On the last weekend in March, believers from six countries gathered in Dunavtsi, Bulgaria, to dedicate a church building.
God gave us more than we expected.
Six years earlier, a generous WELS donor provided funding to construct a chapel in the hometown of Pastor Iliyan Itsov in northern Bulgaria. Finally, after delays of every kind, the church stood ready to welcome the first worshipers.
I was looking forward to seeing Iliyan and the saints in Dunavtsi. It had been four years since I last visited them. I was also looking forward to meeting friends from Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Albania. These churches (and others) have taken special interest in supporting Iliyan and his outreach to Roma peoples scattered throughout central Bulgaria. I couldn’t wait to preach, to praise God for this new house, and call God’s people to keep building the Lord’s Church.
Guests began arriving Friday evening. As travelers greeted each other, I was struck by the sacrifices they and their churches had made to attend our celebration.
• A German transportation strike wreaked havoc on Pastor Holger Weiss’ itinerary. He would now have to leave Dunavtsi early Sunday morning before the worship service he had prepared. Yet he still made the trip to spend 36 precious hours with us.
• Pastor David Åkerlund, a tent minister, took time off from work, family, and church responsibilities to bring greetings from his congregation in Finland.
• Five representatives from Sweden flew first to Serbia, then drove the final leg in a little red car. They carried a special gift, a bronze altar crucifix, that a church member had purchased on an earlier business trip to Poland.
And there was a last-minute surprise. Missionary John and Nancy Roebke joined us from Malawi. The Roebke’s had served in Dunavtsi 20 years earlier. This was their first opportunity to revisit the people they had served.
Missionary Roebke, having not forgotten his Bulgarian, was able to facilitate a dual-language worship service where guests and local members joined together to glorify Christ. Worshipers – including Pastor Iliyan – were eager to reconnect with “their” pastor who first brought the Lord Jesus into their lives. We meditated on the account of Zacchaeus and worshiped the Savior who transformed the tax-collector’s house into a powerful base for proclaiming God’s good news.
For a brief moment, God gave us a foretaste of heaven when believers from every nation will join in one tongue to praise our Savior forever.
The German transport strike delayed our travel back to Albania. So, Pastor Nikolla Bishka and I had an extra day to explore Bulgaria’s capital. As we walked and observed different houses of worship in downtown Sofia, we discussed the work the Lord Jesus has given us. “The most beautiful building in the most convenient location is not enough to build God’s house, but the Holy Spirit constructs God’s splendid temple wherever we proclaim Christ. Jesus is God’s great gift to fallen people. Niko, we have the best news, the news people need to hear!”
Niko thoughtfully took this statement in, and from there, we started making plans to proclaim our Savior’s suffering death and resurrection back home in Albania.
Written by Luke Wolfgramm, world missionary on the Europe mission team.
Subscribe to future Missions Blogs at wels.net/subscribe.
Learn about the ministry work of WELS Missions.
Support the ministry work of WELS Missions.