embracing one another across the divides of language and culture. Cyril explains the key to this: “Don’t you know that brotherhood is more than friendship; that it is God’s spiritual family – that we are God’s family?
“Our church is growing by the power of Jesus. We love Jesus but He loves us more than we love Him; He gave us His life, He poured out His blood for us.
“I want us all – Romanies and English brothers and sisters – to be together and worship together because there is strength in unity. That is what the Lord Himself wants and where the Holy Spirit leads us.”