As I (Josh) sit down to write this newsletter, we have exactly three weeks left in Bulgaria, before we go back to America for our first Stateside Assignment. There are several things that we are eagerly anticipating about our time in America. Seeing family, visiting churches, and eating plenty of Chick-fil-A immediately come to mind. But there are also things that we are not looking forward to. Some of the big ones are packing suitcases, taking apart and storing our furniture, and saying goodbye to many dear friends here in Svishtov. We are joyous about the people we are going to see. But at this very moment I am grieving about all of those we are saying goodbye to. Is it OK to admit that in a newsletter? But one of the benefits of this grieving process is that it causes us to reminisce and to remind ourselves of all that God has done in our midst. So instead of bumming you out with my mopiness, I want to recount some of the many things that we are thankful for…
Our visas came in! Remember that one time when we waited for our visas for almost six months? We remember! For a while it was unclear if the government was ever going to let us come. But on June 24th, 2015, they finally did. God used that period of waiting to teach us patience. And on many occasions since that time, we have been able to look back and remember how faithful our God is.
Our team is great! Many things have changed about our team since we got here. The Trifonovs and Awtreys have both sent their oldest daughters off to Welch College. The Postlewaites have begun the church-planting process in Pleven. Radostin has come along beside us as an official part of our church-planting team in Shumen. But one thing has stayed the same: we have the privilege of serving with people who love Jesus more than anything and who are giving their lives to expand the Kingdom in Bulgaria. We praise God for the inspiration they give us!
We love our church! Since our first Sunday in Bulgaria our church family has loved us as only the Body of Christ can. Our kids have more surrogate grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and cousins than they can count! They have taught us the meaning of generosity. And they have taught us what it means to suffer for Christ. Many of them attend despite intense pressure from their spouses, their parents, their friends, and their employers. But they have decided that the name of Jesus is worthy of such suffering.
Our kids are an inspiration! Being a third-culture kid is hard. But our kids have truly made Bulgaria their home. Everybody that sees them knows that they are different. But because of their flexibility, generosity, and kindness, many people see that the greatest difference is not their blonde hair, but their love for God.
The Bible study in Butovo! It’s hard learning a new language. But by the grace of God, even when we could only hold the simplest of conversations, God opened a door for ministry in the village of Butovo. For two years now a small group of English speakers have gathered in homes to study God’s Word. Since then, several of them have accepted Christ as Savior. There have been hurdles to jump over. But I am amazed at how consistently they choose to submit themselves to what they have learned from the Bible. They have led summer clubs, Christmas parties, and Easter events to reach out to the people around them. One day, we believe this group will be a church that plants churches. And for that, we are thankful!
Our future in Shumen! While saying “goodbye” stinks, we are so excited about what God will do in Shumen. Ever since we first visited the city, God has been giving us more and more assurance that this is exactly where He would have us to be. Radi, Lydia, and I know that there will be huge challenges, but we also believe that the Holy Spirit is already preparing the hearts of people. And we can’t wait to tell them about the Savior who died and rose again!
The Hanna Project. From September 30th to October 8th, eleven people from The Hanna Project served in Svishtov. During the days they completed a huge renovation project at a local center for people with disabilities. During the evenings they conducted cooking courses. There were many people who walked through the doors of our church and heard the gospel for the first time, all because they were obedient to God’s call to come. It is simply amazing how God uses such short-term teams. Here is one example: during the spring a group came from Trinity Christian School. During that project ten American students spent a week with ten Bulgarian students. On their final Sunday, all ten of those Bulgarian students came to church! We have maintained a relationship with some of those students. One of them is a teenager, who brought her mom with her to the final day of the cooking course! The mom said, “People say that this church is a cult. But now that I have come and heard for myself, I can see that this is truly a great place!”
You! We have been consistently blown away by the army of people who have given sacrificially and who have prayed consistently for us. God has shown us His goodness and His faithfulness through the encouragement and the outpouring of love by His people. While it’s true that we are sad to say “goodbye” to so many here, please know how incredibly excited we are to see so many of you face to face again soon!
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.“ -Romans 11:36
-Josh, Lydia, Naomi, Phoebe, Zoe, and Malachi