Sports and English camp in Svilengrad, Bulgaria Report Print

Sports and English camp in Svilengrad, Bulgaria Report

It was great to have a team of 9 people from a church in New Jersey, USA region to work with the local church in Svilengrad from the 25th July – 5th August. Advertising went out for the Sports and English day camp and the group came full of energy and excitement for the time ahead. The warmth from the local church made for a great working relationship in this project of reaching the local community and making Christ and his church more visible. What a joy to work alongside each other, using the uniqueness of certain sports from the USA team, and the language, ‘know how’ and motivation of the local believers to enthuse and show Christ to the kids of this town.

ImageWe all learnt a lot over the days we enjoyed together...from history of the surrounding area and a little language, to how to play American football and what God wanted to show each of us about Himself.

It was great to have the first couple of days to get to know those in the church, enjoying famous fortresses, meals together and roosters that greeted us each morning! By Monday we were ready to get out there and meet some of the kids in town. To our surprise as we arrived at the sports field, around 25 kids were already waiting and as we began to play more kids joined in. For three hours each morning we played a variety of different sports with the kids. The mornings were broken by pauses for water and a half time break to hear a testimony. A local soccer coach, who had been coaching some of the gypsy boys that attended, stayed on to watch and from time to time participated. As the week progressed we were encouraged to see him attend different meetings we had at the church, also encouraging others to come along too. To see God working in his heart was thrilling, and later hearing from him, made us realise more of what God was doing in these days.

On the fourth evening we decided to have an outreach type programme at the church. We showed a short video clip of pictures of the kids playing sport and learning English together etc. Later in the week pastor Anton shared ‘when I saw Rick making the movie with the pictures of the kids, I began to see all God had done over the time was amazing’. It was like icing on the cake when we heard the local coach asked for a copy of the  video presentation to take to the town council. He had already been and informed them that what this church was doing was really great. Never before had he seen anyone able to get Bulgarian and Gypsy children playing together, but over this week he was amazed to see this happening.

ImageWhen the kids were asked what their most favourite game was, ‘American Football or Jump rope (skipping)’ seemed to be the answer.

But it was not only the sports that people commented on. Some that were not able to play, took the time to pick up rubbish left lying around or play with one or two of the smaller kids. These things were well observed by those standing on their balcony’s in apartment blocks adjacent to the field. ‘Who are these people that would do this’ were some of the questions asked, which local believers answered.

ImageThe English classes were not only teaching at different levels, but full of games, a watermelon snack and of course a story from the Bible. It was great to see the youth from the church becoming closer as they hung out together, laughed together and enjoyed the group from abroad. We were thankful that they willingly used their knowledge of English to interpret where needed. This working together as the body of Christ was another thing that spoke to us all.

On our final evening together with the church, some of the blessings were voiced. Let’s rejoice together at all God did, especially in our own hearts. We all agreed with Faith as she shared ‘Hospitality was what stood out and the church here in Bulgaria did it with great joy. When you reach out with love it is the greatest gift. It was also neat to see that at the end of the week some of the difficult kids were respecting, listening and responding to the love that Christ shows. So we need to pray for the kids’.

Each of the team came for different reasons, but God did more than we dreamed and it was beautiful to see his work in each of our hearts. Monika said ‘I came hoping for Justin (her 13 yr old son) to grow in God, but God played a trick on me...He opened my heart to Bulgaria’.

ImageRay, who keeps bringing groups back to Bulgaria from his church, explained ‘When I first came I never knew I’d keep coming back each year. When God blesses us with good gifts, like friendships I’ve made here, you want to share it with others. This love is a gift from God. We recognise this and celebrate this in one another. The goal in coming this time was to make the church visible, not just preaching it from the pulpit, but living it, and we’ve seen it. You organised the field and prepared places to stay. This is truely a partnering effort. You’ve worked hard and may you see fruit’. We felt so humbled by Pastor Anton’s reply ‘The first time I saw Ray in Haskovo I thought...I really like this man. There was a warmth in my heart that became a love and all those he brings with him from his church, I feel the same way about. I think this has been given as a gift from God’.

As Wayne spoke the following words to the Svilengrad church ‘It’s your actions that have been significant...the love, the kindness, the unity and supporting of each other. You partnered with us without hesitation and it shows the Holy Spirit’. Our prayer is that God would continue to use this faithful church to reach out in their community, that he would bless them for the lessons that we were all able to learn through this outreach opportunity, and that we would not forget what we have learnt, but see those seeds he planted in our lives continue to grow, infecting others with the excitement of what God is so longing to do in each of our do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine...Eph 3:20