Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stories from Macedonia and Bulgaria

I wanted to add a few details to my posting from last week about my trip to Macedonia as this was such a great experience for me.

After the conference in Mittersill I flew to Sofia where I picked another staff-worker of BHSS and both of us travelled to Skopje, Macedonia, where we joined by the gen sec Nikola Galevski and the five Canadians who had arrived before us. The outreach itself lasted for three days. In the afternoon we would go to the university faculties and invite students to the evangelistic events by handing out flyers, putting up posters and chatting with the students. I was struck by how open the students were to receive a flyer and even to chat about Christianity with us. We had some great conversations with some of them and one of them, with Jovana and Sandra, lasted a whole hour! Jovana defined herself as a sceptic and said that she would not believe in God unless she saw him. I challenged her to consider other ‘invisible’ but real things such as radio waves, wind, love, self-sacrifice, etc. She kept referring to intellectual problems but by the end of the conversation I knew her problem was of a relational and moral nature. We exchanged email addresses and I promised to send her a copy of “Evolution: science or ideology”, a book I had just translated into Bulgarian. Please, pray that Jovana and Sandra would remember our conversation and will read all the book (it has a great section on the gospel in the last chapter).

There were three evangelistic events – going to the billiard hall, a lecture (How can we get a better citizenship – given by Nikola) and a Canadian culture evening. On average there came about 10 non-Christian students each night, and 5 of them signed up for attending the Bible study group. Nikola and the Macedonian students were pretty encouraged by this response.

Although there wasn’t any opportunity for me and my colleague to publicly address the audiences we thank God for this experience. Altogether, in Skopje and Ohrid, where I visited a friend of mine, I was able to share the gospel with about 30 people. In Ohrid and the area I attended some events hosted by the Bulgarian Consul in Bitola. One was a service commemorating the Bulgarian soldiers who died in the First World War in the area. Afterwards there was a lunch given for the participants. An old guy who was sitting near me at the table started telling me about how unjustly Macedonia treated all the people of Bulgarian nationality and his bitterness gradually turned into rage and he started blurting out offensive epithets against Macedonian authorities. I said I was sorry about the way he felt but then challenged him to consider the words of the priest who had said in his address that we are all God’s children and need to love each other with God’s love. I told him that venting out his hatred would not solve the problem and encouraged him to pray for this and for his ‘enemies’. The people across the table nodded at my words. I pray that my words would help this person find reconciliation with the authorities and, ultimately, with God.

Then, a week after I got home I had to preach at a student evangelistic meeting which was held at our church. The student group in Varna had decided to invite their friends at a Culinary Trip Round the World. Everybody was asked to prepare/get and bring their favourite international food and present the country it came from. The party turned out to be a success. They really brought many yammy meals and deserts. After they presented them and tasted them I gave a talk entitled “Will you respond to the Invitation” and basically spoke about different aspects of food and eating, including the spiritual one. I referred to the great banquet given by the man in Luke 14 and said that Jesus invites us to sit at a big table full of great things to eat, not just for the evening but for all the eternity. At the end I invited them to consider this Invitation with capital “I” and respond with “yes” to it. There were just 3 non-Christian students there and they enjoyed the whole event very much. Please, pray for them to come to the next meeting of the student group.