Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Visit from Szczecin

In just a few hours a couple of our closest friends fly in from Poland.  We are very excited.  Our girls are excited as well.  They have a daughter who is about Alexis' age, so for them a week of parties is about to begin.  It is becoming a bit of a tradition to spend New Years with them.  Since we met them we have spent every New Years together that we have been in Europe.

Let the tri-lingual crazy fun begin!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Countdown

This morning we loaded the family in the car and took a trip downtown for that favorite of holiday traditions, bureaucratic paperwork.

It started at the neighborhood registration office.  This is the office where one can officially register himself as living in the neighborhood.  Ironically the office is not in the neighborhood.

We have been there several times in the past months in attempts to register me as living at our address in Sofia.  This is one of the final steps in making me a permanent resident.  They needed to register me and give me a number.  Three weeks ago they said the number would be ready in a week.  A week later they said the number might be ready by Wednesday the 21st.  Wednesday we called and they had no idea what we were talking about.  Friday we went down there in person and asked if the number was ready after three weeks of waiting.  They said, “Oh yes, it should be.”  After waiting for half an hour they handed us a piece of paper with a four digit number hand written on it.  I can understand how this might take three weeks to produce.  (We are pretty sure they issued the number while we were waiting.)

Then we drove to the other side of down town to the immigration office to give them the four digit hand written number, fill out forms identical to forms we filled out months ago, and pay another 90 Leva (about $60) to get my card.  Unfortunately, while we were filling out the forms and running up and down the block to the nearby office supply store to get all the paperwork copied with 3 kids in tow, the kind and sympathetic office worker went on break and the grumpy office worker with the bad haircut replaced her.  We managed to brighten up her day a bit through a combination of lame jokes and the antics of our cute kids.

In 10 business days my residency card should be finally ready.  Just in time as my temporary residency card expires early next month.

This was the last big thing we had to do before Christmas.  Now it is just a matter of last minute shopping, meal preparation for tomorrow night, and then the Christmas fun begins!

And now for something completely different . . .

Yesterday was Sophie’s class Christmas presentation.  It was full of little kids in traditional Bulgarian costumes presenting the Christmas story and singing songs.  

Sophie had been working on her lines for weeks and she was so proud that she said them all correctly.  Roughly translated into English they mean, “I hear an angelic voice.  ‘Today is a bright holiday.  God has come to us in Jesus.  Today is the day of His birth!.’”  (Yes, public schools are very different here.)

Immediately after she said her line, a little boy on stage left jumped up and said, “Dad, that one is Sophia!”  I think someone has a crush.  I asked Sophie about the boy later.  She informed us that she likes him because he is funny.

There was singing, a visit from Father Christmas, and traditional Bulgarian Christmas foods to follow. 

Sophie the little Bulgarian girl!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Right Language for Once.

I wrote a letter to a Polish friend today.  Though I'm no longer living in Poland, I still use Polish from time to time.  Actually, if you asked Sasha, she would probably tell you that I use it more often then I would admit.  It seems to be an almost weekly event when Sasha tells me that I'm speaking the wrong language to someone.

Though my Bulgarian is getting better, I still tend to throw in a Polish word from time to time.  This usually happens when I can't remember the Bulgarian word I'm trying to say.  The language center of my brain just says what it thinks is right, and by the time the rest of my brain weighs in on the matter it I've already spoken a word that no one around me understands.

It is getting better though.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

End of the Line . . . I hope

We are about to reach the end of the line.  Today I was finally able to get registered as a resident of the house we have been living in since last winter.  Next week I go back to the registration office to pick up a number.  Then I bring this number to the immigration office.  In exchange, if all goes well, I should get a permanent residency card and become an official permanent resident of Bulgaria.

This is great news, and you think I would be more excited, but let's face it, until I get the card in my hand I will not consider the process done.  There always seems to be one more step.

