Sports and English camp in Svilengrad, Bulgaria 2009

ImageAs we met together for the first evening it was a great encouragement to have Lubo point out that the youth sitting beside us were fruit from last year’s Sports and English camp. ImageThey have been meeting together with Kati every Friday since last year and really enjoying it. When we asked them, they had nothing but great things to say about their youth meetings. What a cool start to our time together.

ImageMonday began at the sports field with around 10 children and grew to 25 before we left at midday. Over the coming days more children appeared adding to those already excited. It was a great time together enjoying American football, ImageEuropean football, ultimate frizbee, skipping, softball and rugby. It was so nice to see some of the same faces turning up again this year and how happy they were to join in. Antonia the translator shared “All of you were very loving and caring, and the children felt that.”

ImageIt was great to get out of the heat and have some quieter hours teaching English in the afternoons. We were pleased to see a local Gypsy youth pastor bringing his youth along to the English each afternoon. Svetelina, one of the youth from the church said “I was pleased to have the advanced English this year and I learnt a lot. I liked it because of the people...everyone was so friendly.”

ImageOn Tuesday evening everyone was invited to see the ‘Jesus’ Film at the church and a number of people came along to this. It is an amazing film and we were so blessed to have it in Bulgarian to show. Even watching it in another language is pretty impacting.

On Thursday afternoon we had the English as planned and then decided to show the ‘Magdelena’ film. It worked well, as all the kids stayed and watched this, while on Tuesday only a handful from the English classes attended the Jesus film with it being in the evening.

ImageOver the time we also visited 4 different village churches to encourage those there. It seemed rather special to go to Lubemetz, which is a village about 30kms from Svilengrad. This church has been able to purchase the building which they meet in and the group from America had helped raise some of the funds toward this. After church the Bulgarians lavishly treated us with a meal they had prepared. It was really a time of celebration.

The time together with the Svilengrad church was very good and as the week came to a close our bodies were tired, but we were full of memories of yet another great time together...the church youth that had grown, some of the same kids returned beaming as they came, seeing God at work, enjoying watermelon and shopska salad and so much more...

Antonia, the translator told us ‘Your group felt like a family to me and you made it easy for me to fir in and translate, as you used simple language for the children and prepared me ahead of each thing we did. For me it was a dream holiday. Not only was it wonderful to spend time with the group, but also being with the children and doing something for God, as it is not every day that you have an event like this and rarely do people come to rural places like Svilengrad.’

We do not always know the future nor the impact of things, but God does and when we get a glimpse, it is simply humbling. Enjoy, as I have, what Ray, the leader of the group shared Image“When I think back to my first visit to this country almost ten years ago I could not imagine that my heart would be captured by this country and her people. Nor could I have imagined the depth of ministry the Lord would allow me to be a part of. I am deeply grateful to the Lord for leading us to this church and for drawing so many wonderful people over the years to participate in the ministry. Nearly every one of the over twenty people who have travelled here with me have been captured by the love of Bulgaria and the desire to serve here in a lasting way. We will feel strangely homesick for our “adopted” country and miss our new friends.”

It is amazing to see partnerships developing, as there is so much more that can be done when we have someone to walk with us, helping us, encouraging us along the way. Ray asks us to pray that his church might catch a vision of what partnership ministry with the church in Svilengrad might look like in the future. Perhaps some of you will be stirred to participate in future outreaches to Bulgaria, although Ray thinks you may have to fight the team alumni for a spot on the team!