It is Missions week in Bulgaria following Thanksgiving. A time to meet with Bulgarian missionaries who travel abroad, discuss their needs and pray for the success of their respective ministries. Our Thanksgiving weekend involved a ministry team retreat in the Balkan Mountains as part of the education program initiated several months ago by our Bible School initiative for the Bulgarian Church of God. As usual, this event was dedicated to training young ministers and their teams and this time the focus of our meeting was missions. Ministry teams represented the Plovdiv, Yambol and Sliven regions. A missionary from Spain was also present for the training.
Keynote speaker of the event was the president of the Bulgarian Missionary Network (BMN), Rev. Ivo Shatrovsky, who shared his calling from God for missions and a personal vision for Bulgarian missions abroad. In his address, he presented several valuable lessons he has learned in his own missionary experience in the West Indies. Two workshops on the topics of Conflict Resolution and Structuring for Growth were further presented by our team. And while various activities were taking place in the midst of extensive discussions, sharing on the part of the missionaries and strategic planning for the future of the represented regions, the time of fellowship turned to a prayerful reflection on God’s calling upon our own lives.
For the mission of the church cannot exist apart from God. It is a calling, not merely a career. It is a cost, not simply a concern. It is a burden, not just a belief. Its focus is care and compassion. And yes, even in the 21st century, it still remains a Holy Ghost uttering, through which one remains blind for the world around until obeying to the vision of heaven (Acts 26:19) and begins seeing the world through the eyes of the Savior.
NEWS – Week 31 – March 18-24, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria:
This morning Bulgaria woke up covered with snow. The temperatures are in the 20s, but the weather is expected to be very warm by the end of the week. This is a usual March weather for Bulgaria.
On Thursday and Friday I traveled to the Yambol area where several churches are in revival. We had a really good time rejoicing in the Lord. The trip coming back was more difficult as a strike of 10,000 Bulgarians had gathered in downtown Sofia to protest against the politics of the present government. None of the politicians at the Bulgarian Parliament came out to speak with the crowd, which stayed for hours under the pouring rain. This is perhaps only the first of many strikes, which are expected to follow.
On Saturday, March 23 the ministers of the Sofia region gathered together at the Bulina Livada Church of God to take important decisions on the development and the future of the region. The Sofia region includes 1/3 of the total membership of the Bulgarian Church of God and extends to an area of approximately 20,000 sq. km. The Sofia region includes 37 churches and more than 5,000 members.
A new strategy was developed for providing for the needs of the churches, and a regional government was elected. It included 14 men plus the regional overseer. Among them were elected men to work with the Roma communities in the region, Social Work Regional Pastor, Evangelism Regional Director and Educational Regional Director.
I was elected for the position of Educational Regional director for the Sofia region. This election comes in time with the organization of the first of its kind round table for Evangelicals. It will occur on March 29, 2002 in the Aula of the University of Sofia as Orthodox and Protestant scholars and pastors will present lectures on “The Influence of the Protestant Missionaries for the Spiritual Upbringing and Political Liberation of the Bulgarian Nation.”
NEWS – Week 30 – March 12-17, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria:
This Sunday marks the 50 days (actually 7 weeks) before the Orthodox Easter (Easter in Bulgaria this year will be on May 5th). This also marks the beginning of the Easter fast which starts on Monday. As an old national custom tonight every household in Bulgaria gets together and has a nice big dinner in preparation for the fasts. The tradition also includes a request for forgiveness from relatives, friends and enemies. While as Protestants we do not observe the Orthodox holidays, in our church today we did request forgiveness for our mistakes, errors and sin. We had a wonderful time of seeking the Lord, worshiping and calling upon Him.
The week was exciting for our ministries. I finished teaching the three-weeks systematic theology module at the Department of Pentecostal Studies at the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute in Sofia. I praise the Lord for this opportunity and the successes of the students. Our studies on Pneumatology, Ecclesiology and Eschatology ended with a revival service that moved from Sofia to the Pravetz Church of God, where we went with 2 vans loaded with students and ministered to the people there.
On another note, Pastor Doneva just came back from Yambol on Friday, where they had revival services with prayer and fasting at the churches she pastors. The church in the village of Polyana, where they shot at Mom and her team, officially reopened for services. Filled with great joy the people have restored the building to its original state and are having three services a day. I am planning to travel there this week and participate in the revival, which is going on there.
NEWS – Week 29 – March 4-11, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria:
Our ministry was again mentioned in the chaplaincy report Church of God Chaplaincy Commission. However, the best news is that the church, which I asked you to pray for, has its building back. Not only that the man who wanted it gave up on the idea, but he and the mayor will personally give the keys to the congregation this week. My mother is traveling tomorrow for the service at which this will be done. We are praying that the church will have the opportunity to purchase the building for the price at which it was originally offered.
