For more than ten years two of our members, Alan and Mo Willis, have been involved in supporting churches and local communities in Bulgaria, often spending many weeks at a time in that country.
At various times this support has been through Bible teaching and preaching (through interpretation, of course; Bulgarian is a difficult language for a Westerner to learn) but also has been material. A serioiusly under-resourced old people’s home was helped, and in 2010 a surplus British fire-engine (see this Cumberland & Westmorland Herald report) was obtained by their charity Balkan Vision and driven to Bulgaria members of UK fire service charity Florian.
Many will remember the visit to Kirkby Stephen of Ivelin Minkov and Markar Mardirossian last year when we were so encouraged by their reports, Ivelin’s preaching and Markar’s music.
The Willises were back in Bulgaria for six weeks this year, returning in late-September. They spent time with both Ivelin and Markar, encouraging the churches and also looking at the challenges for the Emmaus Bible Course work in Bulgaria, in which Markar is very active. Other church leaders in Kameno are now engaged in supporting a local home for 145 mentally disturbed men, and also in taking supplies into the local hospital.
As Alan explained when preaching one Sunday evening recently, he and Mo are not sure what their future role is going to be regarding Bulgaria as their numbers of birthdays increase. Alan would like also to return also to Ukraine but is not sure that he should do so. We need to pray that God will give them both wisdom to balance energy and aspiration.
For many years the Gideons have given New Testaments to secondary school pupils. Please pray for Jim and Jenny McCallum as toward the end of this year they visit schools in Kirkby Stephen and Appleby on behalf of the Gideons, and not only that the Testaments may be welcomed but that they may be beneficial in the future lives of the young people who receive them.
In the last week of September I was once again in Brussels, taking part in this year’s student forum organised by the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES). My own role this year was (i) to give the opening evening’s Bible exposition, (ii) to lead a session on business integrity, and (iii) to support my project group of seven students who had chosen to develop a national anti-corruption strategy as the imagined government of a fictitious country.
Who are the students at these events? There are typically twenty-five to thirty, mostly in their early to mid-twenties, from around a dozen countries from east to west and north to south of the continent. Their academic subjects may included law, politics, international affairs, economics and more. What they share is that they are committed Christians interested in exploring some form of career in public life and wanting to think “Christianly” about it all.
This year we had morning Bible studies in the life of Daniel from Niek Tramper, the Dutch general secretary of the EEA. These were followed by talks from a wide range of people including European Commission and Parliament officials as well as specialists in such areas as human rights, journalism and economics. We had two visits to the European Parliament, one to be shown around (when the photo above was taken) and the other a 7:30 a.m. Prayer Breakfast hosted by a Christian MEP from Finland. This was followed by an excellent Q&A session with a Belgian diplomat and a US Lieutenant Colonel from NATO facing the questions.
These student forum weeks are regularly among the highlights of my year, and this year was no different. It is stimulating to be surrounded by very bright and very committed young people. As in past years I came back home exhausted and exhilarated in about equal proportions; no, more of the latter.
Please pray for these young people. Many of them come from countries cursed with corruption to an extent difficult to comprehend in our own. They will need immense moral and spiritual strength to stand firm against the many temptations that will be put in their way as they progress in their chosen careers.
Do they have any long-term effect? Well, since then, in late October I’ve been in Romania for a conference on leadership integrity organised by two past attendees, one from 2008 and the other from 2011. More about that later.
Don’t forget this. It will be very special.
Gordon Eggleston from Backbarrow will be showing and talking about a film that he has been involved in producing on a Christian initiative to reach out to people caught up in the drug culture of Manchester.
6:30 pm, Friday, October 26th.
Sunday, 7th October, is the day when we especially focus on thanking God for His provision in so many ways – the agricultural harvest, yes, but also a thousand and one ways in which He blesses us.
In a mechanistic age it is very easy to forget that, whatever the visible source of good things, ultimately God is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:16-18).
Our Sunday morning speaker at the Family Time will be Mr. David Metcalf, of Keswick; and in the evening our own Mr. John Heron.
All are welcome on both occasions.