- A year ago there was some optimism in the country. They'd just joined the EU and things were looking up. Now however, their funding has been stopped, due to corruption, and the man on the street is in a worse position than he was before, as wages have flat lined but prices have gone up. Two factories face each other across the Danube in Svishtov, the people on the Romanian side earn 2-3 times as much as the people in the Bulgarian factory. Who work 12 hour shifts. 6 days a week.
- Bulgaria has the highest per capita abortion rate in Europe, and therefore probably the world. Svishtov must have more licensed premises in a smaller area then anywhere i've been, so that's probably not a surprise. The tragedy is the age of the girls involved. We sent time in a school working with 14 and 15 year olds in an English class. It was a lot of fun. What was less fun was seeing those same 14 and 15 year old girls walking into bars near our hotel at 1030 on friday night. There were no bouncers anywhere to be seen. It's not unusual for them to stay out drinking until 330 or 4 the next morning. Tim, who Pastors out there, regularly sees uni students leaving bars and clubs as he walks his children to school the next day. Given the conditions that most of these kids live in, (three or four small rooms, parents, siblings and grandparents) it's perhaps not a shock they don't want to go home.
- If an unreached people group is a language, ethnicity or nation that can not sustain an indigenous led church, then Bulgaria must be only half a step away from that. Svishtov has 35000 people and one church of about 50-60. Veliko Turnovo has 250000 people and maybe 3 churches numbering about 50-100, Sofia has 2 million people and maybe a dozen churches, a couple who gather over 100 on a sunday morning. Most small towns have no church at all, most big ones, only one. It's shocking. The saddest thing is that when Communism fell in Bulgaria, the people were hungry for truth. Who turned up first? Benny Hinn and his prosperity pals. The prosperity gospel was the first 'gospel' heard freely in Bulgaria for fifty years or so. And it's a bunch of junk. The Evangelical church is still struggling to make up the ground lost by the disillusionment caused in these early years.
- There is hope. Dirty Hope. In a corrupt, desperate society the only hope is the universally true Gospel. In a happy, comfortable society the same is true. It's good to remember that. The uniqueness of Gospel hope is so clear in places where there simply is no other hope. There is no other hope in Bulgaria apart from Jesus. Every leader always lets these people down. He never will. Living in the west, living in the Bible Belt, it's so easy to forget that. To put hope in people, places or things. That will never ever do. One day these will fail and fall. I love being in Bulgaria, because there i'm reminded that beyond the hopeless despair, there is Hope. The One Hope of the nations. Jesus Christ.
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