Bulgaria and the U.S. Sign Agreement

April 30, 2006 by  
Filed under Events

Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed Friday the agreement for the location of US military bases on the territory of the Black Sea country. Bulgaria and the US reached an agreement on the defense cooperation accord, including the conditions of the shared use of several military facilities on Bulgarian territory, at the end of March.Rice was in Sofia for the informal NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. In her words the agreement would further develop the cooperation between Sofia and Washington, which, she claims, would improve economic relations. “We are very happy to sign this accord,” said Rice at the signing ceremony. “It will enhance our cooperation with Bulgaria and strengthen our ability to operate in the region.” “This accord is a successful step in strengthening the cooperation with the US and it will serve the interests of both countries,” said Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin. “It will enhance Bulgaria’s security.”

Under the agreement the US will be able to use three Bulgarian military bases – the Novo Selo range and the Bezmer both near Bulgaria’s border with Turkey, and the Graf Ignatievo airfield in central Bulgaria. US forces will also use a storage facility near Bulgaria’s port of Burgas. As many as 3,000 soldiers can be deployed on short rotation in Bulgaria, which at some point may overlap and reach 5,000. The first US troops will arrive in 2007 and 2008. The agreement, which will be valid for 10 years, must be ratified by Bulgaria’s parliament. It provides mechanisms for bilateral consultations over the actions of the US forces in Bulgaria. Washington will also inform Sofia about the actions of the US army that concern the bases in Bulgaria. The bases will remain Bulgarian property and will be jointly operated by the US and Bulgarian militaries.

X The Event

April 25, 2006 by  
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We arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria with a vision for a youth event, which would become a Christian national phenomenon. Youth events for Christian teenagers are not rare in Bulgaria, as we have taken part in many of them in recent years. The difference in the approach we took this time was to establish a context where both Christian and non-Christian teenagers turn to the Bible and its moral values.Easter was the perfect time for such an event, as many teenagers now openly express their faith in God and attend church services. The event entitled “X” had no intention to change their views or convert their beliefs. It simply anticipated gathering youth for the celebration of a life time. By the time we were able to announce the event in the churches, and via the web and radio, everyone was asking, “What is X?”

“X” turned to be a three day festivity filled with praise, prayer and presentations leading to a deep spiritual transformation. It opened on Good Friday with a message and an extraordinary concert by a band called “Face 2 Face.” Saturday afternoon, the youth gathered again for a combined concert-presentation of Freedom Generation and one of our ministry websites, www.bibliata.com (The Bible). We were also able to provide food for over one hundred young people as many of them came directly from the gipsy ghetto. Saturday night ended with an extreme concert lead by a band by the name of “Extremum”. With the sound provided by a Christian company called “Clear Sound,” this suburb of Sofia will remember “X” for a long time. The Easter service was held three times; once at midnight, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We were able to minister in two of these services with an Easter message entitled, “The Alphabet of Life.” “X” was featured on the internet to become the first Bulgarian Christian live broadcast online.

Pravetz Lectures on Protestant History

April 20, 2006 by  
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I preached my first sermon 16 years ago in Pravetz, Bulgaria where a small group of Pentecostal believers had kept the faith during the long years of the Communist Regime. At that time, Pravetz was known as a stronghold of Communism where the Communist president who ruled Bulgaria for 36 years was born. It was there that the Lord called me for ministry and I saw and testified of how hundreds received the Lord as their personal Savior and their lives were transformed forever. We studied the Bible and practiced what we learned from its words. All night prayer meetings were a weekly event, and chain fasting almost never stopped. None of us knew or had ever experienced a genuine spiritual revival, yet deep inside ourselves we all wanted to be closer to God. Many, including school officials, did not receive our faith and openly tried to suppress its expression.

Sixteen years later, the Pravetz Computer Technical School I graduated from, invited us to lecture on the role of Protestant missionaries in Bulgaria’s national revival. We were able to present the lecture on April 17th along with other presentations and a small talk about career challenges. The students were eager to discuss their worldviews, faith and problems which they experience as young people. We urged to face the challenges in their lives, study and work hard and make a difference in the world around them. Consequently, we spoke with several teachers and met with the school’s director who discussed with us the upcoming celebration of the school’s 20th anniversary which will take place this summer.

