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Project 039 - Bulgaria's Brave Believers

Our Christmas Parcel Ministry

Peter Georgiev and his dedicated team of volunteers spend many days putting together parcels of groceries which are distributed to many different churches all over northern Bulgaria.

In the orphanages, many children are delighted to receive a special gift to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

A parcel of groceries costing around 5.80 is provided to over a thousand pensioners, poor people and those who are 'shut in' during the run up to Christmas.

Winter in Bulgaria can be extremely cold but your gifts could warm someone's heart and soul and provide much needed food at an extremely bleak time of the year.

Indeed, temperatures can plummet to minus 15C so our food parcels containing basic items of grocery, literally keep body and soul together.

A visit by John Eld, Chair of Trustees

Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU. This is instantly seen as soon as you enter the country. You have to work for 40 years to get a pension, which is about £160 per month. The neediest in Bulgaria cannot help themselves without aid and encouragement from elsewhere.

The churches I visited had much of the feel of churches described in Acts and Paul’s letters. There is a deep faith in and expectation of God. In most congregations, there was a mixture of believers, enquirers and non-believers. Parcels were given to all present. It is good to be able to help poor believers, as in the Bible. The way in which we help each other is a witness in itself. And then by helping those outside the church, we also show God’s love to them as a form of outreach.

Whistle-stop tour – with a difference

Our British understanding of a whistle-stop tour is a series of short visits. In my recent tour for Siloam Christian Ministries in Bulgaria, some visits were longer than others…

Please contact me (john@siloam.org.uk) for further information about the summary which follows.

Based in Ruse, we began my stay by visiting the sick in their homes, giving food parcels, praying and observing the Lord’s Supper. The next day at the church, pastors from other regions came to collect parcels.

bulgaria homeThere were visits to three Turkish churches in villages. We found one church in darkness with just a faint light showing in the window. They are too poor to pay for electricity all the time, so have to use candles (I counted no more than 10 in the whole room). There were 60-70 children waiting for us in the gloom with just a few adults. The children sang some action songs before gifts were handed out.

One day was spent visiting Roma churches. 5 years ago, I was asked to pray for Krasimira, a four year old girl who’d never made a sound. Now she can hear and is slowly learning to say words.

Ruse prayerThat afternoon, back in Ruse, we went to a funeral held in an apartment. Brother Ivan, with whom I prayed on a home visit, had died. When praying I didn’t seem to be able to find words to pray for a physical healing. Now I believe that God was preventing me from praying in this vein. Highly regarded as a man of God, he’d built 10 churches and done much work on the main building in Ruse. Since then, his wife Genka has also died.

Another day of going to churches brought us to a lively church with many young people actively involved. Worship songs were streamed from the internet through a projector onto a screen at the front.

Back in Ruse at a service, Bishop Peter told the story of one man who walked 22 kilometres (approximately 14 miles) every Sunday to get to the church in Silistra. He had just recently been ordained as a pastor – and was with us that day. Then a baby was dedicated and a bucket was passed round for a free-will offering for the couple and child. Pastors from other churches then came to collect parcels for their villages.
Pastors collect parcels Pastors collect parcels

Pastors from other churches then came to collect parcels for their villages.

One day we took a trip of close to four hours through the mountains to a large gypsy settlement. The church was packed with boisterous children whom the pastor said would not quieten down. Streets of BulgariaEven the walk back through the settlement was an experience with illegal, unplanned buildings, and inadequate water/sewage etc. – necessitating washing shoes when returning to Ruse.

On Saturday, children and teachers had been in school – why? Because this year they would have an extra day off at Christmas, so had to make it up! It was interesting to meet with a school teacher who teaches English from 1.30 to 7.30pm (others do the 7.30am to 1.30pm shift). Then I went to the church where they were putting on a lunch for widows.  The next day I left for home. The work, however, goes on, with lunches for the lonely and poor, adult families, youth, etc, further parcel distribution in villages and home visits (including some planned for Christmas Day).

People profiles (Please note that this is a very brief outline of just a few believers and some of the numerous home visits.)

DarinFamilyDarin and Veselka: A few days after giving birth to their third child, Veselka’s leg suddenly blew up to twice its normal size. It transpires that she was suffering from deep vein thrombosis. They paid the usual bribes to the doctors, but they did not treat her properly. Soon she became short of breath and suffered an embolism. Rushed to intensive care, the doctors gave up all hope of her survival. Darin, however, gave everything over to the Lord. He asked for a sign that his wife would recover and found comfort in Scripture. His mother-in-law had a vision indicating hope. Friends had similar words of encouragement and one church who had been praying had a message that in seven days all would be well. On the 7th day, Veselka seemed completely recovered and was moved to an ordinary ward as they wanted to keep her under observation, not quite believing her recovery. When Darin came to visit later that day, he found her up and helping infirm ladies to walk. It seems that her main vein from hip to ankle is still completely silted up with clotted blood but does not in any way seem to affect her. Darin has promised to glorify God as a result of this and therefore wants to tell their story.

tanaskaTanaska: Her health now confines her to one room of her house and a neighbouring widow comes in to help for about two hours a day.

Left: visiting Tanaska in her home

Tinka at home

Tinka – bed-ridden and effectively lives in a bed in the kitchen, looked after by daughter Bistra.

Bishop Peter

Bishop Peter oversees this extensive ministry. He is capably assisted by his sister Donka who is church secretary. Her husband Maren also serves in ministry and did most of the driving along with Milen, Bishop Peter’s son-in-law.

Bishop Peter with Donka and Maren (right to left).

On this trip, I discovered that Bishop Peter has spent time in prison – for smuggling Bibles. It seems he would agree with another prisoner in jail named Paul who wrote, ‘what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel’ Philippians 1:12 (NIVUK). A truly biblical perspective from one of Bulgaria’s brave believers!

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