Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Long Day

I'm writing this from the food court of a mall on the west side of Bucharest.  The leadership huddle I attended this week ended yesterday, and I had to check out of the hotel at noon.  My bus back to Sofia does not leave until 4pm.  My Bucharest friends are all doing something today, so I have nowhere to go and nothing to do for the next couple hours.

My bus will arrive back in Sofia at about midnight tonight.  This is how April 30, 2015 will begin for me.  It will be a long day full of travel.  It will begin in a bus at the Sofia central bus station, cross multiple countries, and end 36 hours later in Rockford, Illinois.

After arriving at the bus station, I will take a taxi or tram to a wonderful little apartment near the Serdika mall on the east side of central Sofia.  There, I will spend what is left of the night as the guest of five of my favorite people.

In the morning I will swing by my Sofia home to drop off some things that I don't want to bring back to America before going to the airport in the late morning.

Just before one in the afternoon, I will take off and fly over several countries to Germany.  There, I will once again enjoy a brief stay in one of the finest airports in Europe before the long flight back to Chicago.

I will land in Chicago a bit after 6pm.  After taking a quick hour or two to get my luggage and clear customs I hope to step outside to the smiling face of my Dad and/or Mom waiting to pick me up.  (By the way Mom and Dad, can you pick me up at O'hare tomorrow night?)

If for some reason they are not there, I will then panic and run around like a crazy man looking for the bus to Rockford.  (I find that panic is usually the best way to deal with problems.)  Either way, Lord willing, I should find myself in Rockford sometime before midnight.

And that is how one gets from a bus in Sofia to a bed in Rockford in one day.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Psalm 17

The Psalms of the Bible are poems.  Originally they were song lyrics, but as we have long lost the tunes they sadly remain merely the great poems they are.  I understand that many of them have amazing literary style in the original Hebrew.  I'm afraid my Hebrew is about as good as my Japanese, so I will have to take the word of Biblical scholars on that one.  All I know is that the Psalms have touched me in many meaningful ways even though I'm not usually a mushy kind of guy.

We often think of the Psalms of the Old Testament as feel good worship songs, and many are.  Sometimes we think of them as songs of repentance or songs of lament for when we have sinned or have regrets.  Sometimes we see encouragement in the Psalms during dark periods of our lives.  All of these are common feelings and themes that can be seen in this ancient book of poetry.

Recently I read a different kind of Psalm.  It is one of the many Psalms where the writer calls for justice.  In Psalm 17 the writer declares his innocence and asks the Lord to protect him from the wicked.  Verses 13-14 in particular stood out to me:

Arise, O LORD!  Confront him, subdue him!  Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.

The last part really stood out to me, "from men whose portion is in this life."  The author knows full well the passing nature of this life.  We may have a life of pleasure, but it will not last.  We may accumulate treasures and wealth and power, but at the end of it we die and everything goes to someone else.  For the evil men mentioned in this Psalm, this is all they get.

There may have been specific people the author had in mind when he wrote this bit of poetry.  He may have been thinking of individual men who had wronged him in their quest for wealth and power.  He likely had specific people in mind with specific injustices.  Those people are now all dead.  I hope that they repented of their actions, but it is entirely likely that they continued in their evil ways.

As a result of their actions, they got everything they ever wanted.

And now they have nothing.

It is ironic that a Psalm asking for justice against evil men would make me feel such pity for those against whom the author is writing.

"All get what they want; they do not always like it."  -Aslan

Friday, April 24, 2015


Last night I got on the midnight bus from Sofia to Bucharest.  I rode through the night (sleeping most of the way), and arrived in Romania's beautiful capital early this morning.

The trip went well.  I fell asleep before we left Sofia, though I did drift back to consciousness from time to time as we crossed the Old Mountains that run through central Bulgaria.  At one point we stopped in what looked like a small city or large town.  I asked the guy next to me what time it was.  He responded, "Three thirty . . . Where are we?"

"I have no idea," was my reply.  I am guessing we were in Pleven as that seems a logical place to make a stop, and is conceivably a three hour bus ride from Sofia, but I was too tired to try to figure it out.

As the bus rolled out I drifted back to sleep and woke up two hours later at our next stop in Ruse, a major border city and port on the Danube river.  I realized it would still be about a half an hour or so before we crossed the border, so I tried unsuccessfully to sleep some more.

At about 6am we left the Ruse bus stop and proceed to the border check.  A man came in the bus and checked all our passports.  Then we drove across the river just as the sun was rising.

