Category Archives: Missionary Diary

The most general category after “uncategorized.” Articles on the meaning, purpose and practice of Christian mission, and ours in particular.

The vision of the Christian Mission Center – Vidin

Our leadership team has been discussing the vision of our church and ministry in Vidin. At this point we have agreed on the title Christian Mission Center – Vidin. Our tag line that sums up all of our work is: A place for Biblical study, worship and outreach. The genetic code of mission is being placed in the church Teresa and I helped nurture since 2000 through all of our activities.
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Prayer Letter – Sept. 2009

For video and picture links, please, scroll to the bottom of the letter

Dear Friends,

The newly formed band of teenage music students in the Youth Club had just finished practice. Two stayed behind and started a conversation about God and “religion” with the staff. One of the teens, Laura, 15, defended her school textbook view on faith. God was “something invented in the old days” to help people explain their inability to deal with life and the elements.
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Walking the Path of Life

Writer’s Class in the Youth Club - Rosa in the far right cornerThe essay below was written by Rosa, one of the former “inmates” of the orphan home in Novo Selo, who pretty much we saw grow up in the last 6 years. I translated the essay in English because I find it to be one of the few moments of vulnerability and honesty that Rosa has allowed during the time we’ve known her.

She is 24 and is still trying to define a direction in life where she could live with dignity. After a long time of seeing the work of the Lord among us, in the life of her peers and her own life, she finally gave her life to Christ and was baptized in the Danube. On the photo to the right, Rosa is in the far, right corner. Barely visible, typical for her.

The essay was written as part of the assignment for a young writer’s course which we designed and started as one of our outreaches in the Youth Club. She has written before, but any attempt to encourage her has resulted in her shrinking back and rejecting any attempt to help her express herself in writing. Reading the piece really shows the struggle of this former orphan, now a young Christian woman, to be someone who lives with a purpose. Only Jesus can make this happen for her. She is on the right path as long as the “I” in her story remains surrendered to God.Rosa’s baptism

–Viktor

The photo on the right: Rosa awaits her baptism.

All are hurrying somewhere

By Rosa Dobreva

Imagine a busy street – cars, buildings … people, people. All are quickly going somewhere, each buried in their problems, pain, joy and trying to live one more day, to do more work or to get lost along the street, to kill the next twenty-four hours of life. This is the world – everyone is in a hurry to somewhere. Everyone is fighting for his or her own survival. Everyone has their dreams and aspirations, no one stops at nothing, and everyone strives to be fine as it can.

All these people emanate such coldness! You want to love them, to trust them, but how? How can I trust them when they continue to lie to me? How to love them when they hate you and all they want is to use you and bring you down? How to stay clean and pure while striding in mud and depravity? What do I have left? To lie, to cheat, to leave behind morals and dignity, to compromise my values in order to achieve my goals, all in the name of success.

But maybe this compromise will lead to others after it and ultimately I will become a hypocrite? To go up in this world, certainly you should make a compromise with your dignity, and  even accept humiliation. I fear this! I do not want to become a slave to greed and money. Everyone strives to have it, believing that it brings happiness. But no! Money does not make you happy, it turns you into a miser, you want more and more and gradually, without realizing it, you become a monster. But you cannot fight money. It has already overtaken the whole a planet since long time ago. But, No! I will not give up.

I am beginning to stride confidently down the street called “Life.” I have already solved my dilemma. I decided not to be like them! But it is terribly difficult to stand for what I want to be, my values and my ideals. I know one thing that should be alive my life with dignity, but that will be hard to achieve. However, I will put much effort into it.

I hope that the ugly picture that I see at the beginning of my path will not destroy me, but will give me the resolve to walk it all the way. And to get to the end of the street, proud that I stood up for myself that I was a person, that I am “I.”

Copyright (c) 2009

Prayer Letter May 2009

Scroll down for photo slide shows.

Dear Friends,

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.

Family Matters

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.

Prayer Needs

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)

 

Prayer Letter – March 2009

Prayer Letter – March 2009

Dear Friends,

The last two months were quite busy. It is God’s grace that works in us and helps us do what we do.

