Monday, July 7, 2014

Life at the Black Sea

On Saturday, we drove across Bulgaria to the small town of Chernomorets on the Black Sea coast. We'll be here until next Saturday helping with a camp for over 60 kids from around Bulgaria and Macedonia. Our team is helping watch over and interact with the kids, along with the teaching, games, and crafts.

Our morning begins early here, with a 6:45 meeting for all the adult leaders to discuss and pray about the upcoming day. We wake the kids at 7:30 and eat a hearty breakfast at 8. Then, its off to the beach for 3 hours of fun in the sun. We play in the water with the kids... throwing them in the air, splashing them, and carrying the smaller ones around. When the younger kids go in to the shore for a spell, we play a game called "Ring of Fire" with the older teens that involves a circle of players, a volleyball, and the occasional spike to the head... all in good fun!

By the time we head back to camp, everyone has worked up an appetite so its time for lunch. Meals are plentiful here so nobody leaves the table hungry unless its by choice. After a little free time, the younger kids are sent back to their bungalows for a time of rest and relaxation (aka, nap) and the team usually uses this time to go into town or to prepare for the afternoon's ministry.

At 4, the kids are split up into three groups by age for the afternoon lessons. The camp is using the Chronicles of Narnia book, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" as its theme and the lessons explore a different aspect of the book each day (living in two worlds, friendship, betrayal, sacrifice and redemption, choices, etc.). A number of the lessons will be taught by our team members who will work through a translator to share the message God has given them. After the lessons, there are different activities each day such as, a photo scavenger hunt, a craft, and more. Our team comes alongside the Bulgarian leaders to help out wherever we're needed.

Dinner kicks off at 7, followed by our evening service at 8 pm.  Most of the men on our team will be teaching an evening slot. I shared on Saturday night about Living in Two Worlds and Vernon will be teaching on Temptation and Betrayal this evening. After the service, there are additional activities planned and often some free time to go into town. The little kids get put to bed at 10 pm and the teens follow at 11.

Once everyone is in bed, our team still has ministry work to do. We hide small toys all over the camp for the kids to find in the morning. We also hide a special toy in a difficult to find spot and the one who finds it gets to choose a prize from our goodie bag. Then, there are ministry responsibilities that come up throughout the week.

Last night, we were up to 1 am making bottling root beer. You can't find root beer over here and we want to do root beer floats on Friday night, which is American night.It would have been ridiculous to try and bring the amount of root beer we needed in our suitcases, so we brought yeast (for the carbonation) and root beer extract with us. We got sugar and water here and ran a little assembly line to bottle 18 liters of the stuff last night. The concoction takes a few days for the yeast to do its thing and carbonate the drink, so we'll know more Thursday or Friday and I'll let you know how it turned out.

We get to bed around 12 or 1 am most nights and back up shortly after 6 the following morning to do it all over again! Keep us in your prayer for wisdom and direction, anointing and boldness, and strength to continue ministering in spite of the physical weakness we are all experiencing at one point or another. God is good and we're having a blast!

The ministry here is centered around relationship and example. We have an opportunity to develop real friendships with young people and the adults here, set an example with our love and service, and encourage our church family here in their walks with the Lord. What a privilege it is to be sent by God for such a valuable ministry! I can't wait to share more with you as the week progresses... God bless!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Belated Update

Sorry for the delay in posting this. We have been BUSY! Let me bring you up to speed on what we've been doing...

We arrived on a Tuesday and got a good night's sleep after a long day of traveling. Wednesday, we took the team into Sofia's city center to allow them to unwind and get to know the city we veterans have come to love. That night, we enjoyed listening to pastor Mite Goshev of Macedonia as he taught the word at the Blaga Vest church in Sofia.

Thursday was a completely new experience for our team. We partnered with the Resurrection Church in Fakulteta, a Roma community. The pastor, Nayden Borisov, rented a school's courtyard and brought in a well-known Roma singing group to lead in praise. We were amazed to see about 500 people show up for the event and I had the opportunity to preach a message on following Jesus Christ. Afterward, about 20 people came forward to accept Christ and then we prayed for the sick to be healed. We saw God move in supernatural ways and were truly blessed by the excitement of the Roma people.

On Friday, we took the team to the streets of Sofia and performed a short drama set to music that portrayed the gospel message in a powerful way. We performed the drama several times and plan to do so again at the Black Sea.

That night, we traveled to the village of Elin Pelin and met with the Bozhia Sila church there. Pastor Niki and his wife, Sveta, were away but we enjoyed a great church service with our family in that town. Afterward, we enjoyed several more hours of fellowship at a nearby restaurant before heading home.