So keep us in your prayers.  I'm hoping to be able to report next Friday that the immigration process is over (for a long while).  Please pray that all goes smoothly and that we can finish this off.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Conference Summary

The last guests for the Sofia conference left today.  Together we learned about and explored Sofia.  We also discussed human trafficking and the terrible realities of this hidden slave market around the world.  We finished up by meeting with our area leaders and area city team leaders.

I am very tired from this past week, but I was also sad to see everyone go.  It was a humbling honor to have this meeting in our city, and it was very enjoyable to be able to share our city and ministry with them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Parent Teacher Conference

Tonight I went to my first Bulgarian parent teacher conference.  A couple of things struck me.  The first was that the teacher made sure to announce that there would be a prayer to Jesus Christ, and songs of a religious nature at the Christmas program.  She explained that the spiritual nature of Christmas is part of the overall Bulgarian culture and it is tradition to sing spiritual songs at the Christmas presentation.  However, if anyone had a problem they could talk to her and have their children excused from that part of the program.  After the teacher explained all this, the woman next to me said, "Well, it's Jesus' birthday after all.  Why shouldn't there be a spiritual nature to the program."

I can't imagine such a conversation at a public school in America.

The other thing that interested me was how much the teacher went into detail as to her personal theology.  She said, that she teaches about everything being God.  The sun, the trees, the children's parents.  I almost felt like chiming in and saying, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I know I'm not God," but not being totally confident in my Bulgarian yet, and not wanting to make a fool of myself had I misunderstood, I remained silent.  Another parent confirmed later that she did indeed say what I thought she said.

We also got some great news about Sophie.  The teacher gave us a glowing report.  She told us that our daughter is doing better in class than some of the kids who speak Bulgarian as a first language.  She is understanding more and more.  Though she still talks mostly in English with the teacher, she is interacting with her peers in Bulgarian.  She seems to understand almost everything.  The teacher said that she is very bright and very attentive.

Having received such a great report, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our good friends Charles and Shelly for the great tips they gave us in raising an American kid in a foreign school.  Your advice has been very helpful to us and our little girl.

Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the day we have been planing for for months.  ReachGlobal leaders from around Eastern Europe will arrive in Sofia for a week of meetings.  Just when I thought I had all the wrinkles ironed out of the logistical details, I got a e-mail from the U.S. Embassy informing all U.S. citizens of planed demonstrations by Bulgarian Union workers in down-town Sofia.  There will be thousands of disgruntled workers marching through the capital very close to the hotel where we will all be gathering.

The protest will be peaceful, but it will also disrupt traffic on the very streets where I will be driving.

How fun would life be if it were easy?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Untold Story

As some of you may remember, last March Sasha took a trip up to Northern Bulgaria to visit an orphanage.  There was a little girl at this orphanage who we have been praying for ever since.  She was going through the adoption process so we did not share much on our blog as we did not want to jeopardize the adoption process.  However, she is now in the United States, and a U.S. citizen.  She has a new Mommy and Daddy, and we can now share her story.  This posting will only give you a glimpse of their story.  If you would like to hear more about this little girl and the amazing family that adopted her you can go to their blog www.theblessingofverity.com

This little girl was 9 years old when Sasha first saw her, yet she weighed less than some newborn babies.  She is unable to walk, and still takes food from a bottle and wears diapers.  She has some mental handicaps, but nothing that should cause her to be in such a physical state.

She has spent almost all of her life in a crib in the same room of an orphanage.  She had very little human contact, and no play time.  She had her diaper changed once a day.  This went on for 9 years.  To us it is amazing that this little girl is even alive.

The family that adopted her is one of the most loving families we have ever met.  They are not some Brad and Angelina couple with lots of money looking to help those less fortunate.  They already have 10 kids of their own, one of whom has down-syndrome.  This family had every reason to not go through the trouble and expense of adopting a desperately unhealthy little orphan girl from another country.  Who would have blamed them if they just turned a blind eye to the needs of this little one?  After all, they can only do so much.  Yet all they gave freely for the sake of this little girl.

