“Good morning from Shumen!
I want to start off with a story that shows one of the challenges of planting a church in a predominantly Muslim village. As you know, every Sunday we go to the village of Vehtovo and have a gathering in the home of R, a Turkish lady. This is a conversation that happened on Sunday afternoon…
Josh: “So my challenge for this week is for you to spend time reading from the New Testament and to share what you learned next week. Also, find one person that you can be generous to, knowing that that person probably cannot or will not return the gesture.”
F (an elderly Turkish lady): “I already read from the Bible every day.”
Josh: “That is great! Where are you reading from?”
F: “I read some of the prayers. You know, from our Bible.”
Josh: *puzzled look*
R (Turkish man who came for the first time): She is talking about the Koran.
F: “Yes, the Koran!”
Here are some of the specific challenges we face in Muslim villages:
1. There is a language barrier. The people in the village speak a dialect of Turkish, who which there are no language guides. Beyond that, their dialect is actually a mix of Turkish and Bulgarian. To my knowledge there is not a single published book that captures the way they freely speak to one another. We understand each other in Bulgarian, but a high percent of our communication is lost in translation.
2. They are religiously illiterate. Most likely the prayers that baba F is reading are in Arabic. She doesn’t know Arabic, but she has probably been taught how to read the words and thus recite the prayers. Many Turks in Bulgaria believe that the Koran and the Bible are the same book, translated into different languages. If it is in Bulgarian, it is the Bible. If it is in Turkish, it is the Koran. For most people the extent of their religion is going to church or mosque for funerals or reciting certain prayers on certain holidays.
3. The cultural implications of becoming a Christian are almost unfathomable. The people who come to the group in Vehtovo enjoy coming. It is fun for them to sing. They listen when Sevdi or I share from the Word. They like that someone is praying for their wellbeing. They would even seem to agree with what I am saying about Jesus. But their entire understanding of faith boils down to “your religion” and “our religion”.
Please pray for this small group of people who gather together every Sunday. I have hope, but it will be a long road.
In other news…
This week we had a very successful team meeting in Varna. After much prayer, we laid out a game-plan that will guide us into the coming years. We talked about possible pastoral candidates, bigger venues for our national conference, and how to integrate the influx of new missionaries coming our way soon. It was encouraging and humbling to hear reports of what God is doing across northern Bulgaria!
Yesterday at Alpha Course we had three people who came for the first time, and of the eleven participants, five are not a part of our church family. It was a very lively discussion on the theme “Why did Jesus die?”
And next week, we hope to share with you some very big news! But in the meantime, I hope you have a blessed week in the Lord!”