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.