The abandoned children of Eastern Europe

February 20, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Bulgaria used family-style care centers to remove children with disabilities from state institutions. UNICEF says the Bulgarian orphanage population dropped from about 7,500 in 2010, to fewer than 1,200 children today.

Across the Black Sea, Georgia has had even more success. It reduced the number of state-run orphanages from 50 to two. The number of orphans dropped also, from 5,000 in 2005 to about 75 now, UNICEF says. However, Romania has made the largest improvement. The European Union has provided millions of dollars in aid to support Romanian child-welfare reforms. Private aid agencies like Hope and Homes for Children have helped place children with foster families or smaller homes where they experience a more usual childhood.

Main problems faced by children in Bulgaria:

Poverty

Bulgaria remains one of the poorest countries not only in the EU but also in the Balkans. Some parents cannot even afford to provide proper nourishment for their children. Furthermore, food deficiencies, which hit youngsters hardest, prevent children from growing up into healthy young adults. Romany (Gipsy) communities are mostly affected by poverty. Their children are often required to work in order to make ends meet. With unemployment at over 80% for this minority, the adults suffer greatly from discrimination in the workplace. In turn, this affects the children since their unemployed parents cannot provide for them at a basic level.

Street children

Many steps have been taken to implement children’s rights and respond to the needs of those most at risk on the streets. There have been campaigns to increase public awareness and improved public understanding of the situation. Today, between 2,500 and 4,000 children are still sleeping rough. These are mostly Romany children finding shelter in Bulgaria’s larger cities. Besides the fact that these children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and economic or sexual exploitation, they live their day to day lives in horrific conditions. Lack of caring adults and a lack of food are just some of the realities faced by street children.

Child Stats: UN Data on the Plight of Children Worldwide

Orphans: An estimated 153 million children worldwide are orphans (UNICEF).

Child Labor: Worldwide, there are 168 million child laborers, accounting for almost 11% of children (ILO).

Education

  • 263 million children and youth are out of school (UNESCO).
  • An estimated 61 million primary-school-age children are out of school; 53% of them are girls (UNICEF).

Health

  • There are 69 million children worldwide who suffer from malnutrition (World Bank)
  • In 2017, 75% of malnourished children lived in less developed regions (WHO).
  • Nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of 5 can be attributed to undernutrition, resulting in the unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year (UNICEF).
  • 66 million primary-school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone (WHO).

Mortality

  • In 2017, 15,000 children under the age of 5 died every day, that’s equivalent to 1 child every 17 seconds (WHO).
  • Leading causes of death in under-5 year old are birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. About 45% of child death are linked to malnutrition (WHO).
  • 2.7 million children die every year in the first month of life, and a similar number are stillborn (WHO).

Poverty: Children represent roughly a third of the world’s population but account for almost half of all people living in extreme poverty (UNICEF).

Refugees & Migrants

  • An unprecedented 68.5 million people have been forced from their homes. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are children (UNICEF).
  • 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children are missing in Europe (Europol).

 War & Conflict

  • There are over 250 million children living in countries affected by conflict (UNICEF).
  • 1 in 4 of the world’s children live in a conflict or disaster zone (UNICEF).
  • 20 people are forced to flee from their homes every minute (UNHCR).

BibleTech 2019 or BUST: A Decade Later

February 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Explore the intersection of Bible and technology at this year’s BibleTechconference, coming to Seattle on April 11–12, 2019.

Learn about advances in biblical studies from over 25 leaders in the tech, Bible translation, and publishing industries. Plan on discovering new ways technological advances equip us to explore and share God’s Word.

Presentations at the conference include:

  • Alexa, What Does the Bible Say . . . ? by Peter Venable — What does Cortana have to do with Eden? If you’ve ever wanted to ask Siri for recent scholarship about the hypostatic union—or if you’re not sure why you’d want to do that—this is the presentation for you. In this talk, Peter Venable will talk about using conversational interfaces like these in Bible study or research. Venable asks of these tools: Is it a gimmick or a necessity?
  • The CLEAR Approach to Bible Translation by Andi Wu and Randall Tan — Statistics show 1 billion people don’t have a complete Bible in their everyday language. That’s over 2,000 languages that need a Bible translation—one that doesn’t sacrifice quality. Andi Wu and Randall Tan of the Global Bible Initiative will present an innovative drafting tool for Bible translation, making it possible to create new Bible translations quickly and accurately.
  • Visualizing Textual Critical Data for English-Speaking Laypersons by Mark Ward — What if the best way to understand textual critical data is not by focusing on differences in the Greek New Testament texts? What can we learn by looking at the texts’ similarities instead? In this presentation, Mark Ward reveals his new project—a unique visualization of Greek New Testament textual critical data.

