Giving Directions

Josh and Lydia Provow

Giving Directions

Walking home from running errands, I (Lydia) nearly smacked into a couple who had been walking in front of me. I had been thinking about and praying for several people from our church group. I also was wondering what to share in this particular newsletter, to be honest. The couple in front of me was trying to decide which way to go at the crossroads ahead of us. Knowing where I was going, I went around them as they discussed whether to cross the street or not. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but my mind instantly made a connection between what had just happened and the people I had been praying for.

Beginning a church with a group of new or not-yet believers is interesting and challenging. They often seem like the couple in front of me on the sidewalk today. They have an idea of their destination, but the walk to get there is still new and somewhat confusing. They aren’t confident in what choices they should make along the way, which particular path is the right one. Our walk is familiar and the right choices are more obvious to us because we have been walking with Jesus for most of our lives. Their walk is full of challenges and consequences they sometimes aren’t sure what to do with. New believers in Bulgaria face immediate fallout with very little support from their community. We do all we can to teach, help, serve, and guide, but they are in the workplace and in family and friend situations that expose them to ridicule, arguments, and temptation.

We have seen God at work, transforming hearts and renewing minds, but we have also seen the powerful counterattack of the enemy. We have faced opposition and heard words of disgust. We have seen friends fall, and we have tried to be there to walk with them through the fire. We see apathy creep in or the concerns of “What will people think?” or “What will my family do?” dissuade faithful people from attending church. It can be an emotional rollercoaster some days. What we need to remember is that the Holy Spirit is doing the work. We are called to be faithful, to serve, to love, and to share the burdens, but we cannot make people take the journey with Christ.

God is so good, and we have so much for which to be thankful. We are thankful for the chance to share the gospel with people who have never heard. We are thankful for you, for how you support us, encourage us regularly, and pray for the people that God has brought into our lives. And we are thankful that we now have TEAMMATES!!!! Brenton and Debbie are officially part of Team Shumen, and we couldn’t be more excited to have them!

Prayer and Praise

Praise God for a friend of ours, who recently made the commitment to follow Christ. At first he decided to keep his decision secret, because every member of his extended family is Muslim. But a few weeks ago, he made the decision to tell everyone. He has shown me (Josh) numerous Facebook conversations with different people in his social circle. Outside of our church family, he has received almost zero support. At this stage his parents are deciding whether or not to kick him out of the house. But in the midst of this, his faith continues to grow and he wants nothing more than for his entire family to experience the salvation that is available only through the Son of God!

Please Pray for the weekly Bible study that meets in Vehtovo. Despite numerous challenges, the group continues to meet, with a steady stream of first-time guests. At the present, the biggest decision is whether to continue meeting in a house or to talk to the mayor about possibly renting or fixing up a facility. In my mind I can think of pros and cons on either side and we could definitely use the wisdom of the Holy Spirit!

Praise God for the three weekly Bible study groups we have right now. Twice a week we have Catan: Resources for Life groups (once in Bulgarian and once in English), and then we have a new Bible study on the book of James.

Please pray for wisdom for the upcoming summer ministry season. As you may know, our original plan was to be on Stateside Assignment from June to the middle of September, but well, you know… coronavirus. So now we find ourselves in an interesting situation: restrictions in Bulgaria are rapidly releasing, we have new teammates to come along beside us, and we have no big projects planned, since we weren’t going to be here. Please pray that God would help us to use this unexpected time of ministry effectively!

May the Lord bless you and keep you!

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Young people in Pleven

Jonathan and Amy Postlewaite

Young people in Pleven

We are thankful that one thing which can continue these days in spite of the restrictions on public gatherings related to the Coronavirus is the building of relationships. We are excited about the increasing opportunities the Lord has been giving us lately to build discipling relationships with young people. The teenagers and university students who have begun joining us for Bible studies and worship gatherings are very different that the young people that we worked with years ago when Jonathan was a youth minister in South Carolina. Their generation is facing new kinds of problems and challenges, and each of them is influenced by different cultural factors which we have to become familiar with (including those from Bulgarian, Roma, Turkish, Indian, African, and Middle-eastern backgrounds!).

