One of the issues we face in Bulgaria is a very deep distrust of evangelical Christians by many Bulgarians. Evangelicals (in this context meaning Protestant denominations, which make up less than 1% of the population of the country) are viewed as a sect or cult, and many Bulgarians are cautious of any sort of interaction with such people. This myth was started under communism, when any religious activity was prohibited, and is perpetuated yet today by the official religious entity in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
We believe that the most important ministry a visiting American mission team can have in Bulgaria is to demonstrate by their words and actions that evangelicals are not a scary sect, but are actually normal people, trying to live out God’s Word in their everyday lives. This happens through relationship-building-- when the team works alongside their Bulgarian evangelical brothers and sisters, showing Christ’s love to a community, and helping, little by little, to break down the walls which divide evangelicals from the rest of the population.
Allow us to share with you, through stories and pictures, how a team of six of God’s people from three American Baptist churches in Colorado and Wyoming, working with God’s people in Bulgaria, removed a few bricks from that wall this past
Most of their work was in Guliantsi, and small town in north-central Bulgaria. There is a Baptist church in Guliantsi, led by Pastor Ivan Vassilev and a small but dedicated congregation. Each morning the team conducted a Vacation Bible School in the church. Relationships were formed with children, both Roma and Bulgarian, many of whom had never before been in a church. The children joined together for Bible stories, puppet shows, crafts and games. Over 20 children were allowed to come daily in to the local Baptist church to hear God’s Word! They were often brought to the church each morning by their mother or grandmother, who caught a glimpse of what was really going on in this evangelical church—and they were surprised to see that it was fun and exciting for their children, not anything frightening.
The hot afternoons were spent in the playground of a public preschool in Guliantsi, painting their playground equipment. A relationship was forged with the preschool’s director. Parents picking up their children after work saw the team hard at work, making the playground more beautiful for their children. Everyone was surprised that a group of Americans would come all the way to Bulgaria to volunteer their labor and time in such a way—and not receive any pay for it at all! The director was overflowing with gratitude for the work performed, and commented frequently on what a wonderful example this set for the community, and how she hoped the parents would organize a work day later in the summer and donate their time to finish painting the rest of the equipment.
The team also visited an orphanage in nearby Pleven, spending time playing with the disabled children there and painting the fence along the perimeter of the property.
Through the relationships formed between the team and Bulgarian Baptists, that wall of fear and prejudice against evangelicals began to crumble after only a week of ministry in a small Baptist church and a little preschool in a tiny town in Bulgaria. That’s a surprising impact that will live on long after the team has returned home!
World Mission Offering
During the months of September and October American Baptists Churches around the U.S. receive the World Mission Offering (WMO). This offering goes 100% to support the work of over 2500 short and long term missionaries working with local partners in 76 countries around the world.
This year’s theme for the WMO is ‘Surprised by God’s People”. Through our years in Bulgaria we have been surprised by the generosity of the people of Bulgaria who have shared with us out of their little. We have been surprised by a church that survived though 40 years of communist rule that tried in vain to destroy it. We have been surprised by the relationships built with our brothers and sisters in Bulgaria.
We are also constantly amazed, astounded, stunned, shocked, or in another word--surprised--by the generosity of the many individuals and churches that support the work of Jesus Christ around the world.
Our ministry in Bulgaria continues because of your prayers and financial support. A heartfelt thank you to churches and individuals who have supported us during 2008, and we ask you to prayerfully consider your gift to the WMO this year. Here are some ways of giving to the WMO:
-- Through your local American Baptist church.
-- By mailing a check to: International Ministries, P.O. Box 851, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0851
-- On-line giving at: www.internationalministries.org
Any gift can be designated “for the ongoing support of Tom and Terry Myers in Bulgaria” or to another International Ministries missionary or project.
Thank you for allowing us the privilege to live in Bulgaria and to be surprised daily by God’s people here!
Prayer RequestsPlease pray for:
-- The children in Guliantsi who attended the VBS.
-- The parents and staff at the kindergarten in Guliantsi.
-- Pastor Ivan and his family as they minister in Guliantsi.
-- The many children in orphanages around Bulgaria.
-- That churches around the U.S. may give generously to the WMO.
-- For all International Ministries Missionaries and partners.