A week ago today this little girl spent her last day in an orphanage.  She is an orphan no longer.  She is a daughter.  The day after they picked her up her parents had to take her to a Bulgarian hospital in the middle of the night.  Fortunately, just a couple days before we had shown them one of the best private hospitals in Bulgaria, so they knew where to go.  The doctors at the hospital could not believe that this little girl was 9 years old.  They also could not believe that she was Bulgarian.  They had no idea of the neglect that is going on in this country in the orphanage system.

Now she is in her new home.  American doctors are looking after her in a hospital in Pennsylvania.  We have heard good reports so far.  She remains in our prayers.

There is a great need to reform the government run children programs in Bulgaria.  Things like this should not happen, yet this little girl was not alone.  There are more like her.

Please pray that real change would happen.  We don’t pretend to know what the solution is, but something has to change.  Thank God that at least this little girl got out, and that, from the reports we have heard, many others are to follow with other families.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

City Team Leaders' Conference

I'm putting the finishing touches on a City Team Leader conference that I'm hosting for ReachGlobal leadership from 5 countries in Eastern Europe.  I have some experience in managing such events.  I've set up meetings, and gatherings of this nature before.  I've hosted teams that have come to visit our field.  Yet this trip has required much more work than previous such gatherings.  There are a lot more people coming to this get-together.  Just getting them all to and from the airport requires more logistics than before.  Not to mention that I have to line up presenters for some of the time slots.

Busy work aside though, I am very excited about this gathering.  I get the chance to show of ReachGlobal's new city.  Long term, I'm looking for strategic partnerships.  It could be that partnerships can form between us and some of the other local RG city teams.  Either way, it is always exciting just to share my vision for this country.

Please keep this event in your prayers.  It is from November 30th to December 6th.  Please pray that God would use this time for His glory and that we would all come out of it with a renewed vision for Eastern Europe.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Language Learning Update

Earlier this week I finished up my second language course.  This was both very exciting, and well ahead of schedule.  I had intended on sticking with this language program until I at least finished the third course and I still intend on doing so, but I'm going to significantly lower the hours I attend the language school for the third course.

Why you ask?  For several reasons.  First of all, though I have only finished the second course, according to my native speaking wife, I am very close to where I need to be to work in full time ministry here.  I'm not quite there yet, but I can definitely lower my hours and still get there well ahead of schedule.  The one thing that is significantly missing in my Bulgarian is my theological vocabulary.  This brings us to the second reason I am lowering my language school hours.  I need more time to learn theological terms in Bulgarian.  By lowering my school hours I will have extra time to study theological material with a beautiful Bulgarian woman who has a degree in Bible theology and biblical Greek (Sasha).

I have often heard the term, "God's economy."  This term refers to, among other things, how events that seem to have no connection, and in some cases may even appear to be a waste of resources, can come together to in a way no human could have planned.  This is certainly the case now.  Had Sasha and I not learned Polish together years ago, we would not be in a good position to evaluate my language progress now and make wise decisions regarding what my next steps should be.  Had Sasha not studied theology she would not have the vocabulary in both languages to teach me what I now need to know.  As it stands, I have the perfect teacher for the next phase in my Bulgarian development living in the same house as me fully equipped and ready to give me free lessons.  All this happened through what would appear to be random and unconnected circumstances.

"I love it when a plan comes together."  -Col. Hannibal Smith

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weekend at Home

Two weeks ago we were in Drianovo.  Last week we were in Kostenets.  This week we finally get to stay home.  This is a good thing as we all have been fighting a pretty nasty cold.  I have not even been able to run for the past couple of weeks because of the chest congestion.

Thanks to so many of your for your generous donations.  Our ministry account levels have gone up, and we have been able to reverse the salary cut we took for this month.  We still have a net cut in our salary since we arrived in Bulgaria last winter, but the amount of the cut has gone from over 30% to about 10%.  This is much easier to live with.

