Thursday, June 27, 2013

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)!

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