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A teenager, a former skinhead and a member of an ultra-nationalist group, gave his life to Jesus as part of God moving among the youth in Vidin. Ilian, 19, who is also an orphan, testified during the church service: “My heart was filled with hate. I hated gypsies, Jews. But now I don’t feel hate any more. It is gone.”
April short- term mission week
Early in April we had a “convergence” of mission visitors and friends, from the UK/US and Romania. Mary, who lives in the UK, and her two daughters were with us for a week. During that time Stuart also visited with two young short-term missionaries. One of them, Karina (18), is planning on living for a year in Vidin and helping out with youth work starting this fall. We did church worship services, community outreaches in the poorer parts of Vidin and local villages, and did a couple of trips back to Sofia. There was a good-bye party to mark the end of the week of ministry and fellowship. On the way back to Sofia one of the missionaries had health issues while traveling that quite scared us all but by God’s grace was fine and all flew back home ok.
Youth club up and running for a month and a half with a few more things to buy
We were amazed at how quickly the work with young people took off! God’s grace can really surprise you sometimes. Here are some highlights of the club’s activities:
• 15 weekly students coming for lessons in English and guitar. We charge a nominal “suggested donation” to meet some costs (2 leva per half hour lesson, which is a little over $1.00);
• 15 aspiring young authors between the ages of 16-25 are attending a short-story course for 8 weeks;
• A local TV station made a half-hour show in their “Culture” segment, and interviewed Yavor about the work of the club;
• It was just yesterday, May 20, that we were able to put the sign up for the youth club. We named it “Vertical Reality” – in Bulgarian of course.
• Daily one hour Bible studies and the conversion of two teens: Ilian and Gery!
Viktor goes on a TV program (April 24)
Viktor was invited as the main guest in a morning TV show discussing family issues and the change in legislature. There is a strong push by the EU and local interest groups to introduce same-sex partnership as a prelude to same-sex marriage. Viktor was able to comment that traditional values are important to keep in mind when writing new laws. There were a number of callers during the show.
Academics Religious Liberty Ministry
Viktor submitted an article to two scholarly journals (Religion in Eastern Europe and the Journal of Baptistic Studies based in Prague, Czech). The article addresses post-communism and church, state and liberty from a missiological perspective. The publications will be released respectively in May 2009, and the spring of 2010.
Bulgaria continues to be in bad shape politically. The justice system is constantly criticized for being ineffective and corrupt. Recently a high profile murder case involving three young Bulgarians in France was solved by the French police but the Bulgarian courts quickly acquitted the suspects because they were the sons of influential lawyers related to the former power structures (State Security). In this context, the case which Viktor, and several other evangelical pastors, brought before the Commission for the Protection against Discrimination has still not been decided, long past the legal limits for issuing a decision. In this case the law for freedom of conscience and religion is being tested against the trends of the state to instill official support for the Orthodox Church. Viktor is planning to bring forward another pilot case on freedom of religion later in the year.
Dan and Matt were able to go to a youth art camp for a long 4-day weekend. The camp was held in northern Greece and their old art teacher led the group. They won second place in the art competition. Noah turned four this week. His question the day after the small birthday party to his mom was: “Mom, do you think I am still four?” Mattias now wears glasses (sometimes). Not very important but he wanted this fact included in our prayer letter. Teresa has been working 15-20 hours a week in the youth club and enjoying every minute of it!
Viktor kept a schedule of teaching in the church on Sundays
The main subject has been on how to be loyal to God and not to money. Vidin is officially the poorest town among the larger ones in the nation. However, the lack of economic strength does not prevent people from struggling with money issues and a weaker loyalty to God who provides for our needs.
Back To the US for the Summer
Viktor submitted recently the final “final” copy of his dissertation complete with index. We will be back in the US for the summer and part of our job will be to attend graduation at Fuller! We are looking forward to seeing and talking with some of you.
If you can pray for our time in the US we will be very grateful. One need, of course, is to have a car to use for our family. God always provides, we are trusting that this will be the case this time around as well.
• We’d appreciate your prayers for a vehicle – to find one to borrow or to buy at a very reasonable (for us, that is) cost.
• Please, pray for proper contacts and fundraising for the religious liberty ministry and the work in Vidin.
• Pray, for Ilian and Gery, the new Christians, that they will grow strong in the faith and resist temptation.
Thank you much for your support and partnership in prayer. Love, The Kostovs
Below is the club at the start of repairs, last August (2008)