David Blowers: Margate has changed quite a bit over the last few years and one of the things that has happened in Margate is that there has been quite an influx of Czech and Slovak Roma migrant workers looking to live and work in this town. So there's quite a sizeable Roma population. When people first arrive in this country they are looking to work, most often, and that means they need help getting National Insurance numbers; they may need help finding accommodation as well. Many of them will come with their children so they're looking to find access to schools and things like that. And we try and put people in touch with the places they need to be; if necessary then we offer some translation work for that.
These are people who initially don't have enough grasp of English to attend an English-speaking church and really understand what’s happening in it. So the reason for the Roma church here, or for Armada Spasy, is that we believe people need to access the gospel in a language they can understand and something that is culturally relevant to them.
Armada Spasy, both in Czech and in Slovak, means literally army of salvation; it's the phrase that The Salvation Army uses; it's just the translation of The Salvation Army in both Czech and Slovak languages.
Male voice 1: A few years ago, me and my wife felt that the Czech and Slovak Roma community needs to get to know God in this country, England. So we opened up the house group in our house which started a long time ago and now has grown into a church. We know that The Salvation Army is a very traditional church and we appreciate the fact that they allow us to worship and be the way we are and they’ve giving us this free hand and kind of freedom in Christ to do it in our way, in our culture and we really appreciate The Salvation Army.
Female voice 1 [in own language, subtitled]: I am drawn to the English church and love English worship songs. But it is a real gift from God that we can have a Roma church and understand what is said and sung.
Female voice 2 [in own language, subtitled]: Without a language barrier I can receive the Lord's Word as it is. I am grateful that this church and God makes possible worship in Czech, Slovak and Romany, so that everyone who has a barrier in language can hear the Word of God. I thank God for this.
David Blowers: Each week now there's a team that goes from Margate to Chatham; they're very closely linked and it's part of The Salvation Army in Chatham but we have a meeting that is held in Czech and in Slovak and is led by a number of people from Margate and they also are now coming into ministry.
Male voice 2 [in own language, subtitled]: I believe I was called to England by God through the words of Scripture. Rather like Moses I understood that God was sending me here and now I help to lead this church as I follow the Lord.
David Blowers: We try to tell people that prayer is about communicating with God; it's about talking to God, it's about hearing what God is saying to them. We expect then that people will pray in their own language and that also means partly in terms of not only the language that they use but how they speak. Prayer is something that is also very cultural. We try to tell people and teach people that prayer is not so much about how you speak or what you say; it's about making sure that you have a real and dynamic communication with God.
One of the things that happened is that people often come to England looking to improve their lives and sometimes it's not everything that they expect. One of the great things that we see happening within the church is that people who've come looking for new life find Jesus – and they find new life in him.
And so although they may sometimes be disappointed or it's not quite what they expected, in terms of finance and everything material that they were looking for, what many of them have found is that they do have a new life that they're very pleased to share that and they're very grateful to God for that grace.
Male voice 3 [in own language, subtitled]: I confessed God, and a miracle happened. I was addicted to drugs for eleven years and God gave me a new way, a new life. He saved my family, he saved my life, and he saved my children.
David Blowers: Initially of course, we were the ones who were preaching the gospel and evangelism but what is now happening within the church… our focus, as the ministers here, is in discipling people because what happens then is that they themselves become gifted and they're the ones who are engaged in evangelism; they're the ones who are very often seeing the needs of other people and meeting them. My dream for the future is that there'll be more and more people who God is calling into ministry, who God is using, and it may be in all sorts of different ways. I think there's a great potential for there to be people who speak appropriate languages, who understand appropriate cultures, and are themselves trained to be effective in mission.