Saturday, June 29, 2013

Answering the Macedonian Call

Mite & Krasimira Goshevi
Greetings to our family and friends from Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. We arrived here yesterday afternoon after driving across the border from Sofia, Bulgaria. We are here as guests of Pastor Mite Goshev and his family. His daughters, Lydia and Ani, have attended summer camps at the Black Sea with us for years and, through them, we began to develop an interest to visit the Church here. The Goshevi family have been gracious hosts and Mite's wife, Krasimira, prepared a wonderful Macedonian meal for us yesterday evening!

The Body of Christ here needs our prayers. The Orthodox Church is the dominant presence in this country but, while it offers a strong moral and cultural presence, it lacks spiritual force among the people. National identity is closely linked to Orthodox membership so many are Orthodox Christians simply because they are Macedonians and that's what Macedonians do. At the same time, the other ethnic groups have led to a strong Islamic presence. Mosques are everywhere! As we drove down into Skopje, the first thing that caught our eye was a HUGE mosque with a gold dome and towering minarets. We viewed the scene with a heaviness on our hearts until we lifted up our eyes and looked across the city. There, high on a mountain, was a giant cross overlooking the valley. We learned later that the Millennium Cross was placed there to celebrate two thousand years of Christianity in the region and stands over 200 feet high!

The non-Orthodox evangelical church here, though, is quite small. In a nation of about 2 million people, the Protestant church is estimated to be around 2,000 people. Pastor Mite shared with me that in Skopje, a city of over 700,000, when all the churches get together for an event, there are about 500 people. Small does not mean weak, however. We spent yesterday evening with a group of young people from several churches in the city and were touched by their love for the Lord and genuine desire to live for Him. As God continues to raise up believers like them, the Church has a bright future. Relationship and discipleship will be the key to building the Kingdom in Macedonia. People's hearts are hardened toward the Lord in this post-Communist culture, and they do not respond well to traditional evangelism. The walls must be torn down through personal relationship in order to pave the way for the gospel to do its work.

Please be praying for God's work here. The body of Christ in Macedonia faces numerous obstacles, but with God all things are possible! We can offer our love and support, and they can offer us an example of how to serve the Lord with grace and persistence. God bless!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pics and Videos - 1st two days

Fakulteta - The "Revelation" Church

Wednesday Service - "Blaga Vest"

Pastor Mike teaches in Blaga Vest

Worship in Blaga Vest Church


Our First Day

Greetings to our family and friends back in America! We are wrapping up our first day here in the beautiful land of Bulgaria and there is so much to share.

We had a few hiccups getting here. We were delayed over an hour in boarding our flight in Chicago because of an instrument malfunction. Once we got on, we taxied to the runway, then rode back to the gate because of an engine problem. We had to leave the plane and wait two more hours for a replacement! Of course, that made us late arriving in Frankfurt, Germany so we had to catch an alternate flight to Vienna, Austria and from there into Sofia. For all that, we were only about 5 hours later than originally planned!

After a good night's rest, we woke this morning and ventured into Fakulteta. This area is the country's second largest mahala or Romani (gypsy) community. Over 40,000 people live in a couple of square miles. We returned to a church that we visited last year... the Revelation Church pastored by Naiden Borisov. The church building was damaged by heavy snow 2 winters ago and, in the process of repairing, the Lord spoke to them about expanding. They have added a courtyard to the front of the church and are building a kitchen and dining area for their food ministry in which they feed approximately 50 kids daily. Today, we invested in some supplies for the construction and spent the afternoon digging footers for the two walls of the new kitchen.

In the meantime, the ladies on our team spent the day ministering to the children of the church. They acted out bible stories, did crafts and games, and painted faces. Morgan Crampton, the only new member of our team, felt right at home surrounded by loving children! Everyone on the team pitched in and worked hard today and the Roma congregation was truly blessed by our visit.

However, I'd have to say we were just as ministered to as they were. We were warmly embraced and accepted, and the people of the church went out of their way to help us and get to know us in spite of the language barrier. English-speaking Romani are somewhat rare and none were present today. I want to give a shout-out to our girl Simona, one of the Bulgarian young people we have known for years who came along today to serve with us and translate. Her language skills really helped to break down barriers and establish meaningful relationship.

The last hour of the day was spent in fellowship with the church members and their leaders. Pastor Borisov discussed his vision for reaching the Romani people in Bulgaria. He has divided the nation into twelve regions and has begun sending out teams to minister in each region and work with other churches. In the past couple of years, he has planted six of these works and continues to raise up others to send. We were blown away by their heart for their people and their vision for sharing God's word and discipling followers of Christ. For many of us, the highlight of the experience was spending time in prayer with these brothers and sisters in the Lord who were so passionate about Him. We prayed for them and they laid hands on each of our team and lifted us up. Several people ministered with various gifts of the Spirit to the edification of all in a beautiful way.

