Wednesday, June 15, 2011


This weekend, we made a trip to a village called Stubel, which we have visited twice previously.  In Stubel, there is a small Nazarene church that is still under construction.  The pastor of the church hosts us each time we go.  We have already learned so much from her example.  In our short time in Stubel (one week total), we have gotten a glimpse of what true hospitality looks like, and we've seen the kind of faithfulness and trust in God that we all aspire to.

On Friday, Jessica called us and told us that the pastor needed us to come to Stubel and move everything out of the church so the builders could start working on things before a work and witness team comes next month to paint the building.  The original plan was to go on Monday and come back today, and we were all looking forward to what would have been a free day on Saturday.  Yet, we jumped at the chance to spend time with the people in Stubel.  Although we can't really explain it, the people in that village have already stolen our hearts.  So we left early Saturday morning and began removing all of the inner contents of the church.  We lifted 15 foot planks, about 200 heavy shingles, swept, went through clothes that had been donated, and I even got my hair done by some sweet little girls.  The first day, we got a lot done and felt very accomplished, but more than that, we got to spend time in communion with the people we're starting to call friends.

Sunday, we had a day of rest.  Todd and Jessica went back to Sofia for church, while the rest of us attended church in Stubel and then slept and or read the day away.  Church was a wonderful time, even though there was no one to translate for us.  The kids came in sporadically, and our bench was pretty crowded by the time church ended.  At one point, a little boy came in with his little sister and each of them were holding a bundle of roses that they clearly ripped off of a bush and they handed them to me, Kathleen and Dana.  The children of Stubel want to do anything they can to show their love for us.

Monday we worked on the house where we will be staying for ten days to run a camp in July.  The house was intended to be used for one of the pastor's many shops, but for whatever reason, it has remained unused.  We cleared everything out of it and proceeded to clean the whole place.  This time, all of the kids came to help us.  It was a little chaotic, but it was so sweet to see how much they wanted to help.

Admittedly, it's difficult for me to write about our time in Stubel.  Yes, we did a lot while we were there, but the things we are learning and the ways in which God is speaking to us while we are there go far beyond the work.  I feel a deep connection to the village, and I know some of my other teammates do as well.  Dana and I stayed up talking in bed one night about coming back someday and renting the house we stay in from the pastor indefinitely.  There is no way to know what God has in store for us, but we're listening for His guidance.  Overall it was a wonderful, if not challenging time in Stubel.  We have a lot to learn about love, service, prayer and what it really means to be a part of the Kingdom.

I hope you will continue to pray for our team as we embark on the next two months of this journey.  We are spending very little time in Sofia the rest of the summer, and I know that although we're excited for what's next, each of us is struggling with the idea of being away from our friends here.

Slova na Bog (Praise God),

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rose Festival Adventures and Getting Home from Church.

Hello! Just thought I'd give you a little update on what has been going on this weekend.

On Saturday, myself (Todd), Kathleen, Jon, and Jessica took a road trip to see the Valley of the Roses and its annual Rose Festival. We woke up early and headed out, excited for the day. As we got closer to our destination, we could smell the fragrant scent of the roses. Once we got to the city, we walked around, looking at the different booths that were set up, selling rings, Bulgarian pottery, and all kinds of rose-scented lotion. It was a lot to take in, but eventually we wanted to see the roses, so we walked out of the town to see the roses.

We were expecting to see rows and rows of colorful roses, but instead we were greeted by rose bushes with the occasional pink rosebud hanging on them. A little disappointed, we decided to get in our car and drive out further to see if we could see more roses. We did this, but soon realized that the Valley of the Roses was not quite as magical as we thought. So, we decided to head home, taking a little detour at the city of Plovdiv along the way. Before we got to Plovdiv, however, we saw a shiny building nestled into the top of a city. Intrigued, we decided to explore it and ended up stumbling onto a beautiful orthodox city sitting at the top of a village. It was a breathtaking building and well worth the short detour.

After that, we went to Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, and a beautiful city to behold. There were many trendy looking shops and restaurants, and Jon and I explored some ancient Roman ruins. It was a lot of fun, but after a few hours, we were happy to be back on the road and headed towards Sofia. Overall, it was a great Saturday, filled with lovely sights, smells, and conversations.

Today, after church, me and Jon decided that we wanted to walk back to the Metro stop, rather than ride back by car. We were feeling adventurous. We were feeling good about the idea until we suddenly realized that we had no idea where we were going. We asked someone for directions, and that only seemed to make us more lost. Eventually, while we were walking along, a woman asked me what time it was. Intent on finding our way home, I nearly ignored her. But I turned back and showed her my watch, unsure of my ability to tell her the time in Bulgarian. My concerns were unnecessary, as she spoke English. After asking us several questions (How do you like Bulgaria? Are you students? etc.), I eventually asked her if she knew where our Metro stop was. She told us that, as a matter of fact, she was going to Alexander Nevski, the largest church in Sofia, which happens to be located near our Metro stop.