It is amazing how God provides for our needs!  Thanks to all of you!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Update

We had a great trip to Dryanovo and Veliko Turnovo this weekend.  In Dryanovo we visited Sasha's grandparents.  The girls loved seeing their great-grandparents for the first time.  It was a fun trip for David as well as he had the chance to sit down and hear some stories about a 5 year old Sasha first hand from Grandpa.  He obviously thought very highly of her.  The last time Dave visited them (in 2000) he did not speak Bulgarian, so there was little he could say and even less he could understand.  This time he was able to join in conversation with them.

On Saturday we left the girls with their grandparents and great-grandparents while we visited the former capital of Bulgaria and home to a prominent University.  Veliko Turnovo is a beautiful city with something fun for just about everyone.  Located on a hillside with steep streets there is hardly anyplace in the town that does not have a good view.  Below are some pictures to give you an idea of some of the great sites.

In the afternoon we also toured the Dryanovo Monastery and caves before returning back to town only to find out that our girls had been spoiled rotten by Grandma and Grandpa all morning at the town fair.
A few facts about Veliko Turnovo and Drianovo Monastery from Wikipedia:

Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgarian: Велико Търново, Veliko Tŭrnovo) is a city in north central BulgariaVeliko Tarnovo Province. Often referred to as the " and the administrative centre of City of the Tsars", Veliko Tarnovo is located on the Yantra River and is famous as the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, attracting many tourists with its unique architecture. Until 1965 the name of the town was Tarnovo, and this is still the common name. The old city is situated on three hills, Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora raising amidst the meanders of the Yantra. Tsarevets housed the palaces of the Bulgarian Emperors and the Patriarchate with the Patriarchal Cathedral, as well as a number of administrative and residential edifices surrounded by thick walls. Trapezitsa was known for its many churches and as the main residence of the nobility. In the Middle Ages it was among the main European centres of culture and gave its name to the architecture of the Tarnovo Artistic School, painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School and literature.


The Dryanovo Monastery (Bulgarian: Дряновски манастир, Dryanovski manastir) is a functioning Bulgarian Orthodox monastery situated in the Andaka River Valley, in Bulgarka Nature Park in the central part of Bulgaria five kilometers away from the town of Dryanovo. It was founded in the 12th century, during the Second Bulgarian Empire, and is dedicated to Archangel Michael. Twice burnt down and pillaged during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria, the monastery was restored at it present place in 1845. It was the site of several battles during the April Uprising of 1876.


Veliko Turnovo

Street vendors

We stopped at the quaint restaurant for lunch
Super delicious chicken soup Sasha had for lunch

David always orders this Ovcharska Salad when he goes to a restaurant!
At the restaurant
A view of Veliko Turnovo (former capital of Bulgaria)

After Veliko Turnovo we went to Drianovo Monastery

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trip North

Tomorrow our family will take a trip north for the weekend to the city Drianovo where Sasha's two surviving Grandparents live.  Our girls have not met these grandparents yet, so this is going to be a big weekend for all of us.  It has been 11 years since either Sasha or I have seen these grandparents as well.  The last time we saw them we were a young engaged couple, and I was still a student.  It is about time we see them again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Value of an Apple

Yesterday our oldest girl, Sophia ate an apple.  Before she took a bite she made it clear that she wanted to keep the seeds.  Her reasoning was that she wanted to plant an apple tree so that Mommy and Daddy would not have to go to the store anymore to buy apples.

I have bought and consumed hundreds of apples in my lifetime, but it occurs to me that I have been throwing away the most valuable part.  The fruit of an apple is delicious and healthy.  It is full of vitamins, sweet, and filling.  We even have a proverb about the value of healthy eating that uses an apple to make its point.  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Yet for all the goodness of the fruit, the most valuable part is in the core.  It is the seeds.  Each apple has the potential to plant several more apple trees each with the ability to produce hundreds of apples, yet this is the part that almost everyone considers to be garbage.