Azusa Centennial Celebration

April 15, 2006 by  
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In cooperation with the Pentecostal Department on April 14, 2006 our team held a centennial celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street revival and the beginning of modern Pentecost. The celebration was held at the Bulgarian Evangelical Theological Institute with a series of lectures on the history and development of the Pentecostal Movement in North America and Bulgaria.

Two of the lectures were part of our published series on Bulgarian Protestant history, which is printed biweekly in one of the largest Bulgarian Christian medias, the Evangelical Newspaper. The first lecture dealt with the founding history of the Pentecostal Movement in Bulgaria while the second one spoke of the future dynamics within the Bulgarian evangelical churches in the context of postcommunist postmodernism. Pastors, professors and students present at the event agreed toward the organization of a larger event to celebrate Bulgarian Pentecostal heritage on the Day of Pentecost in the summer of 2006.

Chaplaincy Developments in Bulgaria

April 10, 2006 by  
Filed under News

Just days before US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice arrived in Bulgaria, our team was called to the ancient Bulgarian capital of Veliko Tarnovo where we met with the regional leaders of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. This was our second meeting with the Association which was officially introduced in 2005 at a similar national convention. We were asked to present the curriculum of a new chaplaincy class to be offered this fall as part of the Theological Institute’s masters program. The need of such education is well understood as the chaplaincy movement in Bulgaria is rapidly gaining influence in the context of Bulgaria-NATO relations. Eastern Orthodox circles are already talking about implementing their own priests into the new army structures, as the government is secretly subsidizing the building of Eastern Orthodox churches in at least two military schools. Meanwhile, active Evangelical chaplains were denied political defense in Brussels with the argument that the lack of legal procedure for training and implementing chaplains within military units, cannot be classified as restriction of religious freedom or intolerance toward Protestant ministers.

Nevertheless, such limitations can hardly limit the spreading wave of chaplaincy advocacy as many organized and independent groups are putting strong pressure for change. In March 2006, the Church of God in Bulgaria held a successful weekend seminar for prison chaplains which involved a number of Bulgarian prison directors. Subsequently, this week Nova TV aired an interview with a well-known evangelical chaplain who has worked for many years with the Sofia prison system. In this context, the chaplaincy meeting in Veliko Tarnovo was one more step closer to an adequate legal system allowing chaplaincy in Bulgaria and more specifically in the Bulgarian Army. We have also released a website dedicated to the work and ministry of the chaplain.

The reform within the Bulgarian Army anticipates the implementation of chaplains. As U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice finishes her visit in Bulgaria to ratify the agreement for NATO bases on Bulgarian soil, this long-expected opportunity for ministry within the Bulgarian Army may finally become a reality.

The Jesus Film for Children

April 5, 2006 by  
Filed under Media

The Jesus film for children premiered in Bulgaria in the beginning of April and so far it has been shown several thousand times. The film has met some resistance from Eastern Orthodox circles and nationalistic political representatives. Nevertheless, the overall presentation has gone better than expected as over 220,000 have seen the film in the movie theaters alone and close to 400,000 volumes of literature and DVD have been freely distributed.

New Wave Presentation

April 1, 2006 by  
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New Wave is an all-night Christian gathering for youth which meets every couple of months in different locations throughout Bulgaria. This time it was held in the largest auditorium in Bulgaria, the National Palace of Culture in the capital Sofia. Over 3,600 were present for an unforgettable night of praise, prayer, preaching and presentations. We were given a spot at 3:30 in the morning, when we spoke of the web ministry provided by one of our websites www.bibliata.com. In this early time of the morning, we sent a Bible verse via SMS to the cell phones of over 3,000 people many of whom were present in the auditorium. Our team presented the methodology and strategy of our internet ministry approach, accenting on the fact that although the method of delivery may change, the message must remain the same.