Saturday, September 23, 2017

Being Cared For

Brian and Diane Harris--Pastors to Missionaries

We first met the Harrises four years ago in Minneapolis when we were back in America.  We shared a meal at Split Rock Grill and got to know them a little bit.  They had just taken on the title of “pastors to missionaries.”

A year later, they visited us on the field for the first time.  We did not know them that well yet, but it was nice to have someone from our organization visit.  Our mission had just gone through a rough patch, and it was good to have someone formally visit to help us process what had happened thousands of miles away.

Last year they visited again.  At this point it was like having old friends come to visit.  We had met them a few times, and they were starting to get a feel for what life is like in Bulgaria.  They got to know some of our friends by name, and developed a deeper understanding of how to pray for us.  Being alone here in Sofia, their visit helped us feel better connected to our organization.

Highlights from the Harries second trip to Sofia

Last week they came for their third visit to Bulgaria.  It was something Sasha and I both looked forward to.  They have now been following our ministry for years.  They know the key players and our close friends.  They grieved with us at the loss of several friendships and informal partnerships over the past year as people moved away, and prayed with us as we look forward to the future.

For most of my adult life I have been in some sort of professional ministry.  For over a decade I have served in Europe away from the country I where I spent my childhood.  As such, my relationship to pastors is quite different than it may be for your average church attender in America.  Rather than pastors being people who minister to me, I am used to pastors being ministry partners that I work along side.  I am generally ok with this, but the down side of it is that now, after years of ministry, I find that there are times I need someone to turn to as a pastor, and such a person does not exist in my life.


This is the role the Harrises fill in the ReachGlobal Europe Division.  It is a blessing to have them come and sit and listen to us and invest in our lives.  I am very glad to work with an organization that values the emotional and spiritual health of its workers.  I am grateful to have the Harrises in our lives.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

It's What We Do

I have the privilege this week of attending the ReachGlobal Europe Conference in Slovenia.

Early in the week we had a slide show with pictures of ministry sent in from all over Europe.  One thing that stood out to me was how many pictures were nothing more than a group of people gathered in a living room or a coffee shop.  Yes there were pictures of schools and churches and camps, but most of the pictures were merely people in life together.

This should not be surprising.  Ministry is about people, and people are not projects.  If we truly care about those around us we are naturally going to spend time with them.  This is what we do.

Earlier in the week we talked about Jesus washing His disciples’ feet during the last supper.  He did this to show them the extent of His love for them.  The most influential ministry workers I have ever met are not those with the best programs or the most charismatic personalities or the greatest ability to preach or those who have the most meetings, they are the ones who love others the most.


This is who we are.  This is what we do.  We are ReachGlobal Europe, and we love others as Christ loves us.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Veliko Turnovo

We recently took a trip to Veliko Turnovo, the former capital of Bulgaria, to visit friends who live there.

Tsarevets Fortress in Veliko Turnovo


Veliko Turnovo was home to a massive fortress that held out against the Ottoman Empire’s invasion of the Balkans for longer than most.  It was one of the last bastions of the old Bulgarian Empire before it was finally conquered.  Bulgaria would remain enslaved to the Ottomans for half a millennium.  As the renaissance would take Western Europe into a golden age of exploration, Bulgaria remained in chains until on March 3, 1878 they once again regained their freedom.

Now partially rebuilt, the Tsarevets Fortress looms on the cliffs over the modern city of Veliko Turnovo as a reminder of Bulgaria’s struggle for freedom.

Veronica, Alexis, and a friend exploring the ruins of Tsarevets

We took the girls there along with some friends who live in the city.  It was great to show them their heritage and remind them of a cry shouted in both Bulgaria and the U.S. in their fights for freedom.

Свобода или смърт!

Give me liberty or give me death.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Remembering Georgi

Georgi with his family.  (Sasha is the littlest one.)

A year ago today, Sasha’s dad passed away.
  The anniversary of a traumatic event is often a time of increased grief and stress for those who went through it.  In Bulgaria, it is traditional to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of a loved one.  Today we went to Sasha’s hometown to be with family and remember Sasha’s father.

We visited the grave early in the morning with the traditional bread, wine, water, and grain.  The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ just like in church communion services.  The water symbolizes the water of baptism (a longstanding and ancient tradition by which Christians demonstrate faith in Jesus).  The grain represents the hope of resurrection.  These four elements in concert paint a complete picture of the Gospel.  We are saved through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This salvation comes to us by grace through faith, and it will lead to the bodily resurrection of all who believe.

After the visit to the grave, we had a meal with the family back at the house and spent the day together remembering Georgi.


At one point, I was siting on a chair doing a Sudoku out of the local newspaper.  I suddenly remembered how I would often sit doing Sudoku while Georgi sat on the next chair over reading the sports section.  I was blessed to get to know him, and we all continue to miss him dearly.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Not So the Wicked

Earlier this month, Sasha and I attended a conference in beautiful Croatia.  We visited the seaside city of Split and saw the massive palace of Emperor Diocletian.

Diocletian was Emperor of Rome in the late third and early fourth centuries.  He violently persecuted Christians in more extreme and terrible ways than any of his predecessors.    The ruins of his amphitheater, where many Christians would have been killed for sport, still stand in Split.

