Hi, I’m Serenity, an MK in eastern Germany. Christmas is my favorite time of year, I love giving gifts! I mean, I’m the kind of person who was already shopping and planning for next year before the first present was opened this year. This is why I love our church’s Christmas project: All year long we pack gifts and collect donations for Christmas is eastern European countries.
Since 2000 we have collected about 600 gifts each year. As you can imagine, I have always wanted to help deliver the presents in person. Finally, God opened the door for me to go! And now I realize the wisdom of God’s delaying of my desires. Had I gone earlier, I wouldn’t have been ready for what I saw there.
On God’s appointed day I boarded a plane in Berlin with three other volunteers. Originally I was told it would be a group of German teenagers. So imagine my surprise upon landing in Bulgaria and meeting a group of Swiss, Austrian and Italian adults between 22 and 40. I was the youngest by 5 years!
After arriving in Burgas we had a quick briefing. The Translator mentioned that most people here are a little closed off and that, if at any point she told us to get back into the trucks, we should do so immediately, a whole list of other details followed.
Seeing the faces of these children receiving a gift was something I have looked forward to for a long time. And on the first day that is exactly what I saw. Children in a kindergarten singing and children at a middle school preforming the Christmas story and applauding and giving us hugs.
The conditions were sad; the school yard of rubble and mud, the restrooms barely even recognizable as such and desks half the size of my own school desk, seating three children each. The poverty was shocking. How could this happen in an EU country?! What happened to “The EU will take care of you?”
Children from eight villages and towns attended this school that have to take the bus or walk for over two hours to get there. Then it was explained to me that many of the children in this area do not speak the Bulgarian language at home and if they don’t learn proper Bulgarian in kindergarten they may not attend school. You might be thinking:” Serenity! That makes perfect sense; they need to learn the state language!” And you are right, but remember the kindergarten I mentioned earlier? That is where these children learn their Bulgarian, before they attend kindergarten they don’t speak one word of the language and that kindergarten is one of the few left in that aria. As they have all been closing do to financial issues. That means that there are a ton of Roma children in Bulgaria that don’t get the opportunity to attend schools and there are scarcely any churches in this area either. So these children whose parents usually give birth to their first child at the age of eleven are neglected and left to fend for themselves without any hope for a bright future.
I saw this same problem escalated as we visited the hospital the next day, where we were told to make sure we kept a 12 foot distance from the building, as roof tiles and bricks might fall from the structure and later visiting the slums outside of the city, where the huts were sometimes even smaller than the average American walk-in closet and inhabited by around eight to ten people. During our distribution in this community the tension grew very swiftly as many parents were worried that their children would not get a gift and soon became hostile, yelling and screaming in different dialects and languages. The order came: “ head back, now!”, so we did and as we drove off in our truck still filled with gifts, that had been meant for those children, we watched as they waved goodbye, some with gifts and others with empty hands chasing the truck. The one face I will never forget was a probably fourteen year old mother standing next to her two year old daughter tracing the flow of tears with her finger while pointing at her daughter, trying to show me that her daughter had been forgotten.
The greed, anger and stubbornness of their parents had prevented them from receiving the gift along with a booklet of the gospel and the salvation story. I was shocked, scared and I am ashamed to say that I was even a bit angry with God for letting such things happen.
Later the missionaries explained that the last time they had visited that community it had been smaller and more peaceful, but that was the sad reality of these communities and this was still a mild example. Following, they explained how they have successfully dealt with communities like this one helping them change their destructive manner. The problem is that they are of the opinion that the government should give them what they need and that they needn’t lift a finger. So you have to teach them to help themselves and you have to reach their stone hearts that have been hardened by having to become adults too soon. This is a very slow process. But through this ministry they have seen change in the people through God’s word and the message of hope and love, come to faith and build churches for their communities.
This whole trip helped me remember why I am here, sometimes as missionaries we get so deep into the ministry that we forget to step back and take a look at the big picture.
There are children that never hear the good news and die not knowing, there are people unable to leave their communities because Satan has such a strong grasp on their families, that they slip into the darkness without ever seeing the light. If you are asking yourself why God doesn’t do anything as I did, he has. He has placed the missions call into every Christian’s heart. The question is just this: “ Are you going to take a leap of faith into the unknown?”
It is not going to be easy and it seems never ending at times. But God takes care of us and if we take that leap of faith every day He can use us to do great things, things we couldn’t even imagine.
I have been struggling for over three years trying to figure out if my urge to stay on the mission field was because I am comfortable here or if I was truly staying here to follow God’s calling for my life. This experience made it clear to me that the latter is true and that I would not be fulfilled if I didn’t stay. I was placed here by God – literally, and unless He tells me to go home I will stay.
Here is a link to the German Newspaper article:https://www.mz-web.de/wittenberg/wittenberger-schuelerin-auf-tour-reise-in-die-armut-29433230