Bulgaria’s fall season has again become a colorful arrangement of political attitudes and campaigns toward the upcoming Presidential Elections on October 23, 2011. To add to the political theater at hand, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov thoughtfully scheduled the shooting of The Expendables 2 to take place in Sofia, Bulgaria a week before the elections.
Sylvester Stallone has been in Sofia for the past month or so, Dolph Lundgren for the past few days. Chuck Norris landed in Bulgaria last week, and now Bulgaria’s Prime Minister patiently is waiting for governor Schwarzenegger to arrive along with Bruce Willis before an official public meeting before the press with the star cast as part of his political campaign.
This time however, the nation’s political and ethnic tensions were rebirth anew after a civil unrest followed the death of two Gipsy boys in the village of Katunutza. The ruling party GERB was strongly criticized by its opponents for the way police handled the wave of protests that followed throughout the country.
Meanwhile, a total of 79 political parties and formations are already registered for the elections on October 23, 2011. Only seven of them are expected to have the necessary electorate to finish the race. They are as follows:
(1) GERB (Bul. “coat of arms”) the Bulgarian abbreviation means Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria took over the parliamentarian elections a few years back with the strong political figure of leader Boyko Borisov, who began his colorful career as fireman and personal bodyguard of ex. king Simeon and Bulgarian communist dictator of over 30 years Todor Zhivkov. Borisov became minister-general of Internal Affairs, mayor of Sofia and serves currently as Bulgaria’s Prime Minister. While he has not taken a much expected place as a presidential candidate, his political strategy has been strongly criticized by his opponents as inadequate and insufficient to answer Bulgaria’s current crises.
(2) BSP, the Bulgarian Socialist Party has followed a leftist communist trend for over a century now, being empowered by economic and structural recourses inherited by the Regime and Russia’s political strategies on the Balkans. Ruled in the triple coalition in the previous government mandate along with the party formed by the ex-king and Turkish minority, it has been represented in the past decade by current president with two consecutive mandates.
(3) Bulgaria’s Democratic Forces, a rightist party of 21 years is now lead by recognized evangelical Martin Dimitrov, but unofficially ruled by ex. prime minister Ivan Kostov. The party has again disappointed their supporters by being a small and inefficient political force, which remains in the periphery of Bulgaria’s political realm with small voting power and virtually no influence on government polices.
(4) NDSV (abr. National Movement for Stability and Progress) formed at the turn of the century by Simeon Saxe Coburg Gotha – Bulgaria’s ex-king returning after a 50-year exile. The party was a major political player since its coming to power in 2001, but has remained virtually uninvolved in recent years boxed by a political coffin created by both socialists and democrats after its last mandate ended. One of their activists, Mrs. Miglena Kuneva, currently serving as EU parliament deputy has launched a campaign as independent presidential candidate.
(5) ATAKA (Bulg. Attack) as always is absorbing the negative vote, which comes from the people disliking current government politics, socialism and minority parties. Their methods have been rightfully characterized as dangerous with extreme pro-Bulgarian chauvinism bordering nationalistic ideologies. The party was involved in a fire-related attack against the central mosque in Sofia and consecutively organized protests flaming ethnic and political unrest in the recent incidents at the village of Katuntza.
(6) RZS (abr. Order, Law and Justice) although keeping away from nationalistic ideologies, it resembles ATAKA, being a minor but scandalous political formation. RZS received sufficient vote in the last parliamentarian elections through presenting a series of compromising publications in major Bulgarian periodicals. These politics have been continued through RZS’s participation in government life, as the party was the first one to start its current campaign branded with the phrase “I’ll fire Boyko Borisov!”
(7) DPS (Bulg. Movement for Rights and Freedom) was formed on ethnic foundation of Bulgarian Turkish and Muslim population. It has remained the constant “balancer” in Bulgaria’s political life providing the necessary votes to one or another formation only to remain in power. DPS was blocked almost permanently after the last parliamentarian elections, but only until now when it is strongly entering Bulgaria’s political scene again.
After almost entering Bulgaria’s parliament in 1997, the Bulgarian Christian Coalition has again remained on the borderline of any political existence. Bulgarian evangelicals have never been able to reach their political legacy again, although the new Bulgarian census showed over 25% increase of evangelical population in Bulgaria to some 65,000 people strong. The alternative party, Christian Democratic Forum has showed no political activity since last election when it was defeated having only some 1,000 votes nationwide. The Bulgarian Christian Coalition has also chosen not to run in the presidential elections.
