Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why We Are Not Going Home

News broke around the world yesterday about the terrorist attacks in Brussels.  One comment I saw on social media caught my attention.  It was a plea directed toward some of my American friends who live here in Bulgaria urging them to pack up and go home.  This got me thinking about why we do not leave in times like this.

The first reason we are not leaving is that we are hundreds of miles away from Brussels.  Bulgaria is literally on the other side of the continent.  In fact, the bombings in Ankara, Turkey earlier this month were closer to us that the attack in Brussels.

(By the way, don’t feel bad if you didn’t know that Bulgaria is very far away from Brussels.  When the Boston marathon bombing happened, I had a European friend who asked if my family in Minnesota was ok.  We can’t all be geography experts.)

The second reason we are not leaving is that we have seen things like this happen before.  On July 18, 2012 there was a terrorist attack in Burgas, Bulgaria where a suicide bomber blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists.

Bus in Burgas blown up by Hezbollah on July 18, 2012

I know that the Paris and Brussels attacks shook up the U.S. because Paris and Brussels are centers of American tourism and commerce where you are far more likely to find an American that Burgas or Ankara.  Nevertheless terrorist attacks have happened and keep happening around the world.

Additionally danger exists even outside of the terrorist realm.  Here in Sofia, our next-door neighbor’s house was once raided by a police force in the dead of night.  Last year there was an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) attack on a mafia boss who used to live just down the block from us.  We have even heard gunshots on our street just outside our house.  Danger exists, and we are aware of it.

Besides, it's not like moving back to the United States would keep us free from danger.  You are statistically far more likely to be murdered in Chicago than you are in Sofia.  The world is full of evil people.  The only way to escape them completely is to leave the world.

All of this leads to a more serious topic though.  It makes me think about the theological implications of fearing for our lives.  As a Christian, I believe God is in control.  This does not mean that bad things will not happen to me.  They do on a daily basis.  This does mean that when they do happen, I can have assurance that God will turn them all for good.

The reality is, I am going to die someday.  It may be years from now when I’m older than my 92 year-old grandpa, or it could be that death will take me in less than a minute.  I will die at exactly the time and place when God wants me to die, and I am ready for it.  Nothing can be accomplished by living in fear and attempting to avoid that eventuality.

Now this does not mean I live foolishly.  I take precautions.  I have a detailed evacuation plan in place for my family and any teammates working with us in Sofia.  I also lock my doors at night and am ready in most circumstances to protect myself and my family.  I don’t take unnecessary risks like jumping in front of moving cars, and if I see a man with a gun I will move away from him if at all possible.

However, I will not be subject to the fear of death because I trust God--even if I were to die sooner rather than later.  Instead, I will live my life for Him, and do his will.

That is the real reason we are not packing up and going home.  We trust God, and we recognize that the best place to be is in His will regardless of the danger.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tragedy in Bulgaria

Earlier this week, a story circulated on social media concerning a family that came from the U.S. to Bulgaria to adopt two special needs boys.  While here, the father passed away suddenly.  My family has been a part of helping out this family, and we have had requests for an update on what happened.  In this blog I am going to give you the story as we saw it.

About two weeks ago, Eric and Natalie Quesenberry came to Bulgaria along with their 13 year old son Ian to pick up their adopted sons James and Jaren.  Jaren is 5 and is blind.  James is 11 and is autistic.  Saturday February 27th, Eric died suddenly in their rented apartment in downtown Sofia.  The family had planned to leave for America the following morning and even had their bags packed and ready to go.

Just yesterday (Tuesday March 2), it was confirmed that Eric had suffered a massive heart attack, and nothing could have been done to save him. 

Saturday evening, we received a message from our coworkers from IMB (International Mission Board) who live out of town.  Through the missionary grapevine, they had received notice of the Quesenberry’s situation.  They contacted Sasha thinking that being Bulgarian she could be useful to this family as they tried to figure out what the next steps were in getting the family as well as Eric’s remains back to the U.S.

Natalie and the family moved out of the apartment that night and spent the night with a U.S. embassy family.  The following day they moved to our house and spent Sunday night and most of Monday with us.

Natalie was, understandably very distressed.  She had several very hard nights emotionally.  However, during this unimaginably hard time she remained brave and dealt with all of details that needed to be taken care of.  We admire her strength in this tragedy!

Ian was strong for his mom, and did better than anyone could expect a 13-year-old boy to do under such circumstances.

While at our house, both Sasha and I talked with James and Jaren about what had happened.  They do not speak English yet, so up until that point they had only gotten bits and pieces of what was going on.  They also were both struggling emotionally.  After all, they had just been adopted when their dad suddenly died.  It was hard on the whole family.

Monday evening, a young couple arrived from the Quesenberry's home church.  With the help of the adoption agency and another missionary couple, we moved the Quesenberreis into another apartment downtown.  We continued to check on them and be available when necessary.  Other missionaries brought them food and helped care for them.

This morning, they flew back to America.  As I write this, they are likely in the air making their way home.

So many people helped this family in their time of need.  I would like to extend thanks to the U.S. Embassy in Sofia and the workers there who went out of their way to help the Quesenberries.

I would also like to thank the adoption agency that helped them with the legal paperwork related to this tragedy.

I also want to thank my daughters.  Our three girls helped out in ways that only three kids could.  They befriended the Quesenberry kids and loved on them.

Finally I would like to thank the missionary community of Bulgaria.  Missionaries from several agencies and countries came together to help this family through this tragedy.  I would like to extend a special thanks to Shawn and Natalie Key who mobilized the missionary community and did more to help out the Quesenberries than anyone else.

For us in Bulgaria, our part in this story is done, but I would ask you to continue to pray for the Quesenberries.  Their struggle is just beginning.  They are going home to America, while their father has gone home to heaven.  We get to rest and recover from having lived several days in crisis mode.  They need to keep going in a world without Eric.  Please pray for strength for all the members of the Quesenberry family as well as for their support network back in the U.S.

Dave with his new pal Jaren.  (Whenever Jaren ate at the table he asked for "The Man" to sit with him.)