Yesterday afternoon, we headed to Sector 5 of Bucuresti, looking for Ferentari, the poorest neighborhood in the capital city and well-known as a “gypsy neighborhood.” Ferentari is also said to be the most dangerous, where many drug dealers and gang members make their homes. While I can’t say much about the crime, I can safely say this is the dirtiest part of Bucuresti, and by all appearances also the poorest. From our experience, it was also one of the friendliest.
When we first proposed a trip to Ferentari, many people worriedly described the dangers of the neighborhood to us, and so I was definitely nervous going in. (Check out the Wikipedia entry and this Romanian news article for a look at the area.) But I have always felt God calling me to work somehow with the poor–it’s why I first went to India, why I led trips to the inner city areas in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Kansas City, and why I served in Lone Rock at The Wave youth center–and I know his heart is with them.
Jake and I decided to make our initial exploration of the neighborhood yesterday afternoon, probably picking the world’s hottest afternoon to head there. The plan was to pray over the place and try to talk to people as God led, but mostly just check things out.
On our way there, we ran into a number of dead-end streets. At one point, a Romanian woman noticed us turn around, so she (I assume) asked if we were lost. When she found out where we were going, she told us something along the lines of, “Don’t you know there are Gypsies there? Why the heck would you ever want to go there, crazy Americans???”
Well, after a bit more wondering than I would’ve planned , we eventually found our way to Ferentari, and we could tell right away that this was a poorer area of the town. But we also ran into some of the most friendly people I’ve yet met here. My Romanian is horrible, and Jake’s is really rough, but people were more than happy to give us directions and speak with us. Although we didn’t get to share the gospel, Jake did mention Isus to the three women who were hitting on me. Overall, I am definitely getting a heart for the people living here, and I hope to return with the love and power of Jesus.
Many (I’m sure) are criminals, many are wrongly judged as such, all of them are loved by the One whose blood is more powerful than our deepest sins.
P.S. I didn’t take out my camera. I was too nervous about attracting attention. But check out this link for some great photos of life in Ferentari.