There is one thing that all of the young people in our lives right now clearly have in common: a longing for purpose and a longing for community. We are thankful for the opportunity to help connect them to Christ and His church, which we believe will satisfy these longings! We see so much potential for God to work in and through these future world changers if they choose to walk with and surrender their lives to Him! Please pray for the young people who are connected with the current ministry of our church in Pleven!

Picture captions:

#1 A few new international students have started coming to our Friday night Bible study

#2 Jonathan enjoyed being a guest speaker last week at a youth meeting at a church in the city of Levski. We were so encouraged by the desire these young people have to grow in their faith! 

 

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Spinning Plates

Josh and Lydia Provow

Spinning Plates

Lately I (Josh) have been thinking a lot about balance.  Balancing the different tasks involved in church planting is something that seems to be getting harder and harder.  You know those performers that can keep a bunch of plates spinning at the same time?   It’s like that.  The only difference is that I feel like I break a lot of plates!  When we first moved to Shumen, it was relatively easy.  In the beginning we didn’t have church services or Bible studies or English classes.  Our main task was to get to know people.  Almost every day we would spend time outside the house: going on walks, sitting on park benches, driving to nearby villages; all with a goal of meeting new people.  If we exchanged information with someone, it was easy to decide whether to write them for coffee.  We had time.

But over the past 18 months, we have slowly added more things into our regular routine.  First it was adding different English classes (Lydia has classes in a local academy, and I have classes in a boiler factory and at an IT firm).  Then it was Catan Bible Studies.  Then it was church services in Shumen.  Now- by the grace of God- there is a weekly Bible study in Vehtovo and Sevdi has begun a six-month discipleship course.  In January we are prayerfully starting two groups of Alpha Course: one for adults and one for teenagers.  And recently, as we began planning the Operation Christmas Child parties for this year, Sevdi said: “Josh, what will we do if God answers our prayers about starting Bible clubs in some of these villages?  How are we going to handle three more weekly groups?”  At the moment we find ourselves trying to spin a lot of plates!  I think for all of us this feeling is especially strong during the busy-ness of the Christmas season.

A year ago, it was common to think to myself: “I wonder if so and so has time for a cup of coffee today?”  Now it is more common to think: “Oof, I haven’t written to so and so in over a month!”  Sometimes I feel like a failure because I haven’t done a good job at spinning one particular plate or because I haven’t added a new plate into the mix recently.  But barring the sin of slothfulness, I am convinced that God doesn’t want us to feel like failures for not accomplishing enough!  Jesus is our Great Accomplisher, and often our job is to rest in Him and delight in what He is hard at work doing.

When it comes to adding new ministries, I am convinced that there are three options.  Option #1: we become more efficient at spinning plates, Option #2: we drop one plate in order to spin a new one, or Option #3: we train others to help spin plates.  I believe that there is a time and a place for each of them.  For instance, recently I started shaving off twenty minutes from studying Turkish by listening to instrumental music while I study.  And sometimes, Option #2 is most appropriate.  Every now and then we have to look at our calendar and do some pruning.

But without a doubt my favorite is Option #3: training others to take over.  In this regard Sevdi has been a huge blessing.  This past Sunday for the second time he led the Bible study in Vehtovo.  And he will be leading the Alpha Course for teenagers.  And we rejoice that next year Brenton and Debbie will be moving to Shumen and becoming co-laborers in this ministry.

