Holidays. We had a blessed holiday season and hope all of you did as well. We were able to have two ladies over for Christmas: Poli (a youth-worker volunteer and church member from Vidin) and Rosa (formerly a youth from the orphan home in Novo Selo who now lives with Poli). For Rosa it was a first receiving so many presents and eating turkey. We actually got her to swallow one whole bite of turkey! We traveled to Vidin for New Year’s and spent the time with church members and counting our blessings – one big thing that we are thankful for is Viktor finishing the alterations to his PhD and turning in the final draft before the holidays! Viktor will be graduating/walking in June.
Social and Political Climate in Bulgaria. Last year Bulgaria was almost officially announced the poorest, and the most corrupt country in the EU. The justice system is dramatically inefficient and organized crime is intertwined with government structures. These are the opinions of much of the Western and Bulgarian press. Thus the EU has cut, for the first time in its history, financing to Bulgaria, a member-nation, due to uncontrolled embezzlement of millions of EU funds.
In this environment of little hope and denial, we are set to be a light in a dark place. During one of our family prayer times, while enquiring of the Lord how should we see ourselves and our work here, His response was with a scripture…to be a voice in the desert preparing the way for the Lord.
Moving to Vidin. As many of you know, we made many attempts during the spring and summer of 2008 to find a home in or around Vidin to either rent or buy. All of our attempts came to not – and Teresa was left discouraged (that the move was not happening fast enough for her liking) and Viktor was thrilled to bits (that the move was going to be a long drawn-out procedure and so he could have a few more months in Sofia)! After taking a long break from house hunting, and with the economical crisis in mind, we visited Vidin just before Christmas for church related work – and lo and behold! A nice apartment fell into our hands – it’s a little bit smaller than what we’re used to, but the price is right and the amount of renovation needed before we move in is not too severe.
We’ve started paying rent on the apartment and have begun painting and renovations to the kitchen and bathroom – along with trying to solve what form of heating we will use while it is still cold here – and hope to be moved in by March 1. Please pray for us: to have the strength to complete the renovations and pack and unpack and for the finances needed to complete the renovations.
Youth Club Vidin. Club renovations had stalled after exhausting all our funds. After an appeal to friends and supporters we received a gift of 1,000 GBP which will take care of finishing the bathroom (which will be fully equipped with a toilet, shower and a new heater), repairs of faulty electricity and purchasing chairs for meetings. Finances are still needed to completely furnish the kitchen, computer/sitting area and music area – so please pray with us that the needed amount comes in soon!
Overcoming Dissent. During one of our multiple trips to Vidin in the past weeks, besides preaching and teaching, Viktor was involved in solving a dispute in the church reiterating the leading of the Holy Spirit toward being a light in a dark place and a true New Testament community. The talks went well and most of the people in the dissenting group were able to see the issues outside of their own perspective and asked for forgiveness of the leadership. Praise the Lord, for such issues often end up not so well among Christians here. God is very good to us indeed!
Engaging in the Public Debate on Church and State. Viktor published yet another spin-off article on church and state and the constitution in post-communist Bulgaria in a major secular newspaper (Jan. 22). The article called for the discontinuation of the caesaropapist practices of state intervention in church affairs (recently the European Court on Human Rights released a judgment establishing the illegal state intervention in a dispute between two wings of the Orthodox Church). You can find the article in Bulgarian here:
Missiological Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, Feb. 8-11. Viktor will participate in an international conference on Mission in the Orthodox Context at the International Baptist Theological Seminary. He will present a study on the importance of the religious right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience in the so-called canonical territories claimed by the Orthodox Church and the state. Please pray for his travels and work there with the other participants, theologians and missiologists.
The Boys and Homeschooling. The boys have started their second semester of school. Noah (3 years old) has begun studying his numbers and letters and often comes to his mom with a piece of paper and asks, “How do I write eight take away negative four?” The boys seem to be teaching him math secretly after school hours! While they are sad to leave Sofia and their friends here (and McDonalds and the movie theater and…) they are struggling and trying to understand God’s motivation in moving us to a small town. Please pray for them to accept the move with joy, to flourish in Vidin and to understand God’s love and care for them in this move.