See the complete list of topics and speakers at Faithlife.com/bible-tech.

Join us on April 11–12 in Seattle, WA, for BibleTech! Register now.

REVELATION RELOADED 2019

February 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Sunday: 20 Signs of the Last Days

Monday: Spiritual Solutions from the 7 Churches

Tuesday: Rapture of the Church

Wednesday: A Place Called Heaven

Although the Book of Revelation has been vastly studied and interpreted throughout church history, usually the focus is on one major issue within the text, namely, the role and future of the church. The main reason for this has been the in-depth prophetic and pastoral messages to the Seven Churches. The value of the messages to the Seven Churches of Revelation is constituted by the fact that they are the last recorded Biblical messages to the Christian Church. For this reason, the letters to the Seven Churches obviously do not contain all of the usual elements used in the New Testament epistolary form.

Network of the Seven Churches of Revelation (PDF)

Read also: Revelation Revealed

Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality Praxis

February 5, 2019 by  
Filed under Books, Featured, News

Dony K. Donev, D. Min.

“I sit down alone: only God is here; in His presence
I open and read this book to find the way to heaven”
– John Wesley

Our search for the theological and practical connection between Pentecostalism and Eastern Orthodoxy continues with yet another publication by St. Vladimir’s Press titled, Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice. The book represents an ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox and Wesleyan confessions and it emphasizes how theologians from both sides are attempting to discover commonalities in theology and praxis. To come together, not so much as theologians and thinkers, but as practical doers motivated by the proper interpretation of Scripture. As observed from the title, as well as through the text, these similarities are not necessarily in theological convictions, but in the proceeding Biblical approach toward interpretation of Scripture.

Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice is a compilation of essays from the Second Consultation on Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality under the editorship in 2000 of S.T. Kimbrough, Jr., who contributed the chapter on Chares Wesley’s’ Lyrical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. I must issue the caution that the book is not an easy read, at least not for the reader who intends to understand it. But it is by no means a book to be easily passed by Pentecostal scholars searching for the Biblical roots of Pentecostalism within the Eastern Orthodoxy.

The book begins with an interesting observation of the exegesis of the Cappadocian Fathers by John A. McGuckin, and continues with an article on the spiritual cognition of my personal favorite, Simeon the New Theologian by Theodore Stylianopoulos. Although the discussion on Gregory the Theologian, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa was thoughtful and presented in an interesting manner, the essay on St. Simeon struck me as well structured, but a bit shallow.

An interesting approach was taken in Tamara Grdzelidze’s essay where she presented an orthodox perspective of the Wesleyan position on authority of scriptural interpretation. The essay had a very strong exposition in regard to the Wesleyan understanding of the importance of Scripture in Christian living. However, the latter part, which dealt with the influence of tradition, was not investigated to its full capacity, which left the text (perhaps on purpose) open to multiple interpretations. Nevertheless, this issue was resolved later in the book by Ted Campbell that dealt with the subject from the Wesleyan perspective.

A central theme throughout the book was the comparison of prayers and song lyrics from both camps. Although I am no musical expert, I must agree with the authors, that theology within music has played an important role in both Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions, as it continues to do so in the everyday spiritual experience of the Pentecostal believer. This rather practical approach seemed to be the heart of the discussion where both sides could agree.Finally, the role of the Holy Spirit is viewed as central for the reading, understanding and practicing of Scripture in both the Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions. For the Pentecostal reader, it may be easy to accept this presumption as similar to the Pentecostal experience, yet the book describes it in terms which will be somewhat foreign to many Pentecostals. Although the said similarities between the interpretations of Scripture may be self explanatory for the western Pentecostal reader, they may be easily disregarded as unimportant by people who practice theology and ministry in an Eastern European context due to the ever-present tension between the Orthodox and Protestant denominations. But even if the Pentecostal scholar gathers nothing else from this book, he/she must remember this one thing: The time has come for a formal Orthodox-Pentecostal dialogue, like the one which the World Council of Churches has been trying to put together since 1991.

