Thursday, June 30, 2011

We're Here!

Several Bulgarian teams hang out with the team
Well, 25 hours after driving away from Bullhead City, we've arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria and are settling in at the apartment in the new Blaga Vest church. We're grateful to Pastor Ludmil for providing accommodations for us!
The flights were long but uneventful and the team is in great spirits and excited about getting to work.
We're looking at possibly visiting the Romani church at Stolnik this evening and Elin Pelin tomorrow with Pastor Niki and his wife Tsveta. Saturday is still up in the air, but Sunday morning we will leave for the Black Sea for the week-long kids camp at Chernomoretz.
Keep us in prayer for direction, strength, and health while we serve God and the  Church in Bulgaria for the next two weeks! God Bless...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Last Minute Preparations

We finished up Vacation Bible School at our church last night, and I feel like I can finally switch my brain into full-on Bulgaria mode. Of course, Bulgaria is always in the back of my mind, even when I'm not planning to go there soon, but now I have switched it fully to the front of my mind! The past few weeks have been a challenge for me because, while I am eager to return to Bulgaria and want to devote my time and energy to preparing for and thinking about our upcoming trip, I still have other work that the Lord has put before me here.
I had to forcibly switch my brain into junior high mode for our summer camp last week, then reset and switch into VBS mode to serve as a teacher this week. As I did so, it was exciting to see how God's plan for us is so multi-faceted. We aren't called into one single niche area of ministry, but God's plan for us unfolds across a wide spectrum. The gifts and talents He blesses us with shouldn't be locked down for use in only a small area of service, but opened up and used abundantly wherever the need presents itself. It has been humbling for me to realize how much God wants to do and how little I would do if left to choose. I know many of us on the team felt stretched this week as we served in the Vacation Bible School with our upcoming trip looming. Yet each of us was blessed to see God working in the lives of the young children and we all feel honored that God used us, each in our own way, to serve them.
Now, however, our gaze is firmly fixed on the task at hand... and the task is Bulgaria. There is still much to do and little time to do it!

Each of us is allowed to pack our own clothing and personal items in only half a suitcase. That leaves the other half for supplies for the camp we will be helping with at the Black Sea. On Sunday, we'll meet together with our suitcases and divvy up the shared supplies. We are taking 90 t-shirts for all the children and Bulgarian leaders at the camp, along with craft supplies, decorations, food, games, and more.
In the past, we were allowed two suitcases: one for ourselves and one for supplies. Now, the airlines charge a hefty fee for the second suitcase, so we are downsizing! A little Tide-to-Go and a sink means we only need half the clothing we usually take.

Every team member will have the opportunity to teach the word of God while we are there. Pastor Chuck will be sharing in several churches. Most of the team will be teaching lessons to the children at camp at least once. Our women will probably attend a bible study in Sofia and share there. Also, we will have numerous opportunities to share our testimonies and God's word in one-on-one and small group settings throughout the visit. Many of us are still preparing our notes for the teaching we will be doing and trusting God to give us His words when the time comes. Our newcomers will also have to learn how to deliver their message through an interpreter, which completely changes the dynamics!

Most of the money for our trip has been raised. There are a few team members still struggling though, so if you know anyone who is going and want to help, ask them if they have a need. We are also raising money to sponsor some of the Romani (gypsy) children so they can attend the camp with us.

The trip is long, and once we arrive, the schedule is fast-paced and frenetic. Its important that each of us arrive healthy and strong. Many of us have been taking Vitamin C & D, along with echinacea for the last few days to build up our immune systems before going. We're also enjoying some quality family time with the loved ones we're leaving behind.

Please keep the team in prayer as we get ready for our departure. Pray for our last minute needs, that God would clearly direct the lessons we are preparing, and for rest and good health. And, once we're gone, keep us in prayer for the work in Bulgaria and visit this blog for daily updates on what God is doing there!
Слава на Бога!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting Close

Our departure date is almost upon us and, with everything else going on with the church as well, the time is sure to fly by! Zach and Linzi return from the high school summer camp today, along with Megan, and Megan and I return next week for the junior high camp. The following week will be our church's Vacation Bible School. Then, we've got the weekend and a few days and we're off to Vegas to catch a plane! Somewhere in there, we all have to finish up the lessons we'll be teaching and pack our suitcases, along with all the supplies we'll be bringing for the camp at the Black Sea. Some of us also have gifts to buy for friends in Bulgaria and things to take care of for the families we're leaving behind. Keep us in prayer for these next few weeks as we scramble to wrap it all up.

Megan and Marinna paint at Blaga Vest
I also want to share a little about our schedule once we're there. We will arrive on Thursday, about noon, and will be met by friends from the Blaga Vest (Good News) church in Sofia. We will probably grab a bite to eat and head over to where we are staying. Pastor Ludmil and the Blaga Vest congregation have been constructing a new church building for some time now and they have built an apartment into the top floor for visiting missionaries and the like. They graciously allow us to stay there while we are in Sofia. Each year, we have been honored to help with the church construction, which is being done by the congregation as finances allow. We have helped with painting, cleanup, washing newly installed windows, pulling weeds... anywhere we can be useful.

On Friday and/or Saturday, we will travel to Elin Pelin, a nearby town outside
The Romani congregation at Stol
Sofia. There, we will meet with Pastor Niki and his wife Tsveta and their church. We are also hoping to go with them to Stolnik, a nearby Romani (gypsy) village where Niki also pastors a small flock. Spending time with the Romani is a blessing that comes with a burden, as the gypsies are very economically disadvantaged and highly discriminated against in Bulgaria and throughout Europe. I have written previously about the challenges they face, but it is such an honor to be sent by the Lord to reach out to these people in love. We are also hoping to have some opportunity to bless Niki and Tsveta with some manual labor from our team to help with some improvements as well.

Sunday morning, we will depart from Sofia (on the western side of Bulgaria) for the Black Sea (on the far eastern edge). We will meet up with the church downtown where they will load a charter bus full of all the kids and we will begin our 7-hour trek across the country. Driving in Bulgaria is always exciting (no, really... VERY exciting) and the countryside is absolutely beautiful. Nothing compares to the view of fields of sunflowers stretching for miles!

Joey teaches a lesson at the Black
Once we arrive in Chernomoretz, on the Black Sea, we'll spend the next six days pouring our hearts into about 60 kids of all ages. Our team will work with the Bulgarian teachers to teach bible lessons on the theme of trusting God, as well as doing arts and crafts, teambuilding exercises, supervising kids during the daily beach time, and much more. The days are long but fulfilling!

On the following Sunday, we'll make the drive back across the country to Sofia. We'll spend the next couple of days with the Blagavest church, helping where we can. Our ladies usually participate in a bible study for women at the Truth and Hope Foundation, and we'll get some shopping and sightseeing in as well. Finally, we'll head to the airport for the long flight back home!

While there, I'll be posting blog updates as often as possible. We have internet access while in Sofia, so expect daily updates on the front and back ends of the trip, but at the Black Sea, we have to walk into the town and visit an Internet cafe. We'll shoot for daily updates, but it may be hit and miss. Our updates will include thoughts from different team members every day. Linzi is planning on doing a video blog as well, which we'll post here.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers while we're gone. Also, pray about whether God would call you to return with us next year. God bless!