In closing, we have at least four major sources of encouragement when we feel like we are spinning a bunch of plates.  First, we find encouragement in the Word of God, which reminds us that the Holy Spirit is tirelessly drawing people to Himself.  Second, we are encouraged by our IM Bulgaria team.  Besides giving us words of encouragement, their lives give us an amazing example to follow.  Third, we are encouraged by different people in our church that are stepping up to the plate.  And fourth, we are encouraged by the vast network of churches and individuals that pray for and support our family.  Whenever we receive our monthly gifts report, we are reminded again and again how many people sacrifice, so that we can live and work in Shumen.  And we truly are blessed by every Christmas card, by every comment in the Bulgaria Prayer Partners group, and by every response to our updates.  We do not say it often enough, but God is using you to build His church in the Shumen Province!

And finally, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

-Josh, Lydia, Naomi, Phoebe, Zoe, and Malachi

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Start of New Ministries in Shumen

Josh and Lydia Provow

Start of New Ministries in Shumen

Happy Reformation Day! Fall is in full swing here in Shumen, and as we enjoy cooler weather, the school-year routine, camping among the colors of fall on the Shumen plateau, and steadier attendance at our weekly gatherings, we are reminded once again of the indescribable Creator who designed so many things for our enjoyment- including pumpkin spice and colorful leaves! Tomorrow we will open our home and our hearts to the people in our city, as we host a fall festival in our yard.  We praise God for the relationships He has given us with believers and non-believers and the opportunities to share His truth. We pray that this event, while not “religious” in nature, will be used for His glory and bring our friends and acquaintances one step closer to understanding their need for our Savior!

We are thankful for the opportunity the Father has provided to begin meeting regularly for Bible study with “R” in the village of Vehtovo.  Please join us in praying that her eyes would be opened to the truth as we read together and discuss passages from the life of Jesus. We also pray that her neighbors would join us and come to know Jesus as well!

In the month of October, we began a group for training and raising kids according to Scripture. This is an exciting opportunity for growth in the lives of families who come to our weekly services, and we are praying that more families participate in next month’s meeting.  In the first meeting we were joined by one other couple, but several others have expressed interest in coming and we pray this will be a helpful ministry of our church in the coming months. This month we spoke about anger and how to handle it Biblically. Our next meeting is about respect. I (Lydia) am thankful for this opportunity for the Lord to convict and grow us as a family while also sharing with others about His plan for families. This is not a commonly accessible resource here in Bulgaria and we appreciate your prayers as we try to meet this need. May God call whole families to walk in His ways and be a light and example for those around us!

We have been so excited about what God is doing in and through Sevdi, an orphan who has seen the King of Glory take his chaotic life, fill him with peace, adopt him as a son and fill him with purpose. Sevdi sings with gusto, faith, and contagious joy for his Creator. We love that God uses adoption to describe our place in His kingdom. What a privilege to be children of the King!

Along those lines, we would like to share with you some very exciting family news. Our Father God has put a burden on our hearts from before He even brought us together as husband and wife, and He has now led us to act on this calling.  We believe He has a child out there who is meant for our family and we have stepped out in faith to apply for adoption. We appreciate your prayers as we follow Him on this new journey. We have now started a three-month period of background checks and home studies before we can be officially added to the registry and they can search for a match for our family.  So even though we haven’t met him yet, we are passionately praying for our child and the Father’s protection as we wait to bring him home.

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It’s the small things…

Tim and Lydia Awtrey

It’s the small things…

A baptism down at the river

It’s my hope that all of you one day can visit Bulgaria. I would love to show you the amazing mountains and the breathtaking seaside. I would take you to visit Veliko Turnovo and the thousand-year-old castle there. I would show you how we are confronting the darkness with the light of Jesus Christ in a country where, only a few years ago, it was against the law to attend a church service. When you come to Bulgaria, I will show you twenty-four-hour sidewalk cafes, great food and the deep friendships that Bulgarians cultivate.

But there is one thing I will not show you. You will not see big churches. I am not talking about the size of the building. You will not find churches that have large, active congregations. Bulgarian churches are often small and the people feel isolated as they try to live a life of faith that is so radically different from the society around them. Free Will Baptist International Missions sends us to countries where less than two percent of the people are believers. By definition we are sent to the hard places. We are sent to the countries where many other mission agencies have not been successful and where some have given up. We go where many others do not. So, here in Bulgaria you will not find congregations of one thousand people like in the USA. The “mega-churches” of Bulgaria might have a few

A youth group meeting in Svishtov

hundred in the congregation, but most churches average about twenty to thirty people.

