2006: The Year of Promise

December 30, 2006 by  
Filed under Events, Missions, News

In the beginning of 2006 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we declared 2006 the Year of Promise. It was natural then as the year began that we sought the Lord’s will in prayer and fasting to discover and possess the promises. As the months passed by the considerable amount of ministry overtook most of our time and attention. At times we held 3-4 services per day, an evening revival service, had just enough time to eat a meal, go to bed and prayerfully start the new day. But we never stopped wondering about the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Having spent over seven months of the year ministering all over the country of Bulgaria, at the end of 2006 we are in the process of evaluating our work, available resources and plans for the next year. We are reviewing the videos, going through the thousands of pictures, checking our reports, over viewing our rapidly growing ministry’s media presence, reevaluating our statistical information and ministry results and looking for the points of success and failure. Over 55,000 traveled miles, two and a half broken cars, multiple trips with airplanes, buses, trains and sometimes even on foot; close to a hundred congregations involved, tens of thousands of people touched through the internet, but most of all countless handshakes, prayers through laying of hands, encouraging words and always finding strength through the struggles to give to other. And as everything comes together at the end of the year, we slowly but surely realize that the Year of promise is not about us. It is not about a promise which God wanted to give to us, but it is about His promise which He wants delivered to the others. All ministry results are nothing, if His promises have not reached the people He loves. And sitting in the office with video, audio, photos, numbers charts, maps, analyzes, satisfaction from the much success and pain from the many failures, we come to the recognition of this one thing – we have been granted the privilege to bring the promises of God to the people whom He has loved from the foundation of the world. And this is the True Year of Promise.

Thus, our payer remains the same: “May God use us to bring His promises to the people around us.”

Happy New Years from all of us at Cup & Cross Ministries.

Christmas in Bulgaria

December 25, 2006 by  
Filed under Events

Although the Communist Regime outlawed the Christmas holiday for 45 years in Bulgaria, Christmas has always found a place in the hearts of the Bulgarian people. For centuries since the Bulgarian national conversion to Christianity in 864 AD Christmas has been a central Bulgarian holiday. As Orthodox Christianity is still the main religion in Bulgaria for many, Christmas has a Christian Orthodox accent including the Orthodox traditions and customs. Yet, the Bulgarian Protestant community has supported for the preservation of this Christian holiday especially during the time of the Communist persecution.

According to the Orthodox customs the Christmas holiday begins 40 days before the Christmas Eve. This time is called “Great Fasting” and is a time when no meat is eaten.

Christmas Eve is the end of the Great Fasting. On Christmas Eve the family has dinner together. The hostess prepares nine meals without meat. Some of them are: beans, vine or cabbage sarmi (vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice), stuffed peppers, pickles, walnuts, apples, honey, ushaf (a traditional Bulgarian meal prepared by boiling dried fruits), and round bread.

After the fast is over meat is served. Usually most of the Bulgarians eat pork chops, kebab and sausages. The kebab is prepared by cutting in small pieces the pork stewed with onions and pepper. The sausages are made of homemade minced pork.

Central for the Bulgarian Christmas dinner is the bantiza, which is a baked strudel like pastry filled with an egg and cheese mixture. A coin is put in it for luck. The oldest man in the family breaks the banitza and gives a piece everyone. The one who gets the piece with the coin in it is believed to be very wealthy in the New Year. The Christmas Eve table is not cleared until the following morning, a typical tradition to insure that there will be plenty of food in the coming year.

“Surovaknitza” is another typical Bulgarian Christmas tradition. The surovaknitza is made of a cornel stick/cudgel. It is pruned so that several branches remain on the two sides of it all along its length. Then the branches that are one against another (at the same level of the stick) are tied so that they form something like a round circle one half of which is at the left side and the other half is at the right side of the stick. Three or four such circles are formed on the length of the stick as the upper circles will be smaller and the lower circles will be wider. The circles and the stick are wrapped with woolen and cotton yarn (usually white and red). It is decorated with little balls made out of cotton, strings of popcorn, raisins, prunes, dried apple slices, dried peppers, etc.

The ready surovaknitza is used by the children to pat on the backs of their parents, grandparents, extended family, friends and any visitors in the house after the Christmas Eve. While patting, the kids say a wish for health, wealth, happiness and all the best to one patted. The patted person pays a dollar or five dollars to the child in order to receive a blessing in the New Year.