Again I had the opportunity to speak 19 times this past week. It has been a time of self-examination and consecration as the whole institute, students, teachers and administration have devoted ourselves to prayer and fasting through the week. The time of seeking God continues as more pray for afresh anointing, power from above and a vision of the glory of God. We are also planning a trip to Pravetz on Thursday, with some 10 students who have had a desire in their hearts to travel with me.
NEWS – Week 28 February 24 – March 3, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria:
What an exciting week we have had. Our ministry has found place in the reports of both Church of God World Missions, the Church of God Chaplaincy Commission and the Church of God FaithNews Network.
This week I began teaching Systematic Theology in the Department of Pentecostal Studies at the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute. This week we had three lectures a day on the subject of Pneumotology. The class ended with a debate on 1 Corinthians 14 on Friday in which professors and first, second and third year students participated.
We also had a wonderful service on Wednesday as I perched a sermon called “… and don’t’ you be afraid.” The altar call lasted for more than an hour as we ministered to the people with needs. On Thursday we again traveled to the town of Pravetz and held a service in the Church of God there. On Saturday our crusade services continued. I preached a sermon called, “There is power.” Although the attendance was a bit law due to the soccer game in town, we had a very good service as many pastors from Sofia attended with their families and congregations.
So far I have preached 50 times this year and have spoken 19 times only this past week. I am physically exhausted, but I rejoice in the Lord for what He is doing and I personally feel fulfilled in what I am doing.
My mother Eva Doneva traveled to her churches and gathered the congregations for a three-day of fasting and prayer. They received good results on one of the buildings they wanted to purchase for a church auditorium. The men who pretended for the building, has brought them the keys of the building himself. He declared that he does not wish to purchase the building any longer and that they can use it for their services. The mayor has approved this settlement and now the church in Polyana has a real opportunity to buy the building for a church.
NEWS – Week 27 February 16-23, 2002 Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria:
Indeed this is a report of a blessed week. We had a very successful Chaplaincy Seminar with the participation of Dr. Crick and Dr. Popejoy from Cleveland, TN. More than 60 people attended and listened to the lectures during the week. These were people actively involved in military, hospital and prison ministries, students and church members. The seminar helped greatly and was a stepping-stone for the development of the Chaplaincy Ministry in Bulgaria, and served as a beginning point of the structural development of the department of chaplaincy and caregivers in the Bulgarian Church of God.
I also must report and outstanding outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the Wednesday evening service as we finished the expository preaching on the Epistle to the Galatians. At the altars people prayed and cried out to God for hours. Some were slain in the Spirit, and several reported that they were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
A National Presbyters Meeting was held in Sofia on Saturday with the purposes of electing a new central leadership of the Bulgarian Church of God. Pastor Pavel Ignatov was reelected for a National Overseer. A significant detail of the meeting was the election of two assistants to the national overseers instead of one. This was done with the purposes of larger representation of the minority groups within the church (Roma, Gipsy, Turks, Pomaks, etc.). Again for the purposes of equal representation the same reason 2 Roma people were added to the 11 members of the Presbyters Council. Total of 269 pastors and deacons were present and represented 25,422 members of the Bulgarian Church of God.
I was able to prepare small 40-page booklets with the 20 Sunday School lessons in a 6,000 circulation. The books were freely distributed to all ministers present at the meeting.
NEWS – Week 25 – February 3-10, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria: The new crusade/evangelization Saturday service was given an extraordinary start. The meeting was held in an auditorium called “The Bulgarian-Soviet Comradeship” in the building of what used to be called the Russian Club, a building used by the Communist party before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This past Saturday a great more than 340 attended a Pentecostal worship service there. The crusade meetings purpose to gather predominantly teenagers and young families and provide for them Christian fellowship on Saturday. It offers a more alternative style of worship and preaching that targets specific needs and problems of the young people. On Sunday we held a Communion service in the Pravetz Church of God. There, the more traditional for the Bulgarian Church of God style of taking Communion is still preserved, as it includes foot washing and a special prayer for the sick with anointing. After the service two reported instant healing. More than 40 attended, and I am personally encouraged by the church that is being revived by God before my very eyes.