This morning, Sophia went outside to check on the two small cups of dirt in which we planted two of her seeds from her apple.  (One is for us and the other is for her Baba.)  She was very disappointed to find no trees sprouting up.  There was not even a hint of green in the fertile black dirt.  This morning she learned why most people throw away their seeds.  Growing an apple tree just takes too much time.  It does not seem to be worth it.

There are two spiritual lessons to be learned from Sophia’s experience with the apple seeds.

First, when we see people’s lives changed through the salvation Jesus gives us we rejoice.  We are filled with joy as we see one piece of fruit from the hard labors of so many.  What we often fail to do is see the potential in our fellow believers.  Each one is capable of going out and bringing hundreds more into a personal relationship with Jesus, yet we are content if they just show up at church 3 out of every 4 Sundays and sing a few songs.  We discard the best part of the fruit.

Second, we are impatient.  The few times we actually bother to plant the seed that we have been given, we are disappointed if we do not see immediate and drastic results.  Sophia did the right thing if she wanted more fruit.  She stuck the seeds in dirt, watered them, and put them in a place where there was sun.  Yet she was so disappointed when there was no sign of growth the next morning.  Some kids might give up at this point and assume that their project was a failure and a waste of resources.  Others might think that perhaps Sophia is a failure as an apple farmer as her efforts have produced nothing.  They might think, “This girl can’t grow fruit.”  They would be right.  None of us can really produce fruit in either a spiritual or physical sense.  Fruit comes from obedience to God, but God produces the fruit.  We can plant an apple seed and water it, but only God makes it grow.  In the same way we can tell people about salvation through Jesus, but only He can take that seed and make life out of it.  This often takes time.

Knowing my daughter, I assume she will stick with this project.  She will water the seeds and take care of them and repot them when they outgrow their cups, and eventually plant them in the yard.  Yet many of us give up on people when we do not see immediate results.  We make this mistake because we think that we are responsible for results.  Yet the results are not in our hands.  They are in God’s hands.  All we can do is be obedient to His commands to use the seed we have been given.

Are we using it?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Financial Follow-Up

Some of you have written asking about our financial situation since seeing our post last month.  Here is where things currently stand.  Last month we fell over $2,000 below our minimum reserve level.  What this means is that we still have some money in our ministry account, but we are below what our mission would like us to have in reserve.  This means that we are not allowed to reimburse any ministry expenses until our reserve levels are back up to where they need to be, so all of our ministry expenses are coming out of the Bliss bank account for the time being.

Fortunately we did not need a salary cut this month, but if the trend continues we might.  Equally fortunate is that we do not have many major ministry expenses this month, so we are not in trouble with our personal finances.  These are both things that we are thankful for, and once again evidence that God will provide for all of our needs.

To sum up.  Our needs are being met, and neither our family or our ministry are suffering, but money is quite tight at the moment.

What can you do?  The big thing we need right now is prayer.  Please pray that God would provide for all our needs, and that we would have peace and trust Him.

Please also pray for regular pledges (be it monthly, quarterly, or annually).  Such pledges help us make long term plans, and also really encourages us as we see people willing to make regular financial contributions to our ministry.

Of course, the other thing you can do is make a donation to our ministry account.  If you want to give online you can do so here.

If you would like to give through mail, or automatic monthly deductions e-mail us for details.

Either way, we would love it if you send us a note letting us know that you are making a contribution or a pledge.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Speaking Bulgarian Hearing English

Sophie started Bulgarian school earlier this week.  After her first day she made an interesting observation.  She told me "When you speak Bulgarian to a Bulgarian they hear English.  When you speak English to a Bulgarian they hear nothing."  She also said, "I need to learn Bulgarian so that when someone speaks Bulgarian I hear English."

At first I did not understand, but as she explained further I figured it out.  What she was trying to say was that Bulgarians understand Bulgarian like she understands English, and many of them don't understand English at all.  She wants to learn Bulgarian to the point where it is just as clear to her as English is.