In the evening, we joined the Blaga Vest congregation downstairs in their new sanctuary for the evening service. What a joy for us to be a part of our first service ever in the new space! Its always a blessing to sing along with songs that we know well, even if the words are completely different. I was given the privilege of teaching the message and shared with the body from Luke 15 (the parable of the Lost Sheep and Coin). Afterwards, we listened and prayed along as members of the congregation voiced their requests to the Lord in a time of prayer.

Finally, we capped off the evening with a sweet time of fellowship with another group of young people from America. A missions group of teens from the Dove Church in Pennsylvania stayed here tonight before flying home tomorrow after a week of ministry here in the country. We shared stories and prayer into the wee hours before kicking everybody off to bed!

Today was an incredible and Spirit-led day of fellowship and ministry and its only the first day. I can't wait to see what else God has in store! Tomorrow, we're going to spend some time in the word as the various team members finish up the lessons they'll be teaching at the Black Sea camp next week. Then we're off to Stolnik, a Roma village, for their evening church service.

Keep us in prayer and stay tuned for more! Слава на Бога (Glory to God)!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Final Countdown!

Its been a busy week for everyone on the team as most of us were involved in Vacation Bible School at our church all week... but VBS wrapped up last night and now we turn our full attention to our impending departure!

Tomorrow, the team will meet after church to pack all of the supplies and other stuff we're bringing. We've got food for a BBQ at the Black Sea camp, Sunday School supplies for one of the churches, crafts and games, gifts for some of the people we know, and much more. Everybody gives up half a suitcase for the group stuff, then we go home and pack our own clothes and personal items in whatever room is left.

Our flight details
Our flight leaves at 6 am on Monday morning from Las Vegas, so we'll meet up around 1:30 am to load up and pray as a team, then head out by 2 to get to the airport by 4. If all goes well, we should be landing in Sofia at 1 pm on Tuesday afternoon (which will 3 am Tuesday morning here in Bullhead City).

Keep us in prayer and follow this blog for continuous updates with photos and video. Слава на Бога!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Three Weeks and Counting...

21 days to go, but who's counting? Oh wait, all of us! Excitement is building among the entire team as time winds down to our departure. This will be my fifth visit to Bulgaria, but I'm as expectant as the first time. Not a day goes by throughout the year that I don't think about and pray for the nation and its people... my friends and family there.

We are still putting the final pieces into place, but our general schedule is going to look something like this:

Monday, June 24........... Depart & travel all day
Tuesday, June 25.......... Arrive in afternoon. Rest and fellowship in evening.
Wednesday, June 26.... Work day at Revelation Church in Fakulteta / Blaga Vest service
Thursday, June 27........ ??? / Stolnik Service
Friday, June 28.............. ??? / Elin Pelin Service
Saturday, June 29........ Drive to Macedonia / Youth Event in evening
Sunday, June 30.......... Macedonia / Dobra Vest service
Monday, July 1............. Drive to Sofia
Tues-Tues, July 2-9....  Black Sea Camp
Wednesday, July 10... Visit historical/cultural location. Blaga Vest service
Thursday, July 11....... Depart and travel all day

The question marks on Thursday and Friday indicate space we haven't yet filled. We're trying to work out an opportunity to minister in a Sofia orphanage or to the homeless downtown on one of those days.

Worshipping in Fakulteta 
On Wednesday, June 26, we'll be spending a day with the Revelation Church in Fakulteta. This area of Sofia is a separate community of Roma (gypsy) people known as a mahala. The mahalas are literally ghettos where the Romani live segregated from the surrounding Bulgarian communities. Fakulteta is the second largest mahala in Bulgaria, with about 40,000 Roma living within a few square miles... all within the borders of the nation's capital city, Sofia.

Linzi befriends a Roma child
The ladies on our team will be ministering to a group of Roma children for the day. They are planning a day camp with a circus theme and sharing God's word through crafts, dramas, games and activities. At the same time, the men will be helping the congregation with construction work they are doing on their church building. They are in the process of expanding their facility to provide a regular food ministry and to accommodate other ministry to their community as well. We will be pouring concrete, laying brick, and whatever else is needed.

Continue to pray for us as the time draws closer. There are still many organizational details and preparations to be made. Pray for time to accomplish everything and for our hearts and minds to be fixed on God's work, not our own. Above all, pray for the direction and power of the Holy Spirit to soak everything that we do!

Слава на Бога! (Glory to God)