Greetings from Bulgaria!
Over the past weeks our family has had a great time watching the Olympic Games. One television station had Olympic coverage almost 24 hours per day. If they were not showing some event live, they had Olympic news, updates of the Games, or were replaying an event. Several other stations also carried portions of the games throughout the day. We could listen to the broadcasts in English, Bulgarian, Greek, German or Spanish. A.J. and Nathan learned about several sports they had never heard of before! Anyone for joining them in a game of team handball in our living room???
As we watched the Olympics and saw the bronze, silver and gold medals being awarded, we were reminded of Paul's words as he compared the Christian life to an athlete in training:
You've all been to the stadium and seen athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I Corinthians 9 (The Message).
What an exciting and busy summer it was in Bulgaria. Most of the time, at least for Terry, was spent hosting the Xtreme Team, and feeling a little like she herself was in training for the Olympics! Seven young adults from the United States and Puerto Rico joined four leaders for the Bulgaria Xtreme Team Mission Adventure 2004. We met together for the first time at the end of June on the campus of Judson College in Elgin, Illinois. We traveled together to Bulgaria, arriving here on the Fourth of July, and continuing our travels throughout Bulgaria until July 28, when we returned to the United States for debriefing and to attend World Mission Conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin.
Months of planning resulted in a trip that will have an unforgettable impact on all the team members, including Terry! We did so many things and had so many xperiences, it would be impossible to share all of them with you, but the highlights included:
-Playing with, and simply holding and showing love to handicapped children in the orphanage in Petrovo. Many tears were shed as we had to leave with children still clinging onto us.
-Visits to Muslim villages in southern Bulgaria with a church leader, a lovely and courageous Christian woman who leads the Baptist church in Musomishta and shares her faith boldly with those around her. Working alongside the people in that area as they went about their daily activities: stringing tobacco to dry, or splitting shale rocks with a small hand tool. Visiting a mosque in Slashten and having the opportunity to visit freely with the Imam.
-Four days in Greece visiting the ruins of Phillipi and the bustling city of Thessaloniki, tracing Paul's footsteps, and seeing the Bible come to life. Xperiencing temperatures of 100 degrees.
-A four-day hike in the breathtaking Rila Mountains of Bulgaria, xperiencing temperatures in the mid-30's!
-Swimming and an evening picnic along the banks of the Danube River with the members of the Lom Baptist Church, and a hot and dusty work morning cleaning out the attic of the historic church.
-Glimpses into the homes and lives of the Roma, or gypsy, population of Bulgaria.
-Spending time on a "celo" (village) farm in eastern Bulgaria, sleeping in the barn or out under the stars, helping prepare the meals and care for the animals.
-Two days in a luxury hotel on a Black Sea beach, xperiencing the difference between the "haves" and "have-nots".
-Meeting amazing people, staying with host families, leading worship services in warm and welcoming churches, eating strange foods, surviving wild taxi rides in Sofia, learning new customs, xperiencing mission in action and so much more.....all of this working together to xpand our view of the world and God's Word and have an eternal impact on our lives.
It was truly a blessing for Terry to be able to have a part in helping to plan such a life-changing event (...but I admit I'm not ready to do it again any time soon!!!).
Where was Tom throughout all this?
When he wasn't checking on lost luggage or delivering found luggage to the team, he and the boys could mostly be found at home in Sofia, although they did meet up with the team on a couple of occasions. Tom learned just how much work it is to be both dad and mom!!!
As many of you know, this is the time of year that American Baptist Churches receive the World Mission Offering. We cannot emphasize enough how important your gifts are. International Ministries is faced with a $1.5 million deficit for 2005. Much work has been done by the home office staff in recent months to decrease the earlier projected deficit of $3 million. Cuts include decreases in gifts to our partners, a decrease in missionary work funds, and a significant reduction in staff at the home office in Valley Forge. We are now faced with the realization that, unless the World Mission Offering increases by $1.5 million this year, more than 30 of our IM missionaries will be recalled from their countries of service. This may seem like an insurmountable goal, but we believe that with God's help it will be reached.
What can you do to help? First of all, pray. Unless this effort is built upon prayer it will not succeed. Pray for International Ministries, for the missionaries serving around the world and pray about how God is asking you to respond to this crisis. What would it take for you to increase your gift to the World Mission Offering by 36%? What might it take for your church to do the same?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2 (NIV)
Tom and Terry Myers
Missionaries in Bulgaria
American Baptist Churches, USA