New Bulgarian Bill on Religion Brought Back to Parliament for Corrections

February 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

The new bill on religion was voted in Bulgaria on the last working day of 2018. As we celebrated the holidays thinking the drama was over, yet a new bill was being drafted. At the beginning of the parliamentarian season, on January 31, 2019 several new corrections were introduced to the just voted-in bill as follows:

  1. $10,000,000 in stipends to be given to the Eastern Orthodox in the form of salaries
  2. A similar type subsidy in the amount of $400,000 will be provided to the Muslim confession
  3. A one time tax amnesty would be given to various confessions for prior debt toward the Bulgarian state. In the case of the Muslim confession, this one time amnesty has been calculated at $8,000,000. The amnesty amount for the Eastern Orthodox Church is yet to be calculated due to the thousands of churches and monasteries they occupy across the country.

These are just a few of the changes being proposed currently. More will follow as the bill goes for discussion on the Parliament floor. But one thing jumps out from the text that is worth mentioning. The large government “stipend” is designated to the “Orthodox and Muslim confession” (singular). Such in Bulgaria does not exist. Yet!

If the authors wanted to indicate two separate religions, just like in the English language more so by Bulgarian grammar rules, they should have used the plural confession(s). The phrase is repeated several times in the document eliminating the possibility of a grammatical error or a simple typo. If the new bill purpose to merge Orthodoxy and Islam under the same state budget will become clear soon.

Europe 2020 indicators – poverty and social exclusion among Pentecostals

January 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

Europe 2020 indicators – poverty and social exclusion

In 2019, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU was still higher than in 2008, although the Europe 2020 target is to reduce by 20 million by 2020.

8 Poorest Countries In Europe:

  1. Kosovo –
  2. Albania – …
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina – …
  4. Republic of Macedonia – …
  5. Serbia – …
  6. Belarus – …
  7. Montenegro…
  8. Bulgaria

12 Facts About Poverty in Europe

    1. One in four Europeans experiences at least one form of poverty. Forms of poverty include income poverty, severe material deprivation, very low work intensity and social exclusion. Income poverty is the most common form of poverty in Europe, affecting 17.3 percent of people. One hundred eighteen million people (23.5 percent) of the EU-28 population were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with 43 million of those not able to afford a quality meal every second day. This is known as severe material deprivation.
    2. Social exclusion is the lack of social resources and rights available to most people as a result of poverty or being part of a minority group. In 2015, more than a third of the population was at risk of poverty or social exclusion in three EU countries:

41.3% in Bulgaria,

37% in Romania and

35.7% in Greece.

The countries with the lowest risk were the Czech Republic at 14% and Sweden at 16%.

  1. The poverty line is the minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life and differs greatly for each European country. An average of 9.8 percent of people in the EU live below the poverty line. The country with the lowest amount of people living below the poverty line is Austria at four percent, and the highest is Greece at 36 percent. This is one of the 12 facts about poverty in Europe that reveals the enormous gap between wealthier and poorer countries in Europe.
  2. The unemployment rate in Europe is only around seven percent. According to Eurostat, some countries rank above this average with Greece at 20.9 percent and Spain at 16.3 percent. In 2016, 48.7 percent of people who were unemployed were at risk of poverty. Unemployment also makes people more at risk of severe material deprivation.
  3. Poverty in Europe is not limited to those who are unemployed. In 2015, 7.7 percent of the EU population was at risk of poverty despite working full-time, with men more at risk than women. Romania has Europe’s highest risk of in-work poverty with a rate of 18.9 percent. Spain and Greece follow with 13.1 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively. Additionally, the in-work poverty risk has increased from 8.3 percent in 2010 to 9.6 percent in 2016.
  4. Women have a higher risk of poverty in Europe. The number of women suffering from poverty or social exclusion in the EU was 1.9 percent higher than men in 2015. Additionally, young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are more at risk of poverty or social inclusion with a risk of 30.6 percent.
  5. In 2015, almost 50 percent of all single parents in Europe were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which is twice as much as the risk for any other household.
  6. Foreigner-born residents (39.2 percent) are at a higher risk of poverty or social exclusion than native citizens (21.6 percent). In Italy, the number of foreigners at risk is particularly high at 55 percent.
  7. Children below the age of 18 also have a high rate of poverty or social exclusion, at 47 percent, with 26 million children in the EU living at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Child poverty in the U.K. has reached its highest level since 2010, reaching 30 percent.
  8. Even with the economy improving, one in three people in Spain still lives in poverty, which is defined as living on €8,000 or less per year. Children are also at a higher risk of poverty in Spain. In Andalusia, a Spanish province, child poverty reached 44 percent.
  9. Italy has the most people at risk of poverty in Europe. This amount rose from 15 million to 18 million people since the 2008 crisis, with over 4 million people living in absolute poverty.
  10. The heads of government in the EU adopted the Europe 2020 Strategy in 2010 to address poverty. The goal of this was to lift at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion by 2020.  Unfortunately, this goal has not been reached and the situation has gotten worse instead of better. There has been an increase in poverty in the EU over the past years. In 2009, there were 117 million people and 27 EU member states at risk of poverty or social inclusion in the EU Since then, there has been an increase of 1.6 million people and one country.