Finally, on Saturday, we drove across the country to the Black Sea town of Chernomorets for a weeklong childrens camp. I'll bring you more on that in my next post. Keep us in prayer and God bless!

До скоро виждане! (See you soon!)
-Pastor Mike

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

We're Here!

24 hours after leaving Bullhead City, the team has arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria and is now getting some much needed rest. We flew out of Las Vegas early Monday morning with stops in Newark, New Jersey and Munich, Germany before landing at the airport here in Bulgaria's capital city.

We just got back from a great pizza dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and now everyone is grabbing some sleep. It's 9:30 and, even though the sun hasn't fully set yet, eyelids are drooping (or downright sealed shut). I'll have more to share tomorrow but, for now, I just want to make sure everyone knows we got here ok so I can hit the hay as well.

Leka Nosht (Good Night)!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sharing the Gospel in Fakulteta

Two years ago, we had the opportunity to visit Fakulteta for the first time. I had learned about the area on the Internet and we decided to pay an exploratory visit to learn more. We spent an afternoon walking through the area, played some music, shared Jesus and prayed with people on the streets, and visited two churches in the community. One of those churches was the Revelation Church pastored by Nayden Borisov. We returned the following year and helped the congregation with some construction and spent a day in fellowship. We're planning to return this year and partner with them in an evangelistic event to share the hope of Christ with the Romani.

I've written on this blog before about the plight of the Roma people (or, gypsies) in Bulgaria. Facing heavy discrimination, they deal with high illiteracy and unemployment rates, as well as poor living conditions in segregated areas. Most of the Roma people in Bulgaria either live in villages that are almost exclusively Romani, or in segregated areas of the larger cities referred to as "mahalas." The mahala is essentially a ghetto, which is defined as, "a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure."

The second-largest mahala in Bulgaria is Fakulteta, located in the capital city of Sofia. About 30,000 people live in an area of only a few square miles. The neighborhood has limited utilities and other resources but is a thriving community of people who are ripe for the gospel. The Revelation Church has a small building in the heart of the mahala from which the gospel is going forth, not only into Fakulteta, but to Roma communities throughout Bulgaria. In addition to raising up and sending out pastors, the church also feeds 30-40 children each day.

We are partnering with the church this year to hold a one-night evangelistic event in order to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible. Borisov has secured a stage with lighting and sound and has begun advertising the event. We will be gathering together on Thursday, July 3 at 7:00 pm (that's 9 am, Thursday morning, for those of you in Arizona who want to be praying for us). The program will include an hour of praise, followed by a drama presentation and then I (Pastor Mike) will preach. Afterward, we will provide an opportunity for people to come to Christ and we will pray for the sick.

The event will be a little outside of our comfort zone for most of us from Calvary Bullhead as it is unlike anything we've done here. The church we are working with is definitely of a more Pentecostal nature than we are but I have been struck by the godliness and character of the Roma men that I have met from the congregation and am blessed by their vision for their nation. I am proud to come alongside them as they preach Christ Jesus, and Him crucified. Their gospel is our gospel, which is, ultimately, Jesus' gospel. It is an honor to have this opportunity to preach that gospel to a people who are hungry for it and I pray for the Lord to bring forth remarkable fruit. Please be praying with me!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last Year's Trip - The Movie

I finally got the movie uploaded from last year's trip. We shared the 30 minute epic with the church a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday night, but I had a couple failed attempts getting it up on YouTube before finally powering through yesterday.

By the way, I don't normally post more than one update a day, but our remaining time is getting compressed, so the posts may start piling up. Make sure you read down and see what else has been added to the blog that you may have missed. For instance, I just posted a "Let's Hear From the Team" update featuring our very own Ashley Kerrigan. She's a newcomer to the team this year, so drop down and read her thoughts on the trip ahead.

Anyway, back to the movie. I usually take a still camera with me and take several thousand pictures each year. Over the years, these pics have really piled up on my hard drive! Last year, I realized we have tons of pics, since everybody brings a camera, but not much video. So, I ditched the Canon Rebel and brought along a tiny little palmcorder that could shoot HD video on SD cards. Instead of thousands of pictures, I shot about 8 hours of video everywhere we went and brought it all home. As God's wonderful timing would have it, I started this past school year as a Media Production teacher at the charter school where I work, which included a course in Digital Video Editing. I got to use my video as a year-long tutorial for my students as I assembled the bits and pieces together.

Throughout the process, my goal was not to create a beautiful cinematic experience, although the countries lend themselves well to that end. Rather, I wanted to really bring home to our church body and extended followers the nature of our ministry there. When I first ventured out with the team, I really had no idea what our purpose was or what we were going to be doing and I know many that are sending us and praying for us year after year feel the same. I hope this short overview can make our mission a little clearer for everyone... God bless and I hope you enjoy watching!

