After spending the previous five days in Guliantsi, early Friday June 27 the ABCRM Bulgaria mission team left our temporary Guliantsi Baptist Church home for the nearby city of Pleven to complete our last in-country project at an orphanage there. The many sunflower fields we passed along the way reflected the bright morning sun. What a beautiful sight!
Our Bulgaria mission team soon arrived at the Pleven orphanage, met the orphanage’s acting director, and started assembling the new playground equipment (paid for by ABCRM Bulgaria mission trip funds) and painting the orphanage’s fence. Thankfully, temperatures at the orphanage were a lot cooler than in Gulliantsi and we complete fence-painting by later afternoon.
Also, some of our mission team members enjoyed spending time with some of the kids who live at the Pleven orphanage. Although most of the children were away at a summer camp being held on the eastern shore of Bulgaria, the special-needs kids who needed to stay behind greeted us with big smiles and hugs. Although we didn’t share the same language, our mission team communicated with these kids through a language of genuine care and love for them.
Later on Friday after finishing our projects at the Pleven orphanage, the ABCRM Bulgaria mission team started the Bulgaria sight-seeing part of our trip by going with the Myers family, Katya, and Pepi to the central Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo, a city that dates back to 300 BC and the medieval capital of Bulgaria. After staying overnight in 200-year-old house converted to an inn in the nearby village of Arbanassi, the mission team walked through the ruins of the Bulgaria fortress that was captured by Turkish Muslims on July 17, 1393, beginning the 500-year reign of Bulgaria by the Turkish Ottoman Empire until Bulgaria regained its independence in 1878. The view from the church built above the old fortress in the 1900’s gave the mission team a wonderful view of Veliko Tarnovo that may Bulgarians call the most beautiful city in Bulgaria.
On Saturday evening, we arrived back in Sofia from Veliko Tarnovo after making a visit to the small village of Etera with its many hand-made crafts shops, as well briefly stopping to see the beautiful “Shipka” Greek Orthodox cathedral at another place along the way. We now had only one full day left of our mission trip. It was amazing how quickly our time went by in Bulgaria!
Our last Sunday in Bulgaria was spent by first attending again the Sofia Baptist Church with the Myers family. Team leader Kerry Hassler briefly spoke to the congregation about our ABCRM mission trip, and extended greetings and prayers for the church’s well-being from fellow Christians in the Rocky Mountain Region. After the service, our mission team traveled with the Myers family to see one of the most popular sights in Bulgaria, the Rila Monastary, located in one of the highest mountainous areas of this country. First founded in the 10th Century, the monastery is a masterpiece of “Bulgarian national Revival architecture’, and still is an orthodox school of theology today. We ended the day with a a farewell party at the Myers home in Sofia, that also included Pastor Ivan and his family along with our dear friend, Katya. Our ABCRM mission team members will miss them all!
Early Monday, June 30, the Bulgaria mission team members flew from Sofia to return to the U.S. and (for some) other locations. Many thanks to the ABCRM mission team members who heard the message of “Been Called? GO!” and responded by participating in our region’s June 19-30 2008 Bulgaria Mission Experience. Thanks also to all those in the ABC Rocky Mountain Region who provided funding for the team’s Bulgaria in-country projects through “ABC Missions Basics” contributions from their respective churches Lastly, the mission team is indebted to ABCRM special-interest missionaries Tom and Terry Myers for coordinating and leading our June 19-30 ABCRM Bulgaria mission trip. It provided a wonderful mission experience for us all!