Knowing the Past, Seeing the Future

Stackowicz poses with a Roma art student during his summer visit to Greece.

Their large, brown eyes and other dark features provide clues to their ancient origins. They are “Roma,” descendants of a people who migrated west, from India, many centuries ago.

Also called gypsies, their cultural differences have been known to bring about social troubles with their neighbors throughout Europe.

“They live under different social rules than we do,” says Chris Stackowicz, chair of visual arts at Bethel. “They really follow no laws but their own, and wherever they settle, they become a problem with the population that already lives there.”

Every summer and every semester break — when he travels to Greece to work on an archeology project — Stackowicz visits a nearby Roma settlement to try and help the children there.

“I want those kids to have the skills they need to have opportunity, to have a future,” says Stackowicz, who has purchased clothing for them, and teaches them traditional Roma crafts and art forms so they can make something to sell. “It’s better than begging,” he says.

The archaeology project he works on is in Ancient Corinth. The apostle Paul wrote two letters to the people there. A major publication about this project is scheduled for release later this year. It has kept Stackowicz very busy in Greece, intellectually, for the past 11 years.

But just 15 minutes away, in a permanent camp nestled between two major roads, are the gypsy children who have stolen his heart. They live in cement block houses with tin roofs. They lack indoor plumbing and are vulnerable to illnesses that simple vaccinations or clean drinking water could prevent.

Stackowicz works with them through CARE, or Children’s Ark Roma Education. CARE has been able to use local connections to get free vaccinations for the children, and acquire donated supplies and clothing. CARE has also started an education center.

The children are a stark reminder that poverty exists everywhere — even where well-heeled tourists roam the outskirts of temple ruins and snap photos of their travels. The gypsy children are a reminder that Christians must answer the call wherever God plants them.

Stackowicz has been doing that, while also editing photos of every single block and tile of the ancient temple at Temple Hill (also believed to be the Temple of Apollo) in Ancient Corinth. This is for a virtual, or computer-generated, reconstruction since “everything has been uncovered already,” he explains.

Princeton University Press and the American School of Classical Studies plans to publish the first virtual reconstruction of the temple under the title “The Archaic Temple of Corinth” later this year. (The principal investigator and writer for the project is Robin Rhodes, Ph.D., professor of ancient art history at the University of Notre Dame.) The next phase of the project involves reconstructing, on computer, the entire city. Through thousands of photos, you’ll be able to see what buildings and other structures looked like from 700 B.C. to 300 B.C., in 50-year intervals.

Just imagine the apostle Paul standing in front of one of these structures, and you can imagine how they might have influenced his visits there. “It’s about how ideas evolved, how systems were in place,” says Stackowicz. “Knowing what a building looked like at that time gives us context.”

You could also say that knowing what the past looked like has helped him envision a future for the Roma.

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