Around Christmas many Bulgarians celebrate their name days. It is almost like a birthday, except instead of a date the parson’s name is celebrated. This is usually done on the day of a particular saint after whom the person is named. For example:

December 4 – St. Barbara’s Day
December 6 – St. Nicholas’ Day (Nikoulden)
December 20 – St. Ignatius’ Day (Ignazhden)
January 1 – Vassil’s Day
January 6 – Epiphany – St. Jordan’s Day
January 7 – St. John’s Day (Ivanovden)

Another Christmas ritual is called Koleduvane. All the participants in it are men – bachelors, fiances and young men who have just married. This ritual group has its own name that differs from place to place and is connected with the region of the country – koledari, kolednitzi, koledare, etc. All the men choose their leader at St. Ignatius’ Day – he is called stanenik, usually an older man. The group has 10-15 persons. Each group includes younger boys (they are called cats), who walk around the houses and tell the hosts that the koledari are coming. The koledari wear old Bulgarian traditional clothing. They go round the houses in the village or in the town from midnight till dawn. On their way, in front of the gate and in the house they sing specific ritual songs. The songs differ from one another according to the place they are sung and the person they are dedicated to. As a whole, these songs are ritual wishes for happiness in the family and rich crop in the farm. The first song usually begins with this verse:

“Get up, get up dear host!
We are singing for you!
We have come to visit you,
We are good guests for you, koledari!”

The leader of the group carries in his hands the ring – shaped bun, which is a gift from the host. After the songs have been sung he tells a Christmas blessing:

“Let God grant you health
We have brought in your house revelry! “

Besides the ring–shaped bun the hosts present the koledari with money, meat, flour, wine, beans and bacon. This ritual ends up with a common feast. Every family has a Christmas tree in their home; some are decorated with electric lights, some with candles. The tree is usually decorated with ornaments purchased in the store, cotton balls to imitate snow and a star on the top. Gifts are placed under the tree.

Mission Maranatha in Revival

December 20, 2006 by  
Filed under Missions

Mission Maranatha, a Bulgarian local mission’s branch of Cup & Cross Ministries continues services at the Black Sea. Close to 100 revival services have been held during the past four months by various team members in the Black Sea towns of Ahtopol, Pomorie, Sinemoretz, Varna, Bourgas, Chernomoretz, Sinemoretz and Varvara. The mission’s attempt to establish a ground for future work in towns with no evangelical church presence has been rendered successful and we trust that the initiated strategy will be brought to completion in 2007.

Over 3,300 Receive Bible Verse

December 15, 2006 by  
Filed under News

Over 3,300 Bulgarians worldwide receive daily a Bible verse directly to their cell phones from the Christian mega portal www.bibliata.com. Similar active applications include the English website “Ecclesia”, the Australian Bible Society and the American mFaith and OSministry. The service offered by www.bibliata.com was initiated in 2002 and it has remained free of charge for all subscribes since then. The service is offered via the major Bulgarian GSM operators MTel and GloBul. Registration is done online at: sms.bibliata.com. There is also an option to receive the verse via email.

Services in South Carolina

December 10, 2006 by  
Filed under Events

We are excited to be able to hold services in the Carolinas again. While through its history our ministry has been closely connected to churches in this region of the country, we have been naturally unable to preach there during our term of ministry in Eastern Europe. The services in Anderson, La France and Pendleton reconnected us with our past history in ministry and reinforced our vision for the future. We are thankful for the given opportunity and the multitude of friends we were able to see once again.

Chaplain Dees Visits Bulgaria

December 5, 2006 by  
Filed under Events

The Director of Ministry to the Military, General Bob Dees and his team visited Bulgaria in November upon the invitation of the Bulgarian Ministry to Military and the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association. His visit included several key meetings among which were:
1. Lecturing at the Bulgarian Military Academy and meeting with the director of the academy, General-Major Manev.
2. Meeting with the Bulgarian Union of Retired Officers represented by director General-Lieutenant Topalov.
3. Meetings with Defense Ministry officials.

As a member of NATO, Bulgaria is already working on a strategy for implementing military chaplains. With Bulgaria’s acceptance in the European Union next month, this dream is getting close to its realization. With strategically offered chaplaincy training courses and non-government chaplaincy organizations, Bulgarian evangelicals remain the vanguard responding to the idea for military chaplaincy.

Ministering in Chicago

December 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Events

In November we were able to minister at the Bulgarian Church in Chicago. The Bulgarian Evangelical congregation there celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year since its registration as a Church of God congregation. The church is also the first Bulgarian congregation established and legally registered outside of Bulgaria since the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The Bulgarian Evangelical Church of God in Chicago has accomplished a lot in the past few years, making a stand for the faith. The congregation has experienced continuous growth and the pastor shared with us their long-term plans for purchasing additional building space in the future. We spoke about the problems of the congregation as a Bulgarian subculture and were able to share with the leadership some key ideas from our research among the Bulgarian Diaspora in North America and to provide structural solution to some of the problems they are experiencing in the ministry.