Bulgarian Churches in North America results from a comprehensive dissertation work on emerging Bulgarian American congregations. The book incorporates some twenty years of research, which the author began while involved with the establishment of the first Bulgarian Church of God in North America initially located in the city of Chicago. The work presents an overview of the historical presuppositions and immigrant dynamics associated with Bulgarian churches is offered to enlighten the current problem of ministry. Next, a detailed contextual analysis describes the churches participating in the project. The project model design explains the research methodology and the study’s findings, which provide the first ever statistical overview of Bulgarian American congregations. The work concludes with a series of prognoses of the explored movement of evangelical churches, various considerations and an A-to-Z church planting proposal to serve as a paradigm for ministry and church planting among Bulgarian immigrant communities in North America.
With the Annual Conference of Bulgarian Churches in North America being just around the corner, we were invited to minister with the Bulgarian Church of God in Chicago. Last year we were able to hold a weekend training event for their leadership as well as to assist them in the area of web development as a cyber platform for their church. In postmodernity it is ever important that the church has a voice in every field of ministry. Since then they have been able to broadcast their services LIVE which have been viewed by Bulgarian in the States and abroad.
This year we were also able to meet with their web development and pastoral team to offer further suggestions of how to better implement and modernize their church website to more effectively meet their unique needs. Being directed by the Spirit under the leadership of Pastor Vladimir Georgiev, the church has witnessed tremendous success. They are currently in a building project to expand their existing building to accommodate this new growth. It is our prayer that the Lord continues to bless the efforts of the New Life Bulgarian Church of God in Chicago. We were also able to minister at the Bulgarian Baptist Church before we left the Windy City.
This is the story of the first Bulgarian Church of God established in the Untied States. The church was started in the building of the Narragansett Church of God in Chicago which at the time was pastored by Rev. Sean O’Neal. Led by a dynamic cross-cultural vision, the congregation expanded in several ethnic branches. Using a strategy home mission’s approach the church soon became an important religious center for the Chicago metro.
In December 1994, the Lord led me to participate in a step-mission trip to Chicago organized by the students of East Coast Bible College. As preparations were made we learned of several Bulgarians who attend the Narragansett Church of God in Chicago. Unfortunately, they had been hurt by some Bulgarian ministers who had visited them before and were very suspicious of any organized church work. Yet, I was introduced to them and was able to minister to them in several services.
By the end of our mission trip Pastor O’Neal invited me to join him in his attempt to begin a Bulgarian church in the city. Although at this time Chicago was a center for more than 12,000 Bulgarian immigrants no one had attempted to start a Bulgarian Protestant church.
After much prayer I arrived in Chicago on May 27, 1995. In the remaining part of May we created a strategy to reach as many Bulgarians as possible. This included visitation of families, attending Bulgarians social functions, and establishing contact with several Bulgarian organizations active in the Chicago area such as the Bulgarian Club and the Orthodox Church. In June we executed this plan with much success. During this time I lived with a Bulgarian family and slept on the balcony of their apartment on Jackson Boulevard. Often, I had to spend the night in the church building as well. But the most important thing was to carry the vision to the end.
On July 9, 1995 the first organized Bulgarian Church of God was established in Chicago city. I was privileged to preach on the subject of forgiveness as 10 Bulgarians attended. Little I knew that in the years to come much forgiveness will be needed as the church will be torn apart by deep bitterness, personal ambitions, frequent confusion and lack of mission. Yet, while the works of men fails, the work of God remains.
By the end of the summer of 1995 the Bulgarian Church in Chicago had grown to 42 people. Thanks to the faithful and united work of Bulgarians and Americans in the fall of the same year the number was 64. On October 7, 1995, I was able to visit the church in Chicago again and present it to the National Overseer of the Bulgarian Church of God, Pastor Pavel Ignatov who visited the church for the first time. The church became not only the first officially registered Bulgarian Pentecostal congregation in the United States, but also an important social and educational center able to minister to the 100,000 Bulgarians that live in the Great Lake region today.
Called to another mission, I left Chicago on July 30, 1995. The church bulletin upon my departure under Farewell and Appreciation read: “Today we are saying thank you to Dony for a job well done this past summer. He has served our church faithfully, and has been a tremendous blessing to Narragansett Ministries. Immediately following worship this morning, there is a dinner in Dony’s honor in the fellowship hall. And everyone is invited to attend.”
The church congregation presented me with a plaque that represented my efforts and work in Chicago. But for me, this plaque represents much more. It represents the prayers and the vision of many who are continuing the work today, establishing and leading Bulgarian churches around the world to providing pastoral care for many who have left the homeland in search for a better life. To these ministers goes my personal token of appreciation and thanks, “Well done thou good and faithful … “