Let's Hear From the Team: Ashley Kerrigan

I've never really been out of the country before, especially overseas. This will be my first time traveling to Bulgaria with the team, and I think it's something God has been putting on my heart for a long time. I first heard about the team in about seventh grade, and I've desired to go since, but I didn't think it was something that was actually going to happen. Reality struck over the past few months that I'm going to be halfway across the world! I think it's going to be a whole new experience for me... I'm still not quite sure what I'm expecting. I know there will be a lot of culture shock happening the first moments I get there. I am just looking forward to reaching out to others, and letting God use me in ways I didn't know was possible. I am looking forward to getting rid of a few of my fears while I'm down there, but I know it's going to be hard to do. I can't wait to get there and see what God has in store for me!

-Ashley Kerrigan

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Black Sea Camp

The biggest part of our schedule every year is the weeklong children's camp at the Black Sea. After beginning our adventure in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, we drive eastward, clear across the country, to the small seaside town of Chernomoretz on the coast of the Black Sea. There, we are assist a team from the Blaga Vest church in Sofia as they put on a camp for children from across Bulgaria and Macedonia.

This year, we are expecting a little more than 50 children from ages 4 or 5 up to 18. The theme of the camp will be C.S. Lewis' famous book for children, "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe." Each day of the camp will address a different topic from the book, including:

  1. Living in Two Worlds
  2. Being a Faithful Friend
  3. Temptation and Betrayal
  4. Sacrifice and Redemption
  5. Repentance and Forgiveness
  6. Choices and Consequences
The topics will be addressed through daily lessons and activities, and also through the message given during the evening services each night. We will be decorating the camp in a Narnian theme with a wardrobe entrance and a lamppost, and the kids will be split into four teams for the week, each identified by a character from the book.

In addition, we spend several hours each day with the children enjoying some time at the beach. Our team forms a protective barrier between the younger kids and the deep water, while enjoying play time with them as well. We also venture into town regularly for an afternoon snack or just a nice walk with friends. Here is the schedule for a typical day at camp:

6:00 am   Wake up
6:30 am   Meet with camp leaders (morning devotions, discuss day ahead)
7:30 am   Wake up the kids
8:00 am   Breakfast
8:30 am   Group prayer with kids
8:45 am   Prepare for beach
9:00 am   Beach time (3 1/2 hours)
1:00 pm   Lunch
2:00 pm   Naptime (for the kids... we use this time to visit town or prepare for ministry)
3:00 pm   Daily lessons (some of our younger people will teach some of these)
5:30 pm   Daily activities (we will help with arts & crafts)
7:00 pm   Dinner
7:45 pm   Evening service (worship, prayer, & message from God's word)
8:30 pm   Evening activity (something different each night... movie, games, party)
10:30 pm Bed time for the kids

After the kids go to bed, the team has some time alone to Skype home to family and friends. We also take this time to hide small toys all over the camp for kids to find when they wake up in the morning. The week is a long one, with the team turning in late each night, long after the kids have gone to bed, and rising early in the morning to meet and pray together with the camp leadership. The work is hard but joyful and the kids are a genuine blessing to serve.

The camp this year runs from Saturday, July 5 to Saturday, July 12. Pray for the kids at camp to genuinely hear from the Lord during this week. Also, pray for our team and the leaders from the Blaga Vest church to be able to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit and out of a genuine love for His children. And, of course, check back here often for pictures and videos from the week as we share what God is doing at the Black Sea!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our Itinerary

12 more days! Most of us are busy helping with Vacation Bible School at Calvary Bullhead this week, but in the back of our minds, we're all thinking about the adventure we're about to embark on. We've only got two and a half weeks in Bulgaria, so we plan to make the most of it with a very busy schedule. We've added one more stop this year, with a visit to the Blaga Vest church in Svishtov, so every day is accounted for.  Here's a look at our schedule for our time in-country:

Monday, June 30 Depart and travel all day
Tuesday, July 1 Arrive in afternoon. Rest and fellowship in evening
Wednesday, July 2 Recreational time in Sofia / Blaga Vest church evening service (Sofia)
Thursday, July 3 Fakulteta evangelistic event
Friday, July 4 Street evangelism in Sofia / Bozhia Sila church evening service (Elin Pelin)
Sat-Sat, July 5-12 Black Sea Camp (Chernomoretz)
Sunday, July 13 Drive to Skopje, Macedonia / Dobra Vest evening service
Monday, July 14 Fellowship or ministry in Macedonia / Drive to Sofia in evening
Tuesday, July 15 Drive to Svishtov in morning / Blaga Vest church evening service (Svishtov)
Wednesday, July 16 Drive home in afternoon / Blaga Vest evening service (Sofia)
Thursday, July 17 Depart and travel all day

