Today Owen and Nansi arrived to join us for breakfast and take us to the headquarters of the Bible League. They are housed in a beautiful building in the mountains that overlooks the city of Sofia, the current capital of Bulgaria. We were met there by the founders of the Bible League. Nicolai who is the Director was our host. He was incredibly hospitable and kind and we all became instantly bonded to Nicky, as we called him. The Bible League began in the mid-nineties printing and distributing Bibles in Bulgaria, now they mostly focus on training and supporting church planters in Bulgaria and the Balkan States.
Nicolai drove us in a van high into the mountains to the historic Rila Monastery. The mountains and countryside are stunningly beautiful with a mix of trees and foliage, streams and running brooks. There are multiple types of pines that are similar to North America and the Aspens remind me of Colorado. There are large fields of sunflowers but now they are mostly wilted due to the drought and the end of their season. One could imagine what a tapestry they would be in full bloom.
The Monastery was amazing. It was started in 847. Nearly 1,200 years ago! Most of Christianity in Bulgaria is rooted in the ancient Orthodox Church. Nicolai tells us that evangelicalism here must be approached carefully. The saying goes “when you make clay pots from the ashes of your ancestors, you must take greater care of them.” The meaning is that Christianity has been rooted and taught here for centuries and we must understand that we are not introducing it to the culture for the first time. Rather we have the opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the gospel that may take it beyond the ancient cultural understanding to one where a person can actually experience the risen Christ. The thought of “make a friend, be a friend and bring your friend to Christ” came to mind. Perhaps that is what evangelicalism is really about.
We returned back to the Bible League and by late afternoon the views from the roof balcony were fabulous! Owen asked me to pray for Nicky and the Bible League ministry. We all gave Nicky a big hug and bid farewell until the Lord shall cross our paths again. Perhaps in the US or Canada later in the Fall.
We drove back to the house we are staying at and stopped along the way to buy an assortment of Bulgarian meats and Nansi prepared some Shopska again. Then we had dinner together. More laughter and sharing stories before we got on the subject of TV programs and movies. We wrestled with how much we like movies where the bad guys get “justice” but that in reality it is mostly vengeance and not justice that is happening and how do we square that with what the gospel calls us to do. It was a healthy and spirited discussion. Owen and Nansi went home as we have a long day tomorrow. Nick prayed for us and we retired to bed.
The Cave of Saint Ivan Rilski
St. Ivan Rilski spent more than 7 years of his life; is located only 3-4km away from the Rila Monastery.
Ivan Rilski was born in the village of Skrino in 876 and was a shepherd until his 25th birthday. After the death of his parents, he gave away all of his material possessions and entered a monastery where his religious journey began.
According to legend, Saint Ivan of Rila was known to have performed a multitude of miracles in order to help the people. These miracles brought him undesired fame as he tried to live the life of a hermit and avoid contact with others. With his growing number of followers, many young believers and supporters set up camps around his cave, seeking a blessing from him. This led the way to the creation of the Rila Monastery, which is considered to be the foremost monastery in Bulgaria.
The first thing you see as you approach the cave is a little This was the first monastery built by the disciples of the monk.
Inside the cave is barely any light. At the end of the tiny cave of Ivan Rilski, you can see a thin ray of light. It comes from a narrow, two-meter tunnel ending on top of the cave.
There is a holy spring. In Bulgarian the word for holy springs is “ayazmo” and it is believed that this water never stops, nor freezes even when it is extremely cold.
(Got the info online)
This is a guest post written by a member of a short-term team. Click here to read Day 3.