Thanks be to God, our five-day pastors’ conference in Sophia, Bulgaria was attended by about fifty pastors from all over the country. Let me introduce you to three of them.
First, meet Ivan Nestorov, a third-generation pastor, who served his underground church for many years during communist rule in Bulgaria. When the Iron Curtain fell in Eastern Europe about fifteen years ago, interest in the gospel suddenly spiked in Bulgaria to unimagined levels, and this persecuted pastor who had been at the bottom of communist society suddenly found himself preaching in the open air to crowds of up to 40,000 people! The new Bulgarian government, fearful that evangelical leaders like pastor Ivan were becoming too popular, did everything they could to slander and discredit evangelicals in the media for two years, calling them traitors to Bulgaria because they were not Bulgarian Orthodox. So pastor Ivan went from being persecuted by atheists to being persecuted by religionists! Churches like pastors Ivan’s that had exploded with growth imploded to half of what they had been. Pastor Ivan told me the result was a purified church.
Second is pastor Krasimir Raikov Sakarev. He’s a genuine gypsy. He is also a pastor of a church of several hundred gypsies. Throughout Eastern Europe, gypsies are on the lowest rung of the social strata, and they are often dependent on handouts or resort to dishonest means to survive. But pastor Krasimir not only pastors a church full of gypsies, but he also runs his own construction company that employs 30 other gypsy men. His gospel transforms entire families.
Third is pastor Taiwo Busari. He doesn’t look Bulgarian because he was born in Nigeria, and he has identifying tribal scars on his face that mark him as being from the Yoruba. He came to Bulgaria fifteen years ago to study in a Bulgarian University. He eventually married a Bulgarian woman and never went home. (They’ve had seven beautiful children so far!) He faithfully pastors a church in his home, and he focuses on making disciples relationally, just as Jesus and His apostles did.
They are just three out of fifty. All the rest are real pastors with real stories as well. To the glory of God, all were impacted at the conference and all will impact others. I’m scheduled to return again to Bulgaria next June for five pastors’ conferences in five cities. Pastor Tony Elenkov, who organized this year’s conference, has also done a marvelous job of publishing three of our books in Bulgarian, and they are now being sold in bookstores across the country. The profits will be used to send taped copies of the conference messages to pastors who could not attend. Praise God!
Very Good Reports…
I wish I could share every good report with you that comes to us each month. Here is one we received a few weeks ago that illustrates the ongoing impact that literature can have in the ministry of a pastor. This pastor wrote to us from Zambia, an African nation I’ve never visited. His first letter came to us six years ago, requesting books.
I last wrote you in 1998 when you responded by sending me a good number of books that have made me to be what I am spiritually. Our church is not the same as it was before I received those books. We are growing spiritually and numerically. Christians have been trained in the work of God and many souls have been won to the Lord. I have been able to teach from Genesis to Revelation because of the help I have received through reading your book.
Here is a recent letter from a pastor in Myanmar who walked ten days to get copies of The Great Gospel Deception in his own language:
I am Pastor Chin Myoo, come from Cangceh village 10 days travel walking on foot from Hakha, Chin State. On June 14, 2004 (Monday) I came to Rev. John Siam Lian, in Kalaymyo and he has given to me the Great Gospel Deception 10 books translated into Hakha-Chin. I am so much happy of the book and believing that it’s will be a useful for our ministry, as well as our Church.
Rev. John is also telling me that you are coming to Myanmar for holding Pastor training on the first week of December. I and my church members are so excited to attend the training, if you kindly invite us
Finally, an e-mail from a pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo who is taking what he received at the April Global Advance conference and spreading it to many churches in his city. He even began translating The Great Gospel Deception into French on his own in order to help French-speaking pastors in his country (until I told him that a French translation was just completed in Nigeria).
I am thanking to the Lord to hear from you that there will be more than 4,000 copies of the book “Great Gospel Deception” written in Swahili. It will be great blessing to pastors in Congo. I am now in my home city of Goma north of Bukavu and I had a seminar on the book for whole of last week. People were moved and recommitted their lives to Jesus as Lord I think as they have never done before….I have now shared that message to a number of churches here in Goma City and it has a lot of impact…
It is your prayers and gifts that make all these blessings possible. Thank you! Most of all, thanks to God who put His love in you.
A Step of Faith…
Not only do we receive continual good reports, but we receive many pleas for help to meet pressing needs from brothers and sisters whom we know personally. This month we are helping fellow followers of Christ who are suffering from the effects of drought in Tanzania by purchasing bags of maize for them. We are also helping feed displaced Congolese believers in the city of Bukavu (where I was teaching in April) after recent rebel attacks in May and June forced thousands to flee for their lives. (107 people were killed in the process.) Survivors are now returning to find their homes looted or burned to the ground. How can we ignore their pleas for help?
Beyond these pressing needs, opportunities are continually set before us to help the gospel go where it has never gone before, and next month we intend with God’s help to purchase ten bicycles for Vietnamese church planters who work among remote tribal groups. It has been part of our vision from the start to not only equip pastors, but to provide a means to link blessed Christians (like all of us who live in the U.S. and Canada) with genuine opportunities to prove that we are among the sheep and not the goats and “assure our hearts before Him” (1 John 3:19). In light of all of this, I believe the Lord is now leading us to give 10% of Shepherd Serve’s monthly income to support such projects, and I’ll report on them monthly. I’m thrilled to tell you that everyone who has supported Shepherd Serve in the past month has not only helped equip pastors, but has also helped to literally feed hungry believers in Tanzania and Congo. This is definitely a leap of faith for us, but one that I’m sure God will honor. And to Him be all the glory. As we spread the gospel, we don’t want to forget the poor (see Gal. 2:10).
Needing Your Prayers…
I depart in a few days for a restricted nation to train pastors in a secret conference. Security is an issue, so I covet your prayers while I’m gone. The Lord is opening some beautiful doors in this particular restricted nation and I hope to tell you about it next month.
In closing, a few more photos of Bulgarian pastors who attended our June conference. They are now all applying what they learned, and they will be thanking you one day.
In service to our Lord,