Nearly two years ago, my wife and I, in conjunction with Adventures in Prophecy, The Quiet Hour and ShareHim ministries, joined a team from the Tacoma South Side Church and went to the former Communist country of Bulgaria. At the time we had no idea what God had in store for us—indeed, we would not know to what extent God would use us nearly two years later.
Our group held evangelistic meetings in the three cities of Vidin, Belogradchik and Lom. While we prayed that our message would reach the Bulgarian people, the total baptized in the three cities—ZERO. We were told that baptisms are rare because atheism has developed such a stronghold in the minds of the people after so many years of Communist rule.
Nevertheless, while we were there we became acquainted with many wonderful, deeply committed men and women of God who have a vision for their country. One of those men was district pastoral leader Hristo Genchev. Hristo, also a former colporteur, shared a dream with us. He wanted to give literature, free, to the 7.5 million people of Bulgaria.
Before leaving I told Hristo that I would try to send enough money over so that they could print and distribute at least 1,000 Steps to Christ. I knew that our church in Tacoma could not be the total answer to his dream but we would do what little we could.
After arriving home I shared Hristo's dream with Mark, a friend and member of Adventist-Laymen's Services and Industries (ASI), who gives much of his income to overseas missions projects. Mark said that he would contribute enough money to purchase 50,000 Steps to Christ if Hristo would submit a plan of distribution. Hristo sent his plan, and we sent $17,000. It was at this time, in the summer of 2006, that Hristo was elected by the Bulgarian Union to lead the literature evangelism efforts for the country. As a result, in January and February 2007 they distributed 50,000 Steps to Christ along with 350,000 brochures (the result of a gift from a fellow Bulgarian living abroad) in the districts of Vidin and Montana—one of the most atheistic-minded regions of Bulgaria. Every home was visited in 272 towns and villages with a total population of 307,000 people who were able to hear God's message.
With this awesome start, the project has now grown into a national campaign! Every local church wanted the same thing to happen in their districts and so they started raising money. Writes Hristo, "Our church had never participated in a bigger mission project since the fall of communism."
Mark from ASI donated another $35,000. Hristo began presenting his vision in the churches and in just two months raised $70,000. The Bulgarian members living abroad then donated about $32,000, and still those living in Bulgaria would give an additional $70,000 to the project! This came from about 7,500 Bulgarian church members whose average monthly income is $300! Hristo writes, "This was a miracle—people were giving out of nothing, living in poor conditions."
Now the new campaign has enough money to distribute 1.2 million printed pieces of material to half of the households in Bulgaria. Hristo and his team will do this between October 2007 and April 2008 and hope to reach 3.6 million people. They have already printed 600,000 magazines titled "ZAEDNO" or "TOGETHER"—that is Steps to Christ, and 600,000 brochures of "Future Without Fear."
There are also plans for a second campaign that would reach the remaining 56 districts with 1,288 towns and villages as well as the big cities Sofia, Ploviv and Varna by April of 2008. Hristo says, "We didn't rely only on our own abilities and funds or external help, but we trusted completely God's power to fulfill His promises from the scripture."
I asked Hristo what the results have been from the project. "We have already [baptized] seven people as a direct result of the project.
"All participants [church members] feel heavenly joy and peace. They are convinced that God is leading us. Translators and editors cry for joy and pray that God touches the lives of other people the way He has done it with them while they were translating. Many of those who volunteer witness the abundant blessings of God: promotion in work, answers of prayers, family blessings, etc."
"In every church people have started attending as a result of the project. And young people who have been helping to spread the books are now thinking about being baptized."
"The brothers from the Division are also following the development of this project.... Personally I believe that God wants to show what He is doing in our country as a model that the Adventist Church can carry out in the whole world. In every step I can see God's providence affecting the circumstances." This past month the Bulgarian Conference has begun developing plans of reaping and welcoming in the people that will be coming as a result of this great effort.
If you are interested in the Bulgarian project you may visit our website at http://tacomasouthside.org and click on the "Contact Us" page.