She is making progress in learning Bulgarian.  Sometimes we ask her questions in Bulgarian, and she responds accurately in English.  I was encouraged by her childish explanation of languages because it shows me that she understands language differences and what it means in a practical sense.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Annual Retreat

Tonight I am taking my annual retreat.  I will spend the night alone at a hotel in a town about an hour away from Sofia.  I will pray, read of scripture, and listen to God's voice as I write our my annual ministry plan for the next year.

I had planned to take this retreat last week, but family illness made me think it would be prudent to wait a week until we were all off medication (including me).  It looks like things are pretty clear now.  There are still some lingering symptoms from this persistent bug, but nothing that Sasha can't handle on her own.

Please keep my in your prayers tonight and into tomorrow.  Pray for wisdom and clarity as I seek God's will for my life, my family's lives, and the ReachGlobal ministry in Sofia.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What a Month!

August was quite a month.  We started out with a terrible stomach flu that nearly canceled our trip to Germany.  Then we picked up a cold that has really slowed down our family.  Finally we went to see a doctor earlier this week, and it turned out that our oldest had a bacterial infection in her lungs.  We now have a kitchen counter full of medication for our girls who are still fighting this persistent bug.  It seems like so long since we have all been healthy, and even longer since Sasha and I got a good chance to rest.

On top of the sicknesses, August has been one of our busiest since arriving in Bulgaria in January.  Not only did we have the conference in Germany.  We have also had 9 overnight guests and seemingly non-stop appointments and meetings.

We did have a lot of fun in August too.  We celebrated Sasha's birthday, and had a great time at the conference.  We also really enjoyed all 9 of our guests.  Still, I'm personally looking forward to the school year beginning so that things can calm down a bit.
Hereare a couple of videos from the children's program at the conference.  Our oldest 2 are up on the stage :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

That Time of the Month

God's word tells us to not be anxious about anything but to bring our requests to God with thanksgiving, and the peace that transcends understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).  I know this in my head, yet every month the same thing happens.

You see, Sasha and I live on the donations of others to our ministry.  Our salary, our work, our health insurance, they are all covered by the faithful donations of others.  I guess in a way, we are all dependent on others for our well being.  Whether you are a construction worker or a wealthy inventor of an online social network, your financial well being is provided by others purchasing what you have to offer.  In our case however, that truth is seen more clearly as we are not selling anything for a living but rather giving what we have to offer free of charge.  We are allowed to live this way because of a faithful support team that makes donations every month or quarter or year to keep us fed and clothed.  One month of low giving can significantly alter our financial condition.

So far we have been provided for without fail.  Our salary has gone up and down (currently it is down), yet we have always had food and clothing.  Still, when the end of the month comes I find myself concerned (because "worried" is not a very spiritual word) that perhaps the funds wont come in to cover expenses.

That is where we are now.  With only two days left in the month we are over $2000 away from meeting our minimum needs.  If the funds don't come in our salary will likely have to be cut again.  It is hard not to be anxious in times like this, yet we trusts God that whatever happens, He will provide.  He always does.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back from the Conference

Thank you for your prayers, we had a great conference.  The sickness we had before we came did not keep us from going, and we were blessed to spend time with our co-workers and hear from some amazing speakers.  We were refreshed and refocused.  It was a wonderful time.

Here are a couple of great quotes from some of the speakers:

"To make nice things cost Christ nothing. To rescue our souls cost Him His life...What means more?"  -Kevin Cross

"Daily courage comes out of an intimate walk with God."  -T. J. Addington

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who staffed this event.  The worship team from Valley EFC in West Des Moines, Iowa and the children's ministry team from First EFC in Maplewood, Minnesota especially ministered to our hearts and the hearts of our children.

Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Learn to Speak?