However, when I finally convince you to come to Bulgaria, you will see that the sweetest things often come in small packages. I will take you to a small Bible study on Tuesdays where a group of about twelve attend; one-third are reading the Bible for the first time in their lives. Last Sunday night we had a few young people that gather together to talk about Jesus and two teens heard the Gospel for the very first time. Also, our little congregation gathered together last week and it was a joy to hear how they thanked God for His blessings. No, they don’t have big cars or a fancy church building and they are often under intense pressure because of their faith in Jesus, but they thanked God for the pure joy of knowing freedom in Him. I will also take you with me as we sit at a café and disciple one-on-one young people who are wanting to grow in their faith.

The Hanna Project in Svishtov

 

No, I will not show you big churches with fancy carpet and a big organ. I cannot show you an elaborate audio system or a new children’s ward. But what you will see is more precious to me than any of those other things. You will see lives transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There may not be very many, but to me, they are of infinite value. I cannot show you many “big” things, but some of the best things in life come in small packages.

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Baptisms and salvation decisions at church retreat in Bulgaria

Jonathan and Amy Postlewaite

Baptisms and salvation decisions at church retreat in Bulgaria

At this year’s annual “New Life” church retreat in Bulgaria (September 2019), five people chose to profess their faith in Jesus Christ through baptism. We are overjoyed that one person also made the decision to place their trust in Christ as their Savior.

The Lord used this year’s guest speaker Ken Cash to impact the hearts of many through the sharing of biblical and practical truth. We are thankful for the sense of “connectedness” that we see growing among the believers in the four “New Life” church plants in Bulgaria. We are thankful for the great ways that God is growing His kingdom here!

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Village Ministry in Bulgaria

Jonathan and Amy Postlewaite

Village Ministry in Bulgaria

There are many villages in the region of Pleven, Bulgaria, which have no Protestant church presence. God has given us a burden to see these people reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the past year, God has blessed us with many contacts and relationships in a small village called Odarne. These people have become very dear to our hearts, and many of them have a desire to learn more about God and His word! We have been praying for many months for the Lord to provide a place what we could regularly meet with these individuals. We are so thankful that God graciously answered this prayer! On August 30, we had an “opening ceremony” at a room in the center of the village, where every Saturday we will be leading a Bible club for Children and a worship/Bible study gathering for adults. We can’t wait to see how God uses this opportunity to bring transformation to hearts and lives! Thank you for praying with us that the gospel will take root and bring about much fruit in this village.

In December, we (along with the Provow family in Shumen) will be involved in an exciting campaign to reach more villages in Bulgaria with the gospel through evangelistic events. We will be working with a Hanna Project team to organize parties for children in 7-10 nearby villages, where we will distribute Operation Christmas Child boxes, play games, and share with them about the real meaning of Christmas. WE ARE CURRENTLY LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS WHO CAN JOIN US IN THIS EXCITING OPPORTUNITY! If you are interested, please check out The Hanna Project page or contact us at jpostlewaite@iminc.org.

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THP Ozark a Success!

Josh and Lydia Provow

THP Ozark a Success!

From June 25 to July 5 we had the privilege of hosting a THP team from Ozark, MO. Their mission: to show the love of Jesus through social projects in two villages and then to share the love of Jesus through song, testimony, Bible distribution, and film.

In the first village the team assembled street fitness equipment for the kids and teenagers of the village, as well as painting part of city hall. On day four, they put together a wonderful concert and handed out tons of sloppy joes and pieces of apple pie. Everyone there (at least 75 people) heard the gospel. Many stayed until almost midnight to watch the Jesus Film all the way to the end. The only