As my 10 days in Bulgaria wrap up, I’m sitting at an outdoor café trying to catch my breath and process the time here. I had thought about making multiple posts that I blew up with pictures, but I ran into a couple of obstacles. First, finding the time to do the posts was a challenge. I said a long time ago that when there is a big gap between entries, it is a good sign that a lot is going on. This was surely the case. The second problem was that I was so caught up in some of the moments that taking a picture didn’t occur to me. Not having a picture of the group in Sofia exemplifies that. So here goes a long and random post about my trip back to be with brethren I love dearly in Bulgaria after not having seen them for three years.
The trip was earlier than I would have normally planned given the fact that I am not even settled into a long-term home in Prague. None the less, the fact that it would allow me to meet, for the first time, face to face, a Bulgarian couple I have been studying with over Skype for 3 years made it worth it. They live outside of London, and they were only here on holiday. Spending a day with them was wonderful and productive. The backdrop or our visit was an ancient Roman- now Bulgarian city I had never visited before. That entailed them driving 6 hours for them to and from, but the travel time gave us lots of time to talk and the Lord and our lives.
The whole trip was new and, in some ways, and a bit of an experiment. I knew well how my short visits here during my twice a year trips to this part of the world worked, but I wasn’t sure how spending 10 days here would go. I neither wanted nor thought the days between Sunday’s would be dead, but I wasn’t sure… Readjusting to getting around and to the language started slowly, but then went well. Reading Cyrillic quickly enough to sing wasn’t easy the first Sunday, but it was much better today. The opportunities during the week to meet to talk about God were wonderful. The most surprising thing was the opportunities to talk to people who are not yet Christians. I ran out of hours, but I am excited about the next trip back.
The church in Sofia is doing well. I knew we were excited to see each other, but I did not expect the degree of hugging and crying that went on when I walked into the meeting place. This is still vacation season, so the crowds were down a bit, but the Egyptian family is back, there is a great American family who has moved in for work who will be a great asset, and there were two new ladies visiting that I was blessed to have some wonderful conversations with. One is very close to the kingdom. Seeing the empty places of the people who died was sad, but it was amazing to see some who were still there. As I walked to the meeting place on the first Sunday, my ill-fitting shoes had both heels bleeding enough to stain them. I was feeling a bit heroic until I saw an elderly Russian brother making his way across a dangerous boulevard with a smile on his face…
Traveling the 5 hours into the center of the country to see Biss was a top priority. He and his mom had just recovered from Covid, so coming to Sofia wasn’t a good option. The countryside was stunning, even on a Czech train from 30 years ago that the Bulgarians are still using. In addition to some wonderful hours with him, I was blessed to spend several hours with another man who is a contact of the preacher here in Sofia. I had not expected this, but our good spiritual discussion has opened an exciting door that I am anxious to follow up on.
Now, on to some human-interest stuff that will hopefully be informative and might accidentally be a little humorous. The pictures will be a combination of historical/archeological sites as well as some life in Bulgaria things. For example, there are pictures of a couple of churches in Sofia that are about 1600 years old. There are the spectacular remans of another from Plovdiv that are even older. The “newer” church as well as the synagogue and mosque are shown because of their proximity to each other in a religiously peaceful setting. Those who would be interested should dig a little into the 500 years of cruel oppression the Bulgarians experienced at the hands of the Turks. On a brighter note, looking at the courage of the Bulgarians of protecting Jews during WW II is a great story. The pictures from the amphitheater in Plovdiv are there because it is an amazing example of an ancient Roman structure, and it was the site of an acoustical experiment where I stood in the center of the stage and spoke in a normal conversation voice and was heard clearly by Andrey sitting near the top.