This morning I was in a local town talking with a relative of Sasha's.  I have know this elderly lady for years, but have not seen her for about a month.  She was impressed by what she noted as marked improvement in my Bulgarian.  I told her that she should not be surprised.  I live in Bulgaria now, I should learn Bulgarian.  I reminded her of one of her family members who years ago moved to Minnesota speaking literally no English.  She now speaks great English and is even an American citizen.

If someone lives in a country for an extended period of time they have to learn the language if they hope to interact with the culture.  It surprises me when I meet people living in America who have been there for years and do not speak English.  I am equally surprised when I meet Americans who have lived in another country for years and do not speak the local language.

No one expects it to come quickly.  It takes babies years to learn their first language, and different children learn at different rates regardless of intelligence.  Yet, if a child never learns to speak then we all assume that there is either a physical or mental problem preventing him from learning the language.

An adult not learning the language of his host country is usually not a result of a physical or mental problem, but rather it usually stems from a lack of need.  This was a danger for me coming to Bulgaria.  I have a wife who can translate everything for me.  I also live in a city where many people speak English.  Yet, I do not want to make a little English bubble and live in my English speaking world.  I want to be able to have conversations with little old ladies who speak no English.  I want to be a part of Bulgarian culture and life.  I want to be able to talk to Bulgarians in the language that resonates deep in their hearts, because the message I have to share with them is a message for their hearts.

Why put in the effort to learn the language of your home country?  Why learn to speak?  I rather ask, "Why not learn to speak?"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Off To Germany

Thursday we are scheduled to fly out to Germany for the bi-annual ReachGlobal Europe Division Conference.  These conferences are always revitalizing and refreshing as well as refocusing and a great time to reconnect with our coworkers.  (Wow, that's a lot of "re's.")

A lot of time and planning has gone into this trip.  Staff from around the world have been working to make this upcoming week all that it can be.  Thank you in advance to all of them for all they have done and are doing to make this event a success.

Our first full day of the conference (Friday) will be a day of prayer and fasting.  Please pray with us that God would focus our hearts on Him as we come before Him for this time of prayer and worship.

Please also pray for good health and travels for all who are going to this conference.  Our family for one is not healthy right now.  We have a serious stomach bug going around, and with travels only two days away we have some important decisions to make.  Please pray that we would get healthy and stay healthy.

Thank you for your prayers.  We will let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Edge of Europe

Last week we took our family vacation.  We spent a week on the Black Sea (about 5 hours from here) near a town called Sozopol.  As a child, Sasha went to the Black Sea almost every year.  It is a common place for Bulgarians to take a vacation in a way similar to many Minnesotans going "up north" for a week long fishing trip.

Actually, as I think about it, the Minnesota term, "up north," is a pretty close in meaning to a Bulgarian saying that they are going to the Black Sea.  Up north is a vague term that refers to about the upper third of the state, so if you are going up north no one knows exactly where you are going, yet almost everyone goes there on vacation.  The Black Sea is the eastern border of Bulgaria and stretches for hundreds of miles.  If someone says that they are going to the Black Sea, no one knows exactly where they are going yet almost everyone goes there for vacation.

It was kind of a surreal experience for me being at the sea.  I have, of course, known about the Black Sea most of my life.  It is a massive body of water bigger than most states and many countries that forms a large portion of the border between Europe and Asia.  Yet it was strange for me to actually swim in it every day as if I were swimming in the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin where I spent many summer days as a kid.  This particular sea has always seemed like such a far of place.  It is a little odd to have it be just a few hours drive away.

For me it was fun and kind of relaxing to just stand on the shore and look off of the eastern edge of Europe thinking about the lands on the other side.  It is the farthest east I have ever been, and it made me feel a bit like Reepicheep the Mouse to be there.

It was a great vacation for all of us.  Now we are back in Sofia, and I had so much work to catch up on that it took me two days of non-stop labor to get to the point where I could finally sit down and write this blog.  It was worth it though.  Our whole family is revitalized from this time away.  You know it is a good vacation when you enjoyed every minute of it yet are still happy to be home.