Tag Archives: Orthodox

Sofia, Bulgaria

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As of April 2017, our team still needs $600 in monthly support to be minimally funded and remain on the field. We are looking for 12 people willing to partner with us for $50 per month. As you read about our calling and mission, please consider partnering with us!

Until January of 2015 year my wife and I were missionaries in Pskov, Russia.  There we came alongside a local church and partnered in their ministry.

(Listen to the above audio for a more in-depth update)

In Pskov, our work centered around orphanages, drug & alcohol rehab centers, and youth ministry. Unfortunately, new legislation by the government has forced us to leave the country.

In conjunction with our supervisor we decided to relocate to Sofia, Bulgaria – a Slavic country in Southeastern Europe that borders Greece and Turkey.

Bulgaria Total Population: 7 million
Bulgaria Total Protestants: 65,000

Ethnicities:
Bulgarian: 5.25 million (30,000 = .5% Protestant)
Roma: 300,000 (30,000 = 10% Protestant)
Turkish: 560,000 (95% Muslim)

The Roma (Gypsy) and Bulgarian populations are highly segregated. Of the ethnic Bulgarian population, less than one-half of one percent self-identifies as Protestant of any kind.

(Evangelism in a Slavic, Orthodox Context)

Over the last several months, we have been evaluating the mission field, getting to know local churches in Sofia and missionaries around the country.

3 Key Areas of Opportunity:

  • Internship program: Christian groups aren’t allowed on campus, so we’ll embed Christians on campus. (Read more)
  • Sermon and Book Translations: Bring solid Biblical resources to the people of Bulgaria.
  • Church Planting: Initially in Sofia, with the goal of spreading around the country.

Below are two recent sermons that I preached:

Every Christian’s Ministry

Invited by the King: Would you turn down a free invitation to a royal wedding?

They’re not Christians, They Sing!

A conversation with our landlady in Pskov illustrates the challenges of evangelism in a Slavic, Orthodox context. Click below to listen:

Some highlights from the conversation:

  • “They’re not Christians, they sing!”
  • “The Pechersky Monastery is the most unholy place on earth. People come from all over the world to hang their sins there.”
  • “We’re Christians, we paid to have all our apartments blessed.”

Read about another conversation, “I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox!

Evangelism on a City Bus – Russian Orthodox

“I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox.”

You don’t expect to actually hear those words. Everyone knows it’s true, but it’s never said. Certainly not as a means of identification.

Orthodox Bible

On the bus home from a seminar the other day, Nansi had a Russian study Bible on her lap. The man sitting across from her, a Jehovah’s Witness, engaged with us – easy enough when someone is carrying a Bible! You can read the story of that encounter here.

There had been four of us sitting in tight quarters, like a restaurant booth without the table. Sitting next to the Jehovah’s Witness was a woman, who I initially thought was with him. After he left the bus, since she had heard the entire conversation, I asked if she read the Bible. Immediately she answered, “I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox.”

[“Я Библию не читаю, я Православная.”]

In response I asked, “Are Orthodox not allowed to read the Bible?”

After an awkward pause, ignoring the question, she said “that guy’s not normal,” referring to the Jehovah’s Witness.

Below is the rest of our conversation:

“I come from a different branch of Christianity, and I don’t really understand Orthodoxy. What is most important in Orthodoxy?”

“To be a good person.”

“That’s only possible with God’s strength.”

“Sometimes I feel that way.”

“I know you might think that I’m also from a cult, we work with the Baptists. We can’t be good people on our own. You can’t be a good person. I can’t be a good person. My natural self does not seek the things of God. It’s only when God resurrects me, though Jesus Christ, that I can live.”

“Why are you here, in Pskov?”

“My wife and I moved here because we want to help people. We have some friends from the area who recommended it.”

“My priest told me not to help people unless they want to be helped. I’m old, I’m in my 60s, I’m tired of people, I don’t want to spend any time with them. People don’t have the same values today, they’re only interested in money.”

“Were you a Christian in the Soviet times?”

“I never thought of it that way. I sang in the choir at church. I was a schoolteacher and they threatened to fire me because of my church going.”

Orthodox WomanAt first we thought she was angry when she asked us why we were here. I think she was just generally confused, didn’t understand why we would come. Admittedly, it doesn’t make much worldly sense.

A standard, nominal Orthodox Christian, who never goes to church, would also say it’s important to be a good person. It’s enlightening, however, to hear that from someone who is a regular part of the church’s life.

She thinks the Jehovah’s Witness is in a cult, and he thinks she’s an unbeliever, but both of them are trying to earn their salvation. I hope she gives up. I hope she stops trying to rely on her own strength.

She knows who we are, and she knows where we meet, but the cultural baggage against Protestants is so strong that very few self-identified Orthodox are willing to engage.

Less than 10% of Russians have any connection to any church. Most Russians are Orthodox only by ethnic identification. To them all Protestants are “Baptists,” and they’ve been taught that Baptists are Western traitors who practice child sacrifice. Seriously. Most believe the first accusation, and some the second.

This is one of our greatest strengths as foreign missionaries in Russia. We’re not Russian. It’s ok for us to be Protestant – I’m not a traitor for being one. Russians can engage with us as a cross-cultural dialogue, not a negotiation with an enemy. The problem is, we don’t even have the Bible as a common foundation.

Do you have any experience in theological communication with Orthodox? Let me know in the comments!

Read part 1: Evangelism on a City Bus – Jehovah’s Witness

God’s Charity?

I came across while looking for pictures for another of my sites:

Милостыня божья.
«Милостыня божья.» на Яндекс.Фотках

It’s labeled “God’s Charity.”

Such a beautiful building, and leaning against it, a man with serious problems.  It would be very easy to go off on a rant now about the priorities of the Orthodox Church.  It is a corrupt institution, with a lust for earthly power.  It deceives people into thinking that they’re saved if they pay some money and go through the motions.  It has failed abysmally to take advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to bring people to Christ and combat the moral decay and nihilism that is rampant in that part of the world.  That is all true, but it is too simple an interpretation of the photograph.

As one commenter said:

Впечатление, что храм при всей своей красоте абсолютно равнодушен к судьбе этого человека…

(I get the impression that the church, with all it’s beauty, is absolutely indifferent to the fate of this person)

That feeling is made even stronger by the fact that the church is surrounded by a sturdy fence.  Could this picture describe our church, here in America, or our spirituality?  Beautiful on the outside, but walled off to those who need it?

The church in America does a much better job with this, but there is always room for reflection and self-criticism.  And this picture should touch the hearts of anyone who considers themselves a Christian.