Mission in the Orthodox Context Prague, Czech, Feb. 8-11. Viktor presented a report on the totalitarian state and its tendency to use ideology or religion to impose a union of state and society and how this dynamic plays out in the post-communist Bulgarian situation. The report was presented at this scholarly conference held in the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague with participants from England, Czech, Romania, Armenia, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria and other places. Viktor was able to connect with missionaries, missiologists and theologians working in the Eastern European context of various situations where the Orthodox Church is largely perceived as the national church. Our latest spring issue of Freedom for All which will go online before the end of March features several articles presented during the conference.

On the radio. Viktor was the guest in a midnight show on the national radio program “Horizon.” The subject was homeschooling as an alternative to the collapsed Bulgarian state-controlled educational system. There were many callers and a lively discussion. One of the callers almost in an accusing tone said: “You speak like an evangelical!” I told her that I have the constitutional right not to inform her of my convictions but that she is thinking in the right direction.

Moving, moving, moved! The move was a bit extreme since it was cold and snowy, but by God’s grace we are now almost settled into our new apartment in Vidin. We have unpacked all boxes and currently have only an electrical problem to deal with (the way some electricians do wiring here is beyond simple comprehension or explanation) and a few more leaks.

In the courts. Viktor was the counsel at the hearing of a group of Christian pastors in proceedings against a newspaper and a non-profit leader for disseminating false accusations against evangelical Christians on March 9. The next, and possibly final, hearing will be on April 9, in Sofia. This case of national and international importance was filed in order to fend off  other church-like slander against certain evangelical groups in the media.

Freedom of the Faith: Legal and Biblical Dimensions, March 13-15. Viktor prepared and was the main speaker at a seminar hosted by a multiethnic Church in Stara Zagora, a town of 150,000 people, 350 miles from our residence, in the southern part of Bulgaria (the announcement on the web, in Bulgarian).

This seminar dealt with complicated ideas so I brought it down to concepts and ideas which non-specialists could relate to, although freedom is not a difficult subject to connect with. I spoke at five meetings in three days and held two conferences with the main church leader. One attendant wrote to me after the seminar was over: “I would like to express my excellent impression from meeting you these several days at the seminar. All that happened, the understanding and the attitude toward the subject of freedom, gave light and set fire in the meetings. A new way of treating one another as believers was established. Some Jericho walls fell down. This was felt especially when a “strange quietness” was coming down in the room…I’d be happy for you to visit us again. I was seriously shaken and refreshed!”

The Bible is clear – do not brag about yourself, let others speak well of you. I am mentioning this positive feedback because it was the Holy Spirit who was moving and touching the lives and understanding of leaders and church-members during this conference. God’s desire is to bring His freedom to the church so that it will not bear the marks of a culturally burdened society but that of the love and truth of the Son of God and His community. But the words of encouragement by this believer were powerful for me.

Teresa led the church service and the teaching during Viktor and Yavor’s absence on the ministry trip. She had engaged several church members to act out parts of the message. The roles were those of Nicodimus, the woman at the well and doubting Thomas. The Vidin believers, who tend to be less interactive, gave feedback to Teresa only several days later. She was eager to grasp whether the message God had given her had reached the listeners. The remarks were positive.
 
The first activities have started in the Youth Club: the Sunday church meetings, daily prayer meetings, guitar lessons for unchurched teenagers and English lessons, and making hand-made jewelry to sell for support of the club projects. We are meeting every Tuesday with the small leadership team to work out the vision, the activities and the schedule and the management. Danny and Matty have joined the worship band – Matt is playing drums and Dan is on the piano. Yavor, who is a long-time worship leader, forms the band along with his two kids – Sara and Philip. During Sunday church services Viktor is teaching a series on depending on God, not on mammon, especially in a time of economic hardship. We will also be starting a course for young writers (age 16-25) which will last 8 weeks. The course will be hosted weekly in the club and will be lead by Yavor – an author of a collection of short stories, which we published in 2005.

Prayer needs: (1) please, pray for our hosting of 3 visiting teams of short-term missionaries between April 2-11. That we have wisdom about logistics and clear vision of the ministry and outreaches we are to do together; (2) Dealing properly with hostile neighbors in our new place.