So, that's the schedule... and its a busy one! Over the next week, I'll take some time to write about the specific areas of ministry we are planning, including more on the Black Sea camp. Keep us in prayer as we work out all the details before leaving!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Let's Hear From the Team: Alisha Martin

My name is Alisha Martin and I am going to Bulgaria for the first time this year. God had put it on my heart a year ago to go to Bulgaria and I prayed about it and he told me it was my year to go. I am very excited to go and help with the children over there. Also I am very excited to help out with the camp we do there because I am very involved in the VBS we do here. I am currently 14 but will be turning 15 in Bulgaria. I can't wait to see what God does in my life while I am in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let's Hear From the Team: Dock Hoilman

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

In August 2010, the Lord started guiding me down an unexpected path. Taking my experiences and passions to allow opportunities I would have never expected. Over the past two summers, I've been blessed to work in His ministry to Bulgaria through The Hanna Project. God has moved in me, drawing me to this land so far away as I have seen Him work in peoples lives. Now, he has opened a new door.

This year, I'll be joining the Bulgarian Servant Team from Bullhead City, AZ as we support and encourage the Church in Bulgaria and Macedonia. We will be visiting brothers and sisters in several parts of Bulgaria and Macedonia. In an area where the protestant church only accounts for 1% of the nation, God is at work in the hearts of His people. Yet, all around them, people have no hope at all, or put their hope in ritual and superstition. Real believers are feared and often ridiculed. A special treat for me on this trip will be camp! We will be working at a Christian youth camp on the Black Sea. This will be our chance to serve children and teens in Narnian fashion.

We greatly appreciate your prayers for our brothers and sisters overseas and for our team. The Bulgarian Servant Team is not setting out to evangelize the nation, but rather to encourage our brothers and sisters as they share Jesus with their neighbors. We are only here to serve. (July 1 - 17)

-Dock Hoilman

Read more on my own blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let's Hear From the Team: Barbi Robnett

I first went to Bulgaria 12 years ago with the team from CCBHC. I have seen over the years how God has opened up doors for us to serve with our brothers and sisters through outreach, discipleship, testimony, marriage ministry and childrenʼs ministry to name just a few. We go to help with ministry that God is already doing there. God has placed a deep love in my heart for these people and their country. Most especially their children.

About 4 years ago my family was forced to move away from BHC and I was heartbroken. Not only to leave my church family in AZ but also because I thought I would never return to BG with the CCBHC again. Last year I was invited to return with the team and sought the Lordʼs will. I wanted to be sure it was Him sending me and not my own desire to return. To my joy, He sent me back, and again this year. He has recently opened the door for us to go into Macedonia as well.

It is always a joy to serve along side the family of God there. We go to be helping hands for the body of Christ who are serving the Lord there faithfully everyday. Truth be told - I come away changed every time from being with them. While I go hoping to be a blessing to them, I come away with them being a blessing to me. I am so thankful each time the Lord sends me, so thankful to Him, and so thankful for them. It is my hope to be an encouragement to them as they labor for the Lord and to bring glory and honor to Him together with them.

-Barbi Robnett

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Now Introducing... The 2014 Team!

Tickets have been purchased and the team for this year is set. We've got a couple people joining us from elsewhere, and a whole group of new teenagers from our church here in Bullhead City, Arizona. So, without further ado, here are this year's team members:


Mike Kern - Assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel Bullhead City. This will be his 6th year with the team.

Joey Leslie - Vacation Bible School director at CCBHC. This will be his 12th year with the team.

Vernon Garrett - Teaches 5th & 6th grade youth group at CCBHC. This will be his 4th year with the team.

Thomas Hein - Assists with all youth group ministries at CCBHC. This will be his first year with us.

Megan Kern - Will travel to Bulgaria a month ahead of the team. This will be her 4th year.

Barbi Robnett - Joining us from Washington state. Barbi used to attend CCBHC and has been with the team for many years.

Dock Hoilman - Has been involved in various ministries over the years, including the directing of youth camps. Dock joins us from Virginia and connected with the team through mutual friends in Bulgaria. He has been to the country twice before with The Hannah Project.


All of these teens are members of Calvary Chapel Bullhead City, and this is their first year on the team.
Reyna Hartman
Ashley Kerrigan
Alisha Martin
Chelsea Rush