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.