Thankful the Wall Came Down

November 30, 2009 by  
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wall-downNovember 10, 2009 marked the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which became a milestone to the fall of the communist regime in Eastern Europe. For those living under the regime, it was more than just a historical date of a physical structure falling. For those being persecuted for their faith, it was a spiritual wall of bondage that fell that day.

The fall of communism meant no longer having to be underground, no longer having to hide your faith, and no longer having to be in fear. Today, 20 years latter in this month of Thanksgiving, we are thankful to be able to live in a democratic Bulgaria where we can freely thank the Lord for His many blessings. We are thankful for church prayer meetings now being an open practice and the church being free to communicate with our Heavenly Father; for without communication there is no unification. In unity with Christ, we are stronger than any oppressive spirit.

We are thankful that we are unified with Christ under His hand of protection, in order that we may live out our purpose in life that we learn through Him. We find our direction through His Word and this Word brings freedom within and about us. We are thankful for this freedom in which we find purpose. With this purpose we find hope and with this hope we are able to fulfill the Heaving calling on our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009 from all of us at Cup and Cross Ministries International in Bulgaria

Rebuilding the Walls in Stara Zagora

November 25, 2009 by  
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mesiq-21-11-09-139This month the city of Stara Zagora remains in the focus of our ministry, as our travels across Bulgaria took us there several times. First, we were present at the opening of the new auditorium of the Apostolic Christian Center in the city, which has a special objective for ministering among the Romany Gipsy population of the region. Then, we were blessed to return to the Awakening Church of God in Stara Zagora for a powerful and blessed Sunday morning service. And finally, we were invited for a city-wide youth rally with all local congregations in attendance.

Our team held our first Mega Youth Rally in Stara Zagora over three years ago. It was a service one can never forget, for the presence of God was so heavy, that people literally left puddles of tears on the floors at the altar. We have often asked ourselves since then, why the Spirit had such a grave burden for Stara Zagora, expressed through the tears of the young people in attendance. But God had even more in store for this year.

Youth groups with their leaders representing some dozen churches came to the meeting this past Saturday evening. These were church from Stara Zagora and the surrounding villages, as well as from the cities of Plovdiv, Kazanlak, Chirpan and Radnevo. People kept on coming until the building of the hosting Messiah Church was literally slam packed. We delivered a message from the Book of Nehemiah on “Rebuilding the Walls of the Church.” The Word was essentially connected to the historical development of the church context in Stara Zagora, challenging the young people to advance to a new level of their vision filled life, Biblical holiness and unity in the Spirit. What a thrill it is to see God rising a new generation of young people out of the valley of dry bones of the past!

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He Remains the Same in Stara Zagora

November 20, 2009 by  
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stara-zagora-church-of-godThis past Sunday we were able to return to the Awakening Church of God in Stara Zagora with Pastor Jimmy Luchev. Last year, when we ministered together again, we were lead by the Holy Spirit to deliver the words “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with them”. This time we went to Stara Zagora under the same anointing and preached a message entitled “He remains the same”.

After the Word, all in service gathered at the alter. It was a time of peace and contemplation, as a special prayer of healing was given over the people. Although the church was full, there were several families absent due to the flu epidemic which has spread across the country effecting over 175, 000 people with 8 deaths already accounted for. But during this time when the government is closing down schools and people are wearing masks for health reasons, the Lord’s healing power remains the same and we are reminded of His promise that He will protect His people and “it shall be well with them”. We ask that you and your church continue to pray for Bulgaria during this time for a special hedge of protection during these cold months awaiting us.

Among all these dynamics, we were encouraged powerfully by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our meetings. After all the changes and transformations the Stara Zagora church has gone through during years past, it was encouraging that God remains the same. The people who are faithful to Him can trust in His ever-sameness with their lives and future, for His promises to us change not. Our team is planning to return to Stara Zagora before the end of the month for the next leg of our National Mega Youth Rally in Bulgaria.


Speaking at the Annual Conference of the Bulgarian Christian Student Union in Lyaskovets

November 15, 2009 by  
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lyaskovetsOn October 25, 2009 after ministering in the morning service of the Gabrovo Church of God, we traveled to Lyaskovets near Veliko Tarnovo to minister at the annual national conference of the Bulgarian Christian Student Union. The main speaker of the conference was the National Student Coordinator of the Macedonian movement, Nicolas Galevska. Other speakers included, Dr. Benjamin Peev, Zefian Nicholas from Albania, Petyo Valkov, Trife Trifonov and Dr. Dony Donev.

Dr. Donev spoke on “ChristSpace: How to Revolutionize the Internet for Christ”. The well attended session covered various topics on how to minister using the internet with special focus on the growing influence of the social networking movement and upcoming release of Google Wave. A time for questions and answer was left as a round table discussion at the end of the meeting. All present were given a souvenir ring with our website “Bibliata.TV” and encouraged to create and upload their Christian videos to this site using any camera capabilities they may have. We are thankful for the local church team who attended and filmed the event, for their work is essential for the future development for the newly started Church of God congregation in Veliko Tarnovo, where we ministered also before leaving.

The Berlin Wall in our Minds

November 10, 2009 by  
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berlin-wall-19891Europe is celebrating the 20th anniversary from the Fall of the Berlin Wall – an event that has changed forever the course of modern history. For us it was more than a miracle to see how people gathered together free from fear of persecution to celebrate the Resurrected Christ. It almost seemed like they celebrated their own resurrection, the resurrection of the Bulgarian Church of God, from the years of trials and persecutions under the Communist Regime.

But 20 years after its fall, the Berlin Wall still stands tall in the eastern European mindset. This is especially true for the country of Bulgaria and the evangelical churches operating on its territory. The Bulgarian Pentecostal Movement has experienced more structural and leadership difficulties in the past decade, than they have in their almost centennial existence. The post-totalitarian model of church leadership had a destructive aftereffect on the two major wings of the movement, as the historically more independent Bulgarian Church of God has experienced a series of biannual splits in the past six years, while the Assemblies of God represented in Bulgaria by the Pentecostal Union Churches is undergoing leadership changes which will leave their mark on its identity as a movement.

The context of ministry is becoming even more accelerant in light of the first 100 days of the new center-rightist Bulgarian government, proposing even newer changes in the religious laws of the country which will limit the government registration only to churches who can prove a membership over 5,000 people. This limit may become unreachable as many church members are among the 4 million Bulgarians who in the past decade have left the country in search of work and a better life and now reside in Western Europe or the United States. If such legal change indeed occurs, more red tape is coming in Bulgaria against the preaching of the Gospel, religious education and faith as a whole, which will be put under the authority of a government religious council upon the recommendation of the European Union and after the Eastern Orthodox monopolistic paradigm of the Russian Federation.

The three local church models which comprise the Bulgarian Evangelical Movement are not ready to face this new brutal attack against their religious freedom. The small village churches, led mostly by mission representatives sent by larger church communities, often waver between different denominations, which results to doubling and some times tripling their registrations thus becoming an easy first target to any new government restrictions.

Over half of the midsize city churches (70-95 members) have emerged after a church split, which has remained as an unfortunate part of their identity, which reoccurs in their life and ministry. This process is valid in both Bulgarian and other ethnic communities in the country with an emphasis on the Roma Gipsy churches. The result is more small and weakened churches or even home group communities who never undergo normal church growth, thus remaining distant from the outside religious life and often closing themselves to a strangely sectarian existence.

Finally, a few nondenominational churches have retained their own evangelical identity leaving the mainstream denominations and continue to build relationships with sponsoring religious organizations outside of Bulgaria. Having gained financial and leadership independency, they have been successful to complete their building projects and enjoy temporary autonomy. Thus, a dozen of large Bulgarian congregations with several hundred in attendance, located in the capital Sofia, the Danube River city of Rousse, the Black Sea ports of Bourgas and Varna and the industrial towns of Plovdiv and Stara Zagora, have undertaken building projects perhaps as more of a business opportunity. But the aftereffect of their bi-decadal efforts, have shifted their focus from ministry toward building ministry centers and have left their financial resources drained and their supporters demotivated in the midst of global economic crises. And so the Wall remains in the mindset and the crises within the identity of the Bulgarian evangelical believer.

Some two decades ago at the Berlin Wall, President Reagan turned to Soviet Prime Minister Michael Gorbachev with the words: “Tear this wall down …” But Gorbachev cannot help tear down the Wall in our minds. This part of the liberation of the human spirit, mind and soul still remains in the perimeter of God’s grace for human salvation. The answer for global crises lies in the spiritual laws set by God in the Bible that still stands strong as the standard for living. And most important of all: the focus of the Bulgarian Church must remain not in building projects or church split competitions, but in the Spirit given mission of salvation of eternal human souls. Pray for BULGARIA.

Convention 24: Using the Internet in Bulgarian Ministries

November 5, 2009 by  
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24-copyOn the 24th of October, 2009 in the city of Gabrovo, Cup and Cross along with Vasil Petrov Ministry organized the Bulgarian Ministries on the Internet Convention.  It consisted of a one-day specialized training for using the Internet in the ministry for pastors, ministers and their teams. The invitation for the conference was sent out to all churches across the country and the cities of Veliko Ternovo, Sevlievo, Gabrovo, Rousse, Varna, Yambol, Dimitrograd, Kurdjali, and Sofia responded representing the north-central, central, north-eastern, south-eastern, southern, and western parts of Bulgaria.

The first of these meetings was held in the building of the Bulgarian Church of God El Bethel from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm and was offered free of charge to all participants.  Speakers from Varna and Sofia were also invited to participate in the course to discuss topics including 1) Ministry benefits of the Internet, 2) How to transmit live worship through uStream.TV, 3) National Evangelical Internet Network (NEIM), 4) the use of Google Wave in the ministry, 5) Blogging for churches and pastors and finally 6) Public relations via the Internet and the Day of Open Doors in Bulgaria

This event was broadcasted live and watched by many more across the country and abroad.  The pre-released unedited footage of the lectures has already been viewed by over 400 people on our website Bibliata.TV.  We are expecting the editors cut of the convention to be ready for release by the beginning of November.


Day of Reformation in Bulgaria

November 1, 2009 by  
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press-conference-varnaOctober 31st is celebrated worldwide as Reformation Day – the day when Dr. Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral. The day is reserved in the Bulgarian national calendar as a holiday for the Bulgarian Church of God. Traditionally, Evangelical churches across the nation mark it as “Day of Open Doors,” but this year, the special celebration was accompanied by the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin and the centennial anniversary of the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance (a.k.a Bulgarian Evangelical Churches). As churches across the country opened the doors of their sanctuaries and toured visitors of all walks of life, we traveled to Bulgaria’s largest port city of Varna for a national press conference at the prestige Festival and Congress Center located in the city’s Black Sea garden. Journalists from various medias who were present posted the news of some 150, 000 Bulgarian protestants nationwide. The press conference was followed by a Mega Youth service in the building of the First Baptist Church of Varna, where youth from all protestant denominations in town were present for an explosive worship lead by the First Assemblies of God praise team and a lecture by our team on the subject of “Reformation for Today.”