The Danube between Bulgaria and Romania near Ruse, Bulgaria

Next we went through the Romanian border check.  This took a bit longer as about half the bus was made up of non-E.U. citizens (such as myself), and every one of our passports had to be checked on the computer.  After all, Romania doesn't want illegal immigrants sneaking into their country any more than any other country would.

After clearing customs, we proceeded to our final destination, a bus stop on the south side of Bucharest. 

I am now sitting in my boss's living room waiting for the rest of the ReachGlobal city team leaders to arrive for our leadership huddle.  I will be here for most of the next week for a time of fellowship, growth, and peer mentoring.

I like these annual leadership huddles.  This is the fourth one I have attended, and I always come out of them better.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Remembering St. Nedelya

It was 90 years ago today that Bulgaria faced the one of the worst terrorist attacks in her history.

It began on April 14th 1925 with the assassination of a well know democratic political figure named Konstantin Georgiev.  His death alone was a tragic act of violence, but it was only the beginning of what was to come.

Two days later, Georgiev's funeral was held at the St. Nedelya (St. Sunday) church in downtown Sofia.  Prominent political figures, military leaders, and even King Boris III himself would be in attendance.

The assassination of Konstantin Georgiev was not merely a random act of violence.  The Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) had him killed knowing that his funeral would bring together key members of the Bulgarian government.  The BCP was not interested in killing just one man.  They wanted to plunge Bulgaria into chaos by taking out her leaders.  The King himself was to be the biggest prize of their plot.  One bomb was intended to bring an end to the king, military leadership, and democratic leaders all at once.

The fuse was lit, and the bomb went off.  The explosion was so powerful that it blew the roof off of the church.  Hundreds were killed including many ranking members of the military.

St. Nedelya Cathedral after the attack on April 16, 1925.

However, the plan failed in its key objective.  King Boris survived.  He was late to the funeral and was not there when the bomb exploded.

The church was rebuilt, and remains in the center of Sofia to this day.  The communists remained political outsiders in Bulgaria until 1944 when help from the Soviet Union would make them the ruling party in Bulgaria for over 40 years.

As for the Bulgarian people, they all learned a valuable lesson from their king: It is better to be late than dead.

St. Nedelya Cathedral as it can be seen today in the center of Sofia.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Flying Solo

My days of travel started on Tuesday April, 14th.  I was staying with my folks in Rockford, IL, and we all drove to Chicago for the day.  It was mostly for work purposes.  We wanted to connect with my alma mater Moody Bible Institute and give the faculty information about job opportunities for graduates with our mission (ReachGlobal).

I had the added bonus of connecting with some former teachers.

Dr. Park was my advisor at Moody.  She also taught several of my classes.  When I knocked on the door of her office she about jumped out of her chair and said, "I know you!"  She actually remembered me and told me I was one of her favorite students.  She also told me she recognized me because I had not ballooned too much.  That made my day.

Dr. Clark was one of my linguistics professors.  He taught me how to learn other languages.  He did not remember me which makes total sense as he has had over 2000 students in his time at Moody, but he was happy to hear that his class set me on the right path to learn two new languages.

After our time at Moody, my folks took me out to eat at Ed Debevic's.  Good food and good service (if you like having your straws thrown at you).

Then my trip actually began.  I got on a plane left Chicago.

It looks like the Cubs had a game.  Can you spot Wrigley Field?

I landed 8 hours later in Munich.

I landed in Bavaria!  Yes, in Bavaria, where the mountains stick out of the ground!
It was at about this time that I learned how to turn off the date stamp on my camera.

After three hours enjoying the finest airport Germany has to offer I boarded my second plane and flew back to beautiful Bulgaria.
Vitosha Mountain with the city of Soifa at the foot.
My neighborhood.  I can see my house from here!

It is good to be home.  It will only be for a week and I'm away from my family, but at least I'm in Bulgaria.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

On the Road

Today, I began a long trip back to Bulgaria.  I started this morning with a drive down to Rockford, Illinois where I will stay with my folks for a few days.  On Sunday I will visit Crossview EFC in DeKalb where I will talk about Bulgaria and give a sermon.  Then on Tuesday, I fly back to Sofia.

I will be away from my family for over three weeks.  This is the longest I have been apart from theme since Sasha and I got married, and as I skyped with my three girls this afternoon there were already quite a few tears shed in our Oak Park Heights home.

I am looking forward to seeing some friends in Sofia and family in Kostenets.  I have been given instructions to give our cat a hug from everybody.  I will use this time to get things ready for the family to come back in June.  I will also attend a meeting in Romania with some of my fellow ReachGlobal city team leaders.

For the next day or two I hope to connect with some friends in the area, but other than that I have some time to relax before the long part of the trip begins.

25 days until I get back to Minnesota.