Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The craziest and sweetest gift in Bulgaria

Part of my role is supporting our newer countries as they begin to do camps, and this was the first short term team Bulgaria had had, even though they've been doing camps for years using interns and staff. So I wanted to go to Bulgaria and cheer them on as they did their first short term team training. 

It was quite a coincidence that their first team happened to be from Northern Ireland! I started to joke that the reason I was heading to Bulgaria was to translate between Northern Irish English and American English... which actually turned out to be part of my role there. It was so good for my soul to soak in and speak Northern Irish for a week - it definitely is its own little language and I forget how many words are unique to the little country I'm from. As I heard about the team beforehand I hadn't heard of the ministry they were coming with, and none of their names sounded familiar so I assumed I didn't know any of them.

Well, after a bit of a rush at the airport and safely making our bus to Velingrad I was sitting beside the team leader and we started to do that Northern Irish thing where you figure out all your mutual connections - especially as he lives five miles from where I'm from, and we are part of the same denomination. 

There were many little connections and mutual friends and then Ray said that he had spoken at a youth rally in my church when James was the pastor. James was the pastor from when I was around ten years old until I was twenty-two so it felt likely that I'd have heard of the event so I asked what the name of it was. He said it was called Star Wars. 

And there, on that little bus, on a little mountain road in Bulgaria, I told Ray that that was the event where I accepted Christ fourteen years ago. I had grown up in the church, and heard all the stories, but there was something about the combination of hearing testimonies of my school friends and a clear gospel presentation that made it all click that night. 

I didn't know the name of the speaker that night, but once we'd made the connection I realised why Ray had seemed familiar. It was so strange and so sweet to be sitting together all these years later telling the story of what God did then and just pieces of what he has done since. It felt like a little foreshadow of heaven, when I imagine we'll praise God by telling in full the stories that we only see glimpses of here on earth.

As I left Bulgaria later that week, and as camp season finishes up here for another year, I left so encouraged by this little interaction. The gospel has been powerfully proclaimed this summer, and many have responded in faith. My prayer is that we'll see these young people get plugged into local churches where they will grow in their faith and change their nations for Christ. 

And who knows what stories we'll be telling fourteen years from now?

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