Celebrating 90 years since the first Pentecostal revival in Bulgaria
Exactly 400 years ago, the first King James Bible was printed in June, 1611. The first Bulgarian Bible was printed 140 years ago in June, 1871. The first Pentecostal Revival in Bulgaria took place between Easter and Pentecost of 1921. And finally, exactly 20 years the Pravetz youth group, where I had the privilege to begin my ministry, experienced a spiritual revival in which hundreds of young people were reached and saved.
To commemorate this great heritage, we undertook a historic revival tour during the month of June in Bulgaria. We started at the Black Sea with the momentous ordination of presbyters in the church of Aheloy – one of the few Church of God congregations with the original doctrine and practice. The special ordination service on Saturday night went on with prayer and praise, communion and foot washing until 2am.
Then on Sunday we gathered at 6:30am for prayer and followed with the morning service. We continued with services in Pravetz, where our youth group celebrated its 20-year anniversary, then at the church in Verdical near Sofia with a special foot washing and communion service, and finally in Sofia with a prophetic word to the Church of God in the Obelya suburb.
During our ministry in Bulgaria we often travel to the capital Sofia as the obligations of our ministry position necessitates that we minister there several times a month. Sofia has grown tremendously since we began ministering there in the early 90s. As a modern European capital it has drawn both investors and work force from many foreign countries and most of Bulgaria’s towns as well. The result is some 3 million people population, which account for about half of the Bulgarian nation, living and working in the capital Sofia.
Currently, the Bulgarian Church of God has three Bulgarian congregations active in the territory of Sofia, not counting the Roma Gipsy churches and the multiple home groups at various suburbs and locations. These congregations are: (1) Grace Church of God, (2) Crossroads Church of God and (3) Fire Church of God.
1. The Grace Church of God is the oldest active Bulgarian Church of God congregation in Sofia. It owns its own building built in the north suburbs of the city with substantial help of Church of God World Missions. This is the church that mostly resembles the old practices of the Bulgarian Church of God, often forgotten by the congregations of the new generation. Thus, the role of this church is important as a protector of the identity and praxis of the historical Church of God, which has been ministering in Bulgaria since 1928.
2. The Crossroads Church of God is a relatively new congregation envisioned and formed around the dawn of the century. The church was initially formed around the growing youth group of Sofia’s Central Church of God to give one centralized location in the capital, where both students and professionals can worship together. It averages about 100 people who rent an auditorium west of downtown Sofia once a week on Sunday night for their church service.
3. The Fire Church of God began just a few years ago in the downtown location where the Crossroads Church previously met. The congregation is small, but growing attracting with its ministry young and knowledgeable people from all walks of life. The people of the Fire Church recently renewed their monthly revival services with special focus on healing and miracles.
Returning to minster at the Fire Church of God in Sofia was a special event for our team. Many of the members there, as well as the pastor’s family, have been friends of ours and pastors in the ministry for a long time now. We have worked with Church of God Sofia regional overseer, Daniel Kirov and his team since 2002 when he first moved to Sofia with a vision to plant a church. Since then, his vision has become a reality in the capital as the Fire Church of God is one of the few active Church of God congregations in the largest metropolitan area in Bulgaria.
This time, we were able to focus on the new Bulgarian translation of the Bible, which we have now prepared for print, and present to the congregation an interactive Bible study from the Gospel of John. It was encouraging again to watch the small, but growing congregation, interpret the Bible corporately in a Bible study that enlightens the mind and transforms the soul. It was the way the Bible was intended to be read and interpreted, understood and lived – among true brothers and sisters.
We are just returning from a powerful weekend of teaching in Sofia. With temperatures below zero and snow covering the larger part of Bulgaria, we travelled to the capital city to minister at the Mission Church there. The church is only a couple of years old, but we have worked with the pastor and the leadership team for over a decade now as part of our Church of God ministry and the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association as well.
Since April, 2009 the Mission Church has had services in the heart of the Sofia metropolitan of some 2.5 million people living in it. The church started with a handful of folks and now has some 120 members in their regular meetings, a Bible school, home group program, arts program and a very powerful praise team and choir that have held several successful concerts already.
Our visit was connected with a series of lectures on New Testament interpretation at their Bible school and ministering in their Sunday service. Although the school has only 30 students, we felt a powerful presence during the lectures and were able to extend the material and connect on a more personal level with the students. Naturally, the Sunday service became a great continuation of what we had already completed with the students. During the first song of worship, a demon possessed man ran to the altars screaming and rolled on the ground, only to be delivered a few minutes later. Then, the preaching took the attention of the people in the congregation, followed by an alter service in which many rededicated their lives praying to God to bring them to a new spiritual level in their Christian walk. Along with the pastor and his family, we were blessed to observe the Word working within the people and changing their lives forever.