Yet now, centuries later, his empire has crumbled.  His palace still remains, but it has been converted into a city center.  Inside the great walls are little shops where tourists can buy souvenirs.  The upper levels of the walls have been converted to apartments.  People live in the palace of this evil man as if it is just another part of downtown Split, and right in the middle of the palace stands a large church.

Evil will not prosper.  All that evil people do will eventually come to ruin.  Even this great and terrible Roman emperor was eventually brought low and his palace turned into a place of commerce, dwelling, and worship.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Psalm 1:4-6

The wall of Diocletian's Palace in Split Croatia, now used for apartments and shops.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Knowing Good and Evil

As Sasha and I were walking in the park today she shared a thought with me that inspired this blog, so this one is from her.

Adam and Eve were put in a perfect and good world.  They were given one command, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)


Why were they forbidden from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  Knowledge is, generally speaking, a good thing.  Knowing right from wrong is a good thing.  Why is it bad to know good and evil?
We have to remember that Adam and Eve did know what good was.  In fact, they knew it better than any of us do.  We live in a good world that has been corrupted by our evil.  They lived in an uncorrupted perfect and good world, and they were good people too.  We sometimes talk about people as if they are good.  We say things like, “He’s a good guy,” or “She’s a good kid.”  When someone once called Jesus “Good teacher,” He responded by saying, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.”  We ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” when in reality, bad things do not happen to good people.  They just happen to people who are not as bad as some others.
Adam and Eve knew good in a way that none of us ever has.  Remember that the tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In disobeying God’s command they chose to commit an evil action.  Thus, they became aware not only of the existence of good, but of the harsh reality of evil.  They experienced first hand what it means to be aware of both good and evil, not only in theory, but in experience as well.  They gave up experiencing just good to willingly experience evil.
It is strange for us to think this way.  We who experience both good and evil on a daily basis have become so accustomed to it that we no longer think about it.  This is the world our first parents made, and it is a world we each continue to make every day in our words and deeds.  There is only one way out of it.  Just as Adam stepped out of a good world and brought us into an evil one, so the second Adam, Jesus, stepped into an evil world to bring us back to a good one.  All who believe in Him, His death for our sins, and His resurrection will one day go to this good world forever.


Salvation has come.  Someday the knowledge of evil will be but a theory perhaps reflected on in academic circles while the experience of true and uncorrupted good will exist for all.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Trust The Truth

Years ago, a former airplane pilot told me a story about his training.  He explained how one day he was up flying with his instructor sitting in the copilot seat.  The horizon looked slanted, so he began to bank right to keep the plane level.

After a short time his instructor asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m keeping the plane level.”

“Does your instrument panel say you are level?” inquired the instructor.

“No, but if I fly level according to the instruments, the ground is slanted.”

The instructor calmly asked, “Did you calibrate your instruments before you took off?”

“Yes,” replied my pilot friend.

“Then trust your instruments,” advised the instructor.




We do not have an instrument panel to give us guidance in life, but we do have God’s word in the Bible.  Just as a pilot should calibrate his instrument panel before every flight, we should regularly recalibrate our lives by spending time in God’s word.

There will be times when thing seem wrong as we travel through life.  We will be tempted in times like this to look at the world around us and adjust according to what we see.  In doing so, we risk becoming crooked ourselves.


Do not look at the world when you need to adjust.  Look at the control panel.  Look at God’s word and let Him instruct you.  Keep your life calibrated to the truth.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What Would I Do?

Terrorist attacks now days have become common.  We are angry about them, and we cheer on victories over such evil men when they happen.

Today's attack in Egypt made me think: What if they come for me?  What if I am their next victim?  What would my last thoughts be knowing that my life was being snuffed out by evil men who hate those who think differently than they do?

I am not afraid of death.  It is going to happen some day, and I am confident in my salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection.  I trust in Him alone to save me.

Yet, if I were to die today, I would miss out on so much.  I would not see my daughters graduate from high-school.  I would not walk them down the aisle.  I would not see my grandkids.  I would miss out on so many wonderful years with Sasha.  There are places I would never see and things I would never do.

Would I be thinking about all I would miss?  Would I be angry?  Would my last thoughts be hate filled at those who hurt me and will continue to hurt my family through their act for years to come?

Or would my final thought be like Stephen’s last words in Acts 7:60, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them?”

I hope it would be the latter, but words are cheep.  Hopefully, I will never have to find out what I would think and do in such circumstances.  Never the less, I would like my life, and my eventual death to be one filled with grace and love for others, even those who would purposely hurt me.  Only by God’s grace can it be so.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bulgarian Liberation Day

Those who have studied America’s Revolutionary War will be acquainted with the words of Patrick Henry from his speech given on March 23, 1775, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

I was surprised years ago when I read a similar sentiment on a green flag with a rampant gold lion in my father-in-law’s garage here in Bulgaria.


“Свобода или смърт,” is Bulgarian for “liberty or death.”  These are the last words of a poem written by the Bulgarian poet Ivan Vazov.  They were a rallying cry during the Bulgarian fight for independence from the Ottoman empire which took place a century after America fought for her independence from the British empire.

As Bulgarians celebrate liberation from the Ottomans today, I am reminded of this message.  We can learn a lot about a culture by what they are willing to die for.   Many Bulgarians, like many Americans, value freedom even over life.

Happy Liberation Day!