As we walked along, we learned more about this woman. Her name is Kate; she has traveled a lot, especially in western Europe; and she speaks multiple languages. She even gave me some advice: learn German! Eventually, we reached our Metro stop, and she reached the church, running up to the building and finding her way in while we walked towards the Metro. It was quite the adventure for us. A simple walk turned into a nearly 2-hour excursion through the city. And if we have learned anything in the three weeks we have spent here, it is the importance of patience and the willingness to let unexpected things happen. Often, the most beautiful adventures are the ones that aren't planned.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

This is My Father's World

Greetings friends, family and loved ones

The other day we had a team meeting in the park and we sang a song that i didnt know, it is called This is My Father's World..these are the lyrics

This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
of rocks and tree, of skies and seas;
This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker's praise
This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair;
In the rustling grass i hear him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.
This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world; the battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
and earth and Heav'n be one.

I have not been able to get this song out of my head since we sang it. The idea of surrender keeps resurfacing in my mind and i think if i am learning anything this summer, it is that i am to surrender my self to God. When we do that beautiful things happen. The work that we are doing here is not about us and how it makes us feel rather about how the kingdom is breaking through.

You might think that the language barriers and the cultural stuff would be really frustrating, and to be honest sometimes it is. But the cool thing is when i let go of the anxiousness and the stress of the cultural stuff it is amazing what can be done and the relationships that can be built. Today, i taught English for the first time ever. i am not sure if you guys know this but i am not now, nor have i ever been, an expert of the English language, and i am by no means a teacher. I felt very uncomfortable going into it but as a result there are several young girls that we are going to spend time with this summer (going to the mall and what not) and i became friends with a teacher who i am hoping will teach me Bulgarian.

I guess i just wanted to blog and say that i am constantly being reminded that no matter where i am in the world God is in control, he created all that i see (and there have been some beautiful sights along the way), this is my Father's world and i can rest in the thought that he has been moving here in Sofia Bulgaria long before i came, and will continue to work long after i am gone, but i am thankful that for this breath of time he is willing to use my friends and I to be vessels of his love.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Only a week.

Hello everyone! I'm Kathleen - please forgive me for not updating sooner, I've been a little frazzled this past month :) And by frazzled, I mean I've visited 7 countries since graduation... its been a big fat wonderful blur!

I left America on May 8th for a European choir tour with the Trevecca Madrigalians, & we visited/sang in cities all throughout the countries of Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, & France. Then I hopped a plane (through the Czech Republic) to beautiful Bulgaria to be with all these loving people in Sofia.

I tell you that to say - when planning to leave America, I had no idea what to expect of this place. I thought I knew what Venice & Paris & Athens would be like, and I was mostly right -  lots of souviners and museums and cathedrals and a million other Americans also taking pictures and plenty of beautiful views and long bus rides and really really REALLY good food. But when I thought of Bulgaria, I couldn't picture the place, people, or even the smell? Its not really a place Americans hear a lot about, or know a lot about. I still only know 7 words in Bulgarian. This place is SO DIFFERENT from anywhere I've ever been.

Now, I've only been here a week. But my experiences so far have brought me to tears more than once.

Times like during our weekly team meeting, while singing worship songs together in a park & praying that God will do something big in our lives this summer, while riding in a bus through the beautiful countryside, headed to lead a kids camp in Stubel, (and I fell in love with them, what did you expect!?) while listening to a precious Bulgarian grandma request a prayer for her grandson in church, I even cried of happiness & excitement after a night of doing things I've never done before, like using an outhouse in the rain or picking up chickens with my bare hands...??!

Bulgaria is effecting me in a way that all the sights and smells of the really famous places in western Europe didn't. Those things were incredible to see, (and I'm SO happy I've been lucky enough to travel to see them, and yes, I loved western Europe) but they mean nothing without PEOPLE. The Eiffel tower is really beautiful, and the Acropolis is fascinating, but can those buildings teach me to love like God created me to? No. Only people can - and these Bulgarians (and 'American/Bulgarians' too!) are showing me. After only a week, I see the kingdom even clearer.

Bulgaria is affecting my tender (but sometimes selfish) little American heart.

And I feel so blessed.

- Kathleen

Monday, May 23, 2011

When It Rains...

Hello from Sofia!

It still feels a little strange to be saying that and, after only a week, I can't say that we are exactly experts at living successfully in another culture. Every day is a new lesson, which brings me to today.

What was supposed to be a simple trip to a nearby bazaar to pick up some fruits, veggies, and other necessities for dinner, turned into something else entirely. After riding the tram a couple stops over (and then an extra stop if you are me and Lauren), we found ourselves in a completely different part of the city, struggling to figure out things that any child could know: why are old men playing chess behind this newstand? Why are there carnival rides by the side of the road? How do you say "kilo" in Bulgarian?

After wandering through a maze of shops selling everything from clothes to more clothes (and everything in between), we found some shops with fruits and veggies and proceeded to get some tomatoes, some eggplant, and two kilos of cherries (not without some difficulty). We had some problems trying to explain that we wanted more cherries than the vendor was originally giving us so, with our small knowledge of Bulgarian, we said "mnogo" (more) and motioned as if we were picking up an entire armful of cherries. Eventually, the matter was sorted and we were on our way. Ideally, the rest of the trip would have included some more shopping, perhaps an investigation of the carnival rides, who knows?