NEWS – Week 24 – January 17-February 2, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings from Bulgaria:
What an exciting and busy week. On Tuesday our regular service for English-speaking people met with great success. On Wednesday we started the service with a new worship team of seven musicians and singers and then I preached on Galatians chapter three. During the altar service we witnessed a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit as many cried, prayed and received miracles from God. On Friday a service was held in the town of Kustendil, about 100 miles south of Sofia in the Bulgarian part of Macedonia. Several at the meeting reported deliverance from the influence of demons. On Sunday the lesson was on “Ministries and Praxis.” The afternoon service in Pravetz was good as many attended from the towns and villages around.
Another good report came from the small village in the Rodopi Mountains (Southern Bulgaria). The village is close to the Turkish border and it is completely Muslim. The only three Christian converts were Pentecostal. In the beginning of this week they were approached by the Muslim imam (local chief of the town mosque), who asked them of their faith. As they explained what they believed, the imam who was in a wheel chair said, “If your God is real he can heal me now, can’t He?” The Christians prayed for him right on the small city squire in front of the mosque and the village people. The imam was instantly and completely healed. It was reported that by the end of the week the mosque was closed because no one attended any longer.
At 5 p.m. on February 9 we are planning a large non-denominational evangelization crusade at the Auditorium of the Bulgarian-Russian Friendship, a building that during the Regime was used for youth meetings Communist Party. It has only 400 seats but we expect many more to attend.
NEWS – Week 23 – January 21-27, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
The pope will also visit Bulgaria in May, a week after he turns 82. That trip will be part of his efforts to improve relations with Orthodox Christians, a visit the Vatican hopes will pave the way for a hoped-for trip to Russia. Church officials are also discussing possible trips this year to Belarus and Croatia and a possible stop in the summer in John Paul’s native Poland. Italian press reports suggested that the pope has expressed a desire to visit Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in New York. The Vatican, however, said such a stop was not under consideration.
On Sunday, the Bulgarian Church of God called its ordained ministers in Sofia city and the area. More than 30 churches were represented by their pastors and deacons. Seven of them are newly started. A total membership of 4, 594 was reported for the churches from the denomination in the Sofia area which has an approximate population of 1,5 million people. Compared to the past 5 years, the membership in the Sofia area has doubled and it now represents almost 27% of the membership of the Bulgarian Church of God nationwide. Only 4 of these churches have their own building, while the rest are renting auditoriums in all regions of the city. A decision was taken to begin crusade meetings on Saturday afternoon for evangelization purposes.
NEWS – Week 22 – January 13-20, 2002 – Sofia, BULGARIA
Greetings form Bulgaria:
Just wanted to report with a great joy a few new developments in the ministry here in Sofia. On Mondays we have a home group that meats in a suburb of Sofia and studies Pentecostal events and practices in the Bible. On Tuesday we started an English speaking service for foreign students and immigrants who go to our church, but needed some special pastoral care in a language they could understand without any problems.
After finishing the expository series on the book of Revelations, I started a new one on Galatians on Wednesday. The series contain 6 lessons, one on each chapter.
On Thursday nights as well as Sunday afternoons, I have been traveling to the town of Pravetz, where I am now pastoring the local church since the leave of the pastor last December. Pravetz has been on my heart as the town where I preached my first sermon and received my first assignment with the Church of God as a youth pastor in 1990-1993. The church experienced revival in the spring of 1991 and more than 200 young people were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately after 1995 the revival quieted down as many of the students graduated and left town.
This past Sunday Pastor Pavel Ignatov and myself traveled to Pravetz together for a coordinating meeting with pastors and members from the area. In the small upper room 64 were present not only from Pravetz but also from the towns of Botevegrad, Yablanitza, Etropole and I brought a short message on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, after which we had prayer for healing. People were coming to the front crying and kneeling wherever they found a place to receive prayer by the pastors. There was hardly any room to walk around the pulpit, as God poured out His Spirit and many were touched.
The Sunday School Pilot program is also continuing and increasing its influence. We have reached the number of 15 thematic Bible lessons, as more than 28,000 individual copies have been distributed. Beside in the more than 50 local churches, the lessons are now taught also in the Sunday morning service at the Central Prison in Sofia. This past week, I turned the lessons in for editing and publication as a book. Meanwhile, some of them have been reprinted in different magazines.
In March, I will be teaching three seminars in the Systematic Theology class at the Bulgarian Theological Evangelical Institute in Sofia. The seminars will be on the topics of Ecclesiology, Pneumatology and Eschatology. This coming Friday morning, I am also giving a brief lecture on Preservation of Pentecostal Primitivism.
Finally, an article, which I wrote in 1999 about the first Bulgarian graduate from Harvard University, will be published in the February/March issue of the “Bulgarian Theology” scholarly magazine.
For all of the above I praise the Lord with all my heart. I thank you for your continuous support, Please pray for us.