Although these 12 facts about poverty in Europe may introduce a growing problem, the EU along with the European governments are taking active steps to fight this problem. Several countries’ economies are now expanding and showing improvement since the crisis. This includes Spain’s economy, which now has a predicted growth of 2.5 percent in 2018. It is imperative to continue to provide foreign aid and assistance in order to ensure that U.S. allies continue to grow and move past the repercussions suffered after the crisis.

2020 Vision for Bulgarian Evangelical Churches Abroad

January 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

bulgarian-churchOver a decade ago, after publishing Bulgarian Churches in North America: Analytical Overview and Church Planting Proposal for Bulgarian American Congregations Considering Cultural, Economical and Leadership Dimensions, we purposed to explore the possibility of implementing the church planning program among Bulgarian Diasporas in various destination countries of migration.

With this in mind, we carried the vision for establishing 20 Bulgarian churches outside of Bulgaria by the year 2020. Cyprus, the United Kingdom and Canada were among the first to successfully implement our program. Bulgarian migrant communities in France, Italy and especially Spain and Germany followed with great enthusiasm – there are 7 Bulgarian evangelical churches active in Span today, and 18 in Germany.

Of course, not all parts of the program proved to be efficient. The program’s modules and training that was implemented, however, have produced 47 strong church plants thus far and the number is growing every month. The program proposed has been confirmed by the leadership we have received from the Holy Spirit. Our commitment to seize the opportunity and work toward adding more Bulgarian churches by the year 202 has by far surpassed all expectations.

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in the European  Union (2019 Report)

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in America (2019 Report)

  • Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in Chicago (2019 Report)
  • Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in Texas (2019 Report)
  • Bulgarian Evangelical Churches – West Coast (2019 Report)
  • Atlanta (active since 1996)
  • Los Angeles (occasional/outreach of the Foursquare Church – Mission Hills, CA)
  • Las Vegas (outreach of the Foursquare Church – http://lasvegaschurch.tv)
  • San Francisco (occasional/inactive since 2012, Berkeley University/Concord, CA)

Bulgarian Evangelical Churches in Canada (2019 Report)

  • Toronto (inactive since 2007)
  • Toronto/Slavic (active since 2009)
  • Montreal (occasional/inactive since 2012)

CURRENTLY INACTIVE CHURCHES/CONGREGATIONS:

  • New York, NY (currently inactive)
  • Buffalo, NY  (occasional/inactive)
  • Jacksonville, FL  (occasional/inactive since 2014)
  • Ft. Lauderdale / Miami  (currently inactive)
  • Washington State, Seattle area (currently inactive)
  • Minneapolis, MN (occasional/inactive since 2015)

READ MORE:

The LOSS of IMAGINATION

January 20, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, News

In the 1950s kids lost their innocence.
They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term —the generation gap.

In the 1960s, kids lost their authority.
It was a decade of protest—church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.

In the 1970s, kids lost their love.
It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self.
Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion….It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.

In the 1980s, kids lost their hope.
Stripped of innocence, authority and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.

In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason.
Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.

In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.

Ravi Zacharias, Recapture the Wonder

25 Years in America: The CONFESSIONS

January 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Featured, Missions, News

I came to the United States 25 years ago – exactly to the date. Quarter of a century of my 30 years of ministry I’ve spent preaching here.

