We are in the guest apartment of the Bible League Bulgaria headquarters. In front of our dining table is a large window allowing a view over the capital city, Sofia. We are in the foothills of the Balkan Mountains and the lights dazzle well below us. This is one of those respite times to regroup, reflect and see Eastern Europe as it is . . . hopefully as Jesus sees it; and being available . . . as Jesus leads us. Read on . . .
The drive from Buckingham to Sofia took five days, including one full day and two nights with our son, Rip, and family in Heerlen, The Netherlands. Both of us had been ill for several days and so we cancelled the ferry booking (Dover, England, to Dunkirk, France) two times. We finally had to leave due to a deadline in Sofia (despite being still unwell) and drove the 1,700 mile journey. The only mishap was a destroyed tire 40 kilometres from Sofia.
CHURCH PLANT TRAINERS: The plan is to be in Bulgaria at least two months. Originally we would have spent a month in England following our extensive US trip but taking part in this training took precedence. About thirty church plant trainers (which are responsible for 260 church planters) gathered in Sofia. They represented Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and Macedonia.
SERBIA: For three days five of us drove to Opovo, Serbia, just outside the capital city of Belgrade. We were nestled in a camp with Serbian church planters for training and encouragement sessions. The overall work in Serbia has been handicapped over recent years. It is our vision to help bring this back to full functionality and provide a report as to a viable way forward. The collective ministry in Serbia is under faithful leadership which has continued over recent years despite discouraging circumstances.
DRIVE TO OTHER COUNTRIES: We are about to make another drive, this time to Macedonia and Albania. Again, we are to assess the ministries there - the leadership, the heart and number of church planters, their Scripture production and placement. Hopefully we will find a way to revive anything that is discouraged and suggest a way forward including some funding.
CHURCH PLANT LEARNING COMMUNITY: May 3rd through 6th we will hold our second gathering of church planters from around eight countries. As last year, this is a collaboration; it is a time people in very similar circumstances and ministries get to know one another and learn from each other. It is opening the door to 'cross-pollinate' across borders. The learning is steered and the themes are clear but the growing comes from interaction, understanding and sharing. This year's theme - building churches that last - will continue, in part, from last year in which goal setting was encouraged.
Gaining a perspective: Our perspective, after several visits and intense involvement in this part of the world, is that 'the field is white unto harvest', and while it is 'white' we want to help harvest. There are several active and effective church planting teams that are Bulgarian, or Serbian, or Macedonian, or Romanian, etc. They need encouraging and sometimes objective, outside advice. The opportunities for IGOworldwide to be involved is growing and we find ourselves in a good position to be of some service. We thank the Lord for every opportunity offered to us to work alongside very gifted and dedicated people. We have found new, good friends here and we learn much from them. It is a process of constantly growing and gaining new insights, a fresh perspective.