But Mother Nature had other plans. What began as something I can only describe as an urban sandstorm (maybe dust-storm is more accurate), turned into a full on rainstorm that drenched us from head to foot. We raced back to the tram, only to have Dana literally break one of her sandals in half. We made it to the tram and eventually made it back to the office where we had been meeting with Jessica, our supervisor. As we entered and heard Jessica ask, "Did you get soaked?" all we could do was laugh. Even now, as I am typing this, laughter is the best response to today. It was not a calamity, or a tragedy. It was merely another adventure in this crazy Bulgarian summer, and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


Today is sabbath day, after a crazy week we rewarded ourselves with sleeping in until 11, or 1 if you're Todd, eating pancakes for breakfast and later today we are going to see a movie with the Sunbergs.

Where to start? The adventure began with two awesome days on campus where we were able to learn SO much and have fun as a group. It was really great, Kathy could'nt have done better!  I think probably my favorite part was the first activity that we did, we had a scavenger hunt with our teams and we had to stop at different places on campus to see people and get certain documents, the people we were getting these documents from where various characters, a nurse, a banker, social services, immigration, etc--mad props to Dorothee, Heather and Mike Jackson!!! Everyone who helped made it such a fun day!

Then we had a couple days of travel that went over fairly seamlessly, no missed flights (although we had a couple close calls) and in the end we all got our bags before we parted ways. When we got here we had a few days with everyone where we had some more cultural training but we were all pretty jet lagged so it was more like a time for us to rest and site see! As the groups started heading out to their sites for the summer the experience began to feel more and more real. However, even as I sit here in our home apartment for the  summer and i hear the Bulgarian music that is coming in my window from the celebration happening in the street I am still finding it hard to believe that God has blessed me with this amazing experience.

Yesterday we had the awesome chance to go to a celebration in the village of Vidrare where we dropped off the last team. The kids at the school put on a program that was in celebration of the Bulgarian alphabet and of their teachers! It was so cool to see some of the faces that we met last summer and to go back to the village that captured our hearts. After we left there we went to a small village a few hours away called Stubel, there we put on a short childrens program and played games, shared  meal and just learned about this small village. The people there welcomed us with open arms and those children taught me so much about the language! I think they really loved being able to teach us, they laughed at us quite  bit! We taught them how to play sharks and minnows and also duck duck goose, but we called it cotka cotka cuche, which is cat cat dog. They were so crazy!! We learned so much about every day lives there and the work that they do. One lady was home for a month but had to go back to Italy at the end of May because that is where she works, she went on to tell me that my skin is too white and i need to spend more time in the sun :) We will be visiting the village several times through out the summer and i am so happy for that. I am so excited to see how these relationships will grow and develop.

As i sit here reflecting on the time we have spent here so far i am SO excited for what the Lord is already doing and so humbled that he has called us to be used for his kingdom. I have so much to learn from the people here and i look forward to the friendships that are going to be built. Please continue to pray for us that we may constantly be learning and growing. Thank you all for keeping up with us!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


 I just had a strange, but comforting experience.  I was laying in bed getting ready to do my devotions before falling asleep and I was thinking about a passage someone quoted the other day and I wanted to read it.  So I got out my Bible and thought to myself that the passage may have been 2 Corinthians 12.  I flipped open my Bible and happened to land on 2 Corinthians 12 where I must have haphazardly tucked a sheet of paper recently.  The passage was not the one I had been thinking of, but the message was an interesting one.   Paul is talking about a vision someone received when he was taken up into heaven, and Paul was incredibly excited about it.  He goes on to discuss what happened as a result of his excitement: "

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness." So I will boast all the more gladly in weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 

Last Summer while we were staying in Sofia, I had my first (and what I would like to be my last) experience with demons.  I won't go into detail, but that night when I went to bed, I began to feel affliction from the enemy and I could see evil spirits attacking me.  I have never felt more weak than I did that night.  I prayed and prayed with my friend Mallory.  We cried out to God all night, and after a while we did feel that He was with us, but relief did not come.  Finally, hours later, we decided to sleep.  I began to drift into that middle-consciousness between waking and sleeping, and as I did I began to see the face of God.  I saw the silhouette of Christ standing before His people as we worshiped Him.   I saw many images I can't really describe.  Finally, I saw Him praying on some sort of plateau, and then all I saw was the ground.  The earth crumbled and the weight on my chest was lifted.  As I came to, a bright light was shining on the left side of my bed, and when I opened my eyes, it was gone.  This wasn't a dream, and to say that God was present that night and that His grace was sufficient is a vast understatement.  I have never felt anything more real in my life.

Over the past several months there have been times when I have wondered if something similar could happen while I'm overseas this Summer.  I shouldn't be afraid because ever since that night I haven't had a single nightmare.  God has truly been good to me.  It's obvious God wanted me to read that text and be reminded that if I do come in such close contact with the enemy, His grace is more than sufficient to get me through.  It was that night, it was for Paul, it will be this Summer, and it will be forevermore. God is already working, and I know that in any situation this Summer, He'll be right there with us.

Thanks be to God.