Thank you for all your support and love,
Viktor, Teresa, and the boys

To make a donation visit this web page on our site:
http://www.kmission.org/support_us.htm.

To be added to, or removed from, our email prayer letter list write a note to: 
vikkostov@kmission.org

Prayer Letter – Feb. 2009

Dear Friends,

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:
http://www.dnevnik.bg/analizi/2009/01/22/619836_curkva_i_durjava_-_razdelenie_na_dumi_vzaimno/ 

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.

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Prayer Letter – December 2008

Dear friends,

The following are brief reports and requests for your prayerful consideration. (To view photos related to all these activities, please, go to our web album or scroll down to the end of this post to view the slideshow.)

Youth Club Renovations and Vidin Ministry

November. We are almost finished with the renovations of the interior of the Youth Club. We have raised and spent about $7,000 so far. A generous $2,000 gift last month came in right on time so we were able to cover the costs of materials and work of the last phase of repairs plus two computer tables and curtains. In order to open the club we need another $3,000 which will go toward 2 computers, tables, a sofa, video-projector and some decorations, stove and a fridge for the kitchen. At this point we continue to live in Sofia so we traveled to Vidin in November in order to help with church matters and the renovations of the club. Yavor and Acho are doing a great job coordinating the project on the ground.


Religious Liberty

December 1. Viktor traveled to the Black Sea coast to the city of Burgas for a meeting with several pastors. They discussed a proper legal response for a joint action against a letter of the local city and police which accused evangelicals of destroying national unity and attacked the religious beliefs of Christians.

December 4. We held a round table with about 20 authors (from a total of over 45 authors) from our religious liberty and church-state discussion web site. The subject was the role of the internet in the establishment of a free civil society which respects freedom of religion. It was a time of discussion and fellowship among theologians, lawyers, government officials who had contributed to our web site with articles.

Viktor presented a short report of the history of our publication: this year we have over 110,000 unique visitors to the site, over twice as much as last year. This is without any advertisement and only for the Bulgarian language version of the publication.

December 17. A claim against a certain newspaper and one of their contributing authors who has repeatedly and viciously attacked evangelicals in the media was filed with the Commission for Protection against Discrimination. Viktor helped put together and file the petition which requests that the newspaper and this Orthodox theologian stop the discriminatory and libelous statements against evangelical Christians.

Team Ministry in Churches in Southern Bulgaria

December 6-12. Viktor traveled with Stuart Watkins and Yavor holding services in several towns in Southern Bulgaria – Plovdiv, Assenovgrad, Stara Zagora. The point of the trip was to preach and teach the Word of God and encourage the believers. We re-established some old friendships (Plovdiv) and started some new ones (Assenovgrad, Stara Zagora). God’s Spirit was moving powerfully during the meetings.

Support

God has been faithful and we have met our financial (living budget) goal for the year. However, this month we scored a record – the lowest support month ever in years, enough to cover only rent and part of our bills. We are not concerned, the Lord is a faithful provider, but obviously certain economic realities are hitting home. We want to thank those of you who have shared your financial blessings with us so we can do the ministry we are doing. May God’s generous heart be turned toward you in the coming New Year as well. We are very thankful for all of your prayers and giving.

Teresa’s Health

We just came back from the doctor’s office. The specialist confirmed that all is well with her kidneys and recommended a therapeutic medication for a swifter recovery. However, it was the prayers of the saints that helped her get back to normal within two days during a busy and critical time. Thank you.

Christmas Photo

Traditionally this year’s Christmas photo, which we mailed to some of you, features the boys again. It is a print quality picture and you can open and/or download it here.

Poly, the youth worker from the Vidin church, and Roza, a young woman who used to live in the orphanage we used to work in, will spend Christmas with us, in Sofia.

Have a great time during this season of celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus. As the world is further plunging into crises and darkness our hope is in Him and His unfailing promises.

Love and grace in Christ,
Viktor, Teresa and the boys

____________________________________________

To make a donation visit this web page on our site:
http://www.kmission.org/support_us.htm.

To be added or removed from our prayer letter list write a note
to:  vikkostov@kmission.org