Naturally, I’ve seen a few things change. I am not talking just about political correctness, cheap import quality or long distance customer service. Yes, I can say this because I am an immigrant too. But in my line of work, I made my mind a long time ago. No Made in China sermons or creative commons mini series downloaded from the internet. When I preach, I will give it my best so help me God.

Having said this, I wish I would have lived in States in the late 70s. Big cars, cheaper gas, cleaner foods, much clearer standards and maybe even a much simpler life. All made in America. And a very different type of people and churches. But we all come to this world when it’s our time…

I landed in New York late one cold and snowy night. Being barely 19 at the time, I had recently watched Home Alone: Lost in New York. Landing over the brightly lit Manhattan was just like in the movie. The feeling was indescribable.

Not so much after going through customs. The officer, a professing Muslim as he told me, took one quick look at my passport before giving me a long lecture of all the dangers I was facing by enrolling in the Bible College named on my entrée visa. I disregarded his words, at least at the time. But they haunted me often for the next couple of years.

The heavy snow storm halted all flights out of the city and we had to spend the night in the Big Apple. Waiting for the hotel’s shuttle at JKF’s lobby, I had my second peculiar encounter of the evening. A well dressed lady, obviously a New Yorker, waiting alongside picked up a conversation hearing it was my first visit to the States. She welcomed me with the words that everyone in America has come from somewhere else. She then gave me a dime, which I still keep somewhere, showing the words inscribed on the back side “E pluribus unum,” the meaning of which I knew from my studies in Latin.

The next morning I had my first American breakfast right before flying over to Charlotte. The South welcomed us with some of its coldest weather ever recorded. It was 1994 and 15F. Some even said I brought the winter with me from the old country. And so my journey began.

At first, dreams started to come to reality fast. Many dreams – too many to even count. For a short time, life was a highway. A few trials later, I sobered up. The high places of life are still reached via the narrowest of roads. And through a personal walk. Can’t get there driving fast and furiously or piggy back ridding someone else’s dreams.

Because just when you have it all, there comes a time for losing. I lost friends I knew and enemies I didn’t know I had. And I learned to tell my story. Most of it is told in my upcoming book Confessions. Not merely in the way I know it, but in a way where others can understand it. And use it.

As I was getting ready to commemorate this anniversary, along with the passing of my faithful father and my praying grandmother this time 20 years ago, I lost another friend. A praying man, a faithful supporter of our ministry, a Man who walked straight and stood up for what was right – a legacy in the minds of many. I told his dear family at the grave site that a generation is passing. Their mantle has been thrown upon us, so we may become carriers of their legacy.

After 25 years, this is our time! We are here and now, so generations may come after us to a new reality, new place in history and new world. The world we’ve dreamed of…

IN MEMORIAM

January 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Events, Featured, News

Samuel Thomas “ST” Scroggs, 90, passed away peacefully at his home Thursday, January 10, 2019. He was born in Seneca August 8, 1928, a son of Paul H. and Ethel Rose (Hughes) Scroggs.

His livelihood was in textiles for 45 years. He worked hard to provide for his family. ST loved being a farmer. Nothing brought him more joy. His wife, Rev. Evelyn Edgar Scroggs was an ordained minister and ST was a co-minister with his wife, supporting her in her ministry. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, watersports when he was younger, hiking and camping. He loved his senior social group at the Newry Church of God.

ST is survived by two daughters, Phyllis Durham and husband Bill of Easley and Marcia Harrell of Gastonia, NC; a son, Greg Scroggs and wife Marilyn of Anderson; son-in-law, Raymond Duane Harrell; grandchildren, Matthew Nix and wife Lindsay, Brandon Harrell and Morgan Floyd, Andrew Harrell, Weston Scroggs and wife Caitlan, Kyle Scroggs, and nephew, Tommy Sluder; great grandchildren, Colbi and Jaxon Scroggs, and Mattie, Evie and Olin Nix; and many nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, Evelyn; sisters, Irene Barton, Juanita Vickery, Ruth Johnson, Charlene Leopole, Ava Brush, and Betty Owens.

Funeral services will be held 2:00 PM Monday, January 14 at the Newry Church of God, 234 Newry Road, Seneca. Interment will follow at the Oconee Memorial Park.

The family will receive friends 2-4:00 PM Sunday, January 13 at the Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home, 108 Cross Creek Road, Central.

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