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"Preach the Gospel to all creation" Mark 16:15

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By Cars, Vans, Mini-Bus, Trains, and Boats, the Gospel is Propelled Across the Balkans!

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Balkans 2006: Mission Accomplished!

My faith is sometimes myopic, sometimes self-centered, sometimes preoccupied.  Yet, despite these failings in the flesh, our Lord Jesus continues to do great and mighty things, far beyond whatever I imagine.  During the Balkans 2006 mission, there were struggles from within our teams, struggles from without, challenges by people in the communities to which we reached, transportation complexities on an unprecedented scale, extreme heat, drought conditions, illness, and fatigue.  In short, we had all the ingredients for a great mission!

When the dust had settled, all the transportation connections completed, health restored, and the teams had a little bit of rest, we were able to tabulate what the Lord had done among us.  GNI sent 81 people into the fields of souls in Romania, Moldova, and Bulgaria.  The international team consisted of two Americans, nine Moldovans, eight Bulgarians, and sixty-three Romanians, twenty-one of whom were from the Campina area churches (our mission command center) and formed the backbone of the leadership team.  What we beheld during the week of July 9-14, 2006 was amazing.  The teams reached out to over 30 unchurched communities, contacting 3,775 people.  They were able to share the gospel with 2,656 people, of whom 992 made professions of faith in Jesus Christ!

Logistical Challenges
This mission represented the second largest harvest in GNI's 13-year Balkan tenure.  It also represented the largest mission area every covered by GNI.  The endpoints of this mission encompassed over 60,000 square miles (155,400 square kilometers).  The perimeter was over 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers).  We used private cars, private vans, maxi-taxi vans, trains, and boats to place our teams in their assigned mission points.  The northern-most point was in central Moldova, the southern-most in central Bulgaria.  The mission extended from the western portions of southern Romania to the Danube Delta in the east. 

Balkans 2006 Map

Logistically, this mission had the potential of an enormous nightmare.  Yet, the Lord of Hosts made ways for our teams to make all their connections, ways for the vehicles to endure despite rough roads (some of the vehicles we used, upon inspection by the local mechanic, brought their respective teams home as a the result of a miracle), and all the Campina team members were able to rally in Campina between 2:00 pm (1400h) and 3:00 pm (1500h) on Saturday, July 15, 2006.  What a joyous reunion we enjoyed!  We broke bread, told stories (both inspirational and humorous), prayed together, and fellowshipped with full hearts.

My Own Story from the Field...
Bistra lives in Malo Konare, Bulgaria with her husband Sergei and daughters Katya and Lily.  She and her family attend church in Pazardjik some 10 kilometers west.  She has often shared with her pastor how alone she and her family are, as they are the only Christians in this village of 5000 souls, and no one wishes to fellowship with them, even barring their children from playing with hers.  Her pastor, Ranghel, felt Malo Konare would make a good mission point for the GNI teams.  Bistra disagreed.  She feared the people were too hard, and that they might retaliate against her and her family.  She had grown up in Malo Konare.  She knew them, and they knew her...

Malo Konare Team: Petya, Mark, BistraBistra reluctantly agreed to be the local guide for my team, that is, my interpreter Petya and I.  We hit the streets and began asking people if we could talk to them.  The first few people politely rejected our offers to talk.  Then, we began encountering a few people who wanted to talk to us.  They prayed to receive Jesus.  Bistra was encouraged.  We came upon a ten meter 30 feet) stretch of sidewalk that became a turning point for all of us.  The 10 meter stretch sidewalk is rather nondescript.  You had to be there to appreciate it.  On this stretch of concrete, a middle-aged man stopped from his chores to hear and receive the Gospel and eternal life.  His mother came out to challenge us and began yelping at us as though controlled by evil spirits.  We encountered a store clerk with whom Bistra had done business many times who agreed to visit with us.  She, too, heard the Gospel and received Jesus.  It looks like ten meters of sidewalk, but it really was holy ground for an hour one Monday in July of 2006.

Bistra was so enthused that she began setting appointments for us throughout the village: in homes, schools, and places of business.  She made so many appointments we had to bring our other teams to Malo Konare to make sure that all who wanted to hear had a chance to receive eternal life.  In the end, Malo Konare, the small, hard village, had its heart opened wide by a loving Savior.  There are enough believers there now (Bistra has sent us four reports in the two weeks following the mission, including the glorious report of her leading a former school-mate to faith in Jesus!) to plant a new church, a challenge not only I, but the entire team left with Pastor Ranghel and his church.

Heartfelt Thanks...
My thanks to the Lord for what He has done is both immeasurable and inadequate.  I told you but one of hundreds of stories of people coming to know Jesus, and you can read more at the web page dedicated to the participants' testimonies.  There is another story to be told as well, and I would be remiss to not bring it to your attention.  It is the story of unity, of 
discovery, of  revival among the Body in the Balkans.  Unity, as they are drawn together by One Lord and One Spirit for One Great Purpose.  Discovery, as these believers see first-hand the power and glory of the Lord in witnessing encounters and transformed lives.  Revival, as their own lives are changed by what they have seen, changed by taking the risk of putting their lives into the hands of the Lord, and then seeing Him work through them in bringing people to salvation.  Pastor Ranghel spoke at the victory service in Pazardjik, "If Luke were yet writing the Acts, he would have included what we have seen this week.  For what we have seen this week is the same as in the days of the apostles."  This story of what the Lord is doing among the Body in the Balkans is not just my own observations, but comes from their own mouths.

Thank you for your prayers and financial support for this mission.  The Lord continues to manifest His power through His people as they go and tell, and those who "hold the ropes" in prayer on their behalf.

Grace and peace,

Bro. Mark
Balkans 2006 testimonies

Click here to download a slideshow of the Moldova Team's mission! (28.4MB)

Photos from Balkans 2006 and other GNI missions can be found here!

"The 29th Chapter of Acts continues..."