Category Archives: Religious Freedom

How religious liberty is played out in the current situation in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe.

Pornography and religion — equal moral value?

I still remember how 30 years ago, during the years of the atheistic communist regime under which I was growing up we, 10-12 year old boys, had a fun thing to do. We used to go to one of the central streets of our town to look at a window which displayed items of Western diversion and propaganda. Among those items were pornographic magazines and films, and…Bibles and evangelistic tracts.
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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

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Prayer Letter — August 2008

Kostov Prayer Letter — August 2008

Dear Friends:

We wanted to write to update you on our house search and ask you
all for prayer. As you know we have been searching for quite
awhile for a suitable living situation in the town of Vidin.
After looking at apartments and realizing that we cannot afford
rent to move into a suitable apartment, we started looking to
buying a property in a nearby village. The thinking here was
that a decent house price and loan would end up less in monthly
mortgage payments than renting a renovated apartment.

Our first find was a very nice village house (selling at $100,
000), but after much struggle and crunching of numbers we’ve
decided that we would need to find something less expensive to
fit our missionary lifestyle. So we did. We have found a house
that needs renovation in a village 10 km from Vidin. The house
is in good condition and we have had it looked over by an expert
building consultant. The cost of the purchase of the property
and the house renovation will total $60,000. Now the “other”
hard part – getting a loan! We have been on a hunt for a loan
for awhile but to no avail. For many reasons banks are hesitant
to lend to us – a main reason being that our income comes from
overseas and/or that we are looking to buy a village house and/
or we have no other collateral to offer them. I’m sure you’ve
all been down this road before and know well the headache of
getting a loan from a bank!

However, we were able to work with Yavor, Vik’s brother, to try
to secure a mortgage against his house. We were able to prepare
the whole paperwork within two days, except one signature of
lien on the property. We thought this signature would not be a
problem since it was Vik’s parents who had to sign the papers.
However, they just refused. Without ovrespiritualizing the
situation we must remain aware of the question – is it God who’s
not blessing this effort or is it the enemy who’s opposing God’s
plan? The answer is, we believe, that the enemy is against our
joining the effort of the ministry in Vidin up close.

We want to ask you for prayer- that funds would be released to
us to purchase this property and finally make the move to Vidin.
Whether the funds come from a bank, personal loan, or fall from
the sky – we are open to all possibilities! We just need God to
move on our behalf because there is only so much we can do
humanly speaking and we are beginning to feel that our hands are
tied. We are waiting to Friday to tell the owner whether or not
we think we can buy the property. May God move before then! (photos)

On the youth club front: The first place which we were to rent
went for sale by the owner. So we looked around and have now
rented a small house in the town (Vidin) and have begun
renovations. We had to tear out huge sections of the decor, tile
work and everything out of the bathroom and kitchen. We now have
electricians in working on the wiring. We have a month or so
more of work ahead of us – thank you for your prayers. God is
good and is providing for this work!

On the religious freedom front: There is a new level of
propaganda in certain media against “the sects” (among whom are
evangelical Christians). The people behind such publications are
Orthodox nationalists or are related to the Socialist Party (the
former communists) who still have a strong influence in the
nation’s politics (they control the government now). We expect
that the religious liberty situation may worsen given the fact
that the EU is critical of the Bulgarian government and the
level of corruption and lack of justice in the country. The
communists have proved that whenever the public focuses on the
political problems of their rule, the media comes up with
stories about the “dangerous evangelical sects.” As a reminder:
we had to pull out of our ministry from the two state-run
orphanages due to a change of administration which was
sympathetic to the former communist party and Orthodox
nationalism. Our online blog and magazine activity is increasing
and so are articles denouncing the freedom of religion. Please,
pray as Viktor will be speaking tonight on a new national
strategy of securing the missionary vision of the church through
appealing for freedom of religion and speech and media tolerance.
The speech will be at a gathering of one of the new evangelical
networks in the nation.

Thank you for praying for Vik’s teaching at the church in Vidin
in July and August. We had four weeks of great worship services.
Viktor took a group from the church to a national youth event
 (Uzana 2008) where he spoke on the need of the church to engage
in mission and influencing society by guarding freedom of
religion and speech. (pics)

We are grateful for your prayers.

Much love,  The Kostov Family

A slideshow of the first steps to repairs in the newly rented Youth Club facility


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