Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Yesterday the Sofia team climbed Rila, the largest mountain on the Balkan Peninsula. We started out with a plan to take a ski lift to a spot about a 3 hour hike from Musala, the top of the mountain.  However we soon learned that particular ski lift was closed for maintenance for the next two days.  So we took the smaller sky lift that would drop us off 6 hours from the top.

This put a serious crimp in our plans.  We had planed to take the first lift ride up, casually walk to the top, take some pictures, and casually walk back down to catch the last lift back to our car.  Still, we had all day to get up and down again, and if for some reason we ran out of time, we could just go back having had a fun day on the mountain.

Though we were all smiles as our trip began, it was hard not to look at the peek so far away and wonder if we would make it.

The walk up was long.  It took us about 6 hours to get to the top.  It was worth every step.  The views were amazing.

My favorite part was a climb up a steep slope of rocks just after we passed the Musala Hut (a cabin where hikers can spend the night).  It was a hard climb, but when we reached the top we found a beautiful lake with Kenny sitting next to it (because he was so much faster than Sasha and me).

We had to stop every so often to check the map to make sure we were on the right path.  As the route became more rocky we had to count on the trail markings to find our way.  The higher we got the harder the trail became.

At the top of the mountain we reached ice lake.  The landscape was almost totally devoid of life.  The largest animal we saw was some sort of bird of pray (probably an eagle) that made a sound that sounded like a deer call.

After Ice Lake, we climbed what little was left of the mountain into the clouds.  After six hours of hiking we reached the top.

Sasha at the peek.
It took us 6 hours to get to the top, so we only had 3:20 to get back to the lift.  We went as quickly as we could.  We didn't make it, which meant another 40 minutes of walking to get to our car.  Every step of the way hurt.  A lot.  But it was worth it.

Before leaving the mountain we stopped to get a bite to eat.  We were tired, but happy.  It was a great day.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Extra Caution

You may have heard that the U.S. has closed several embassies around the world under the threat of terrorist attacks.  As someone who lives abroad, I keep a close eye on international tensions.  The embassy in Sofia was not on the list, so I was not concerned about Sasha's appointment there today.

It was to be a fairly simple visit.  She just needed a document notarized.  Sasha's sister was watching the kids, so I went with her.

We were a bit surprised at the added security at the embassy.  The Bulgarian border guard had an armored truck stationed outside.  Parking near the building was coned off.  There were more guards than usual, and they were positioned all around the embassy.  When we went to the door we had to talk to two different men before they would let either of us enter.  As I had no business there myself, I was not allowed to accompany Sasha inside even though I had my passport with me to show that I am a U.S. citizen.  I have been to the embassy many times.  This is the first time they ever refused to let me in.  While Sasha got here document notarized, I sat in the car and tried to look as little like a bad guy as possible.

The visit went well.  Sasha got her work done, and the embassy staff was very polite, as usual.  Passing through security was a bit more intense than previous visits.  They kept asking her if she had a weapon on her.  They also asked her to turn off her cell phone and were a bit concerned when the buttons on the phone stayed lit for a few seconds after the phone shut off.  Eventually they let here through, she did her business and left.

I'm glad the facility is secure, and hope it remains so.  G.I. Joe and G.I. Mitko seem to be doing their cooperative jobs well.

The U.S. Embassy in Sofia.  A little piece of home right in our neighborhood.

Monday, August 5, 2013

God's Provision

Thank you to all of you who prayed for our trip home.  The mechanic finished up our car the evening before our departure, and we were ready to roll right after breakfast the next morning.  We drove from Portoroz to Belgrade the first day and then from Belgrade home to Sofia the next day.  All in all the trip went well, and we made it home with about 9 liters of gas left in the tank.  Thank you for your prayers!

I have to admit, I was a bit concerned about this trip.  Our ministry fund tends to start running low this time of year and a drive across the Balkan Peninsula is not free.  I am very grateful to all our supporters who gave generously this month.  Without even asking, we had a bigger than expected month of donations including an extra gift from one of our regular supporting churches back in Minnesota.

Thank you to all of you on our prayer and financial support teams.  You came through for us this month.