From ministering in the Ghetto, we traveled to the heart of the capital to preach at the First Assemblies of God in Sofia located in the downtown area of Sofia. This is the oldest Pentecostal church in town, which was established in the 1930s as a direct result of the Pentecostal revival which has swept through Bulgaria. Today, the church is pastured by Rev. Victor Virchev, who also currently serves as the President of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union. In recent years, the old building was remodeled to create a modern ministry center which serves as headquarters of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Union in its partnership with the Assemblies of God and has become an important religious symbol of Sofia in its downtown location. We ministered in the main service on Sunday morning and were able to present Pastor Virchev with a copy of the revised Constantinople Bible, which our ministry published in the beginning of 2009.
The Gipsy ghetto of Phakulteta is located in the northeast side of the capital Sofia with a population of some 120,000 people, which makes it larger than the average Bulgarian town. It comprises a substantial part of the population of Sofia, which now numbers over two million people. In recent years, Phakulteta has been a place of ethnic tensions produced in the middle of extreme poverty and the war of local crime clans which rule the area.
There, we have focused our ministry efforts in the past several years through regular preaching, prayer meetings, and leadership seminars for pastors, youth rallies and music fests. As many have noticed in the recent months while we have ministered at the Life Church of God in the Sofia gipsy ghetto, the extremeness of the context in which we minister there and the deep needs of the people, often draw the attention of God with powerful anointing and supernatural miracles. However, this last service was so powerful in the Spirit that it put all present on their knees for prayer in the alter service which followed the message. We were able to broadcast live the event and we are grateful that video recorded from the service can be now watched by many showing the heavy presence of the Holy Spirit, which no words can truly describe. We are scheduled to return to Philpovtsy soon for a series of revival services, which will reunite the local churches in a regional seminar on Last Day Prophecy.
The Liberty Leadership Seminar is beginning in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia under the teaching of Cup & Cross Ministries and partnering churches. This year the seminar will be held at the Elitsa Conference Center on the very top of the Vitosha Mountain which overlooks Sofia. The seminar is a week-long training event, which purposes the equipping of pastors and lay leaders within the Bulgarian Church of God. The seminar will be broadcasted LIVE on the internet according to the following schedule:
July 3, 2009 12:00 PM ET: Opening Ceremony
July 4, 2009 7:00 AM ET: Liberty Leadership Seminar
July 5, 2009 2:00 AM ET: Morning Prayer Service
July 5, 2009 12:30 PM ET: Sunday Evening Worship
July 8, 2009 12:00 PM ET: Closing Events
Follow Cup & Cross on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bibliata
Watch Cup & Cross LIVE on uStream.TV: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bibliata
We returned from yet another exciting trip to Sofia where we ministered at the Central Church of God with pastor Pavel Ignatov. After a six year building program, the church is now equipped with a new multifunctional center. Although this is not our first service there, we were amazed again how the new building enhances the ministry of the church through its multiple ministry applications.
To begin with, the location of the new worship center is close to downtown Sofia. This is important because as the capital of Bulgaria, the city has experienced an escalated growth in the past ten years reaching a population of over two million. The Central Church of God is conveniently located at the very heart of the metropolis as at the same time it is close to the main roads, which can easily lead to the city loop and out of the city.
The convenient setting provides for a multitude of ministries. For example, the social center in the new building daily provides lunch for a large number of elderly people whose pensions of a limited amount are not sufficient for all expenses of a life in the big city. The food is delivered to them fresh at the same time every day and is free of charge.
The church’s center is also used for a number of conferences and church leadership meetings. Just in the past several weeks along with the regular services, they have completed a revival, Christian Advocates conference, youth rally, ministerial training course, national advisory meetings and a great number of weddings (normal for this time of the year in Bulgaria). The congregation is currently planning a nationwide evangelization meeting for the beginning of November.
The service we held at the Central Church of God was encouraging for us. At first, the large auditorium with over 1,000 seats looked a bit empty due to Sofia’s main streets being blocked for a city marathon. Yet, soon after the worship team began, the auditorium filled up as people continued to arrive until the end of the sermon. At the end of the service, we asked the congregation to join us at the altar and pray with us a special prayer for the unity of Bulgarian Pentecostals. The final benediction urged the church that revival must go on, but this would only happened if the people of God stand as one.