Celebrating 30 Years in America

I received my first visa for the United States exactly 30 years ago, after a meeting with Dr. Lovell R. Cary and Bobby G. Ross. My interview was consecutively scheduled for the day before Christmas, December 23, 1993. Because of the short time, it was conducted and approved personally by the head consular at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia. The cost of the visa was $23. I had only $18 in my pocket. If five bucks had ever made a bigger difference in my life…

I landed in New York late one cold, snowy, January night. Being barely 19 at the time (fixing to be 50 now), I had recently watched Home Alone: Lost in New York. Landing over the brightly lit Manhattan was just like in the movie. The feeling was indescribable.

The first person I spoke with on American land was of course the customs officer. Having reviewed my student visa issued for East Coast Bible College, he suddenly went on an endless rant about how bad Bible colleges are, what is done to students in secret, and how they often operate as a cult. Just now, 30 years later, I am making the connection that as a law enforcement officer, he may have been influenced by the recent David Coresh incident. With this sour taste in my mouth, a blizzard outside and too late to catch even the red-eye flight, I somehow managed to book a hotel for the night and flight for the next morning.

I went under the slow falling snow outside the JFK terminal to wait for the hotel shuttle, only to find myself next to a distinguished lady with a long fur coat waiting for her limo – a NY type, as I am reflecting now from the distance of time. She asked if this was my first time in America – must have been that obvious. And when I affirmed, she pulled a dime out of her pocket, placed it in my hand and to my greatest surprise asked if I knew what it says. I had enough Latin under my belt to tell her the meaning of E Pluribus Unum, to which she replied, “Welcome to America! All of us have come here from somewhere.”

And so, my journey began. Having preached multiple times a week in Bulgaria, my heart was burning to share my experience and message as for the first time in my life, I was seeing churches on virtually every corner. Let’s just say that in the mid-90s, most Pentecostal churches in the Bible Belt were not too eager to let in their pulpit a big Bulgarian with thick Balkan accent. Not much has changed to this regard in 30-years of course. But the ones who were willing are still friends to this very day. And though there have been many agendas for my life, I am still here, still preaching. And still planning to continue to do exactly the same. So, help me God!


CONFESSIONS of a Pentecostal Preacher

To Mark Alan
We know not why good people have to die,
but we do know we must tell their story…

Chapter I: Beyond the Church and into God

Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Be brave and upright that God may love thee.
Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death.
Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong.
That is your oath.
of Heaven (2005)


Separation of church from politics of false religiosity

The phone rang heavy and long. It was 4 AM in Bulgaria, but I was already up. A friend on the other end of the line was calling from South Carolina with a warning of some bad situation. The following morning, I was going to be contacted by the Director questioning why we were ministering in churches outside of our denomination.

The truth was we had ministered in some 300 local churches across the Balkan country of Bulgaria crossing all denominational boundaries and gathering youth from just about every confession. God had used us not only to reach and minister and to lead, but to step into an untouched spiritual realm, to undertake an unfamiliar ministry paradigm and to approach a brand new dimension of reality where He was to be the center of it all. And we had obeyed without questions. Now it was time to pay the price!

* * *

Our denomination, the one to which I remain both critically loyal and loyally critical, spreads over some five generations. Through its century old existence, the struggles and tension between theology and praxis has been in the center. And there, in the very essence of Pentecostalism itself, while some are always celebrating and being celebrated in the office or temple, others are always pushed in the periphery of normal life, hidden from the world behind closed doors and seeking a much deeper experience with God.

These modern day mystics are not only forgotten, but often forbidden. For their riot for righteousness cannot be conceived, contained and controlled by the religious norms of organized officiality. They speak as prophets to a world they so fervently try to escape from, about a reality that does not exist in the normal believer’s mindset. A stage of spirituality that cannot be preached without being lived in the social existence. And a relationship of God that goes far beyond common relationism and into God himself. That God, Who does not abide in offices and temples, but on the cross outside of the city walls…

But I knew nothing of this until that cold winter morning when the phone rang through darkness of the night. Knowing what is coming, rarely changes what we have done to get here.

7 Years in Bulgaria: CONFESSIONS of a Pentecostal Preacher
by Dony K. Donev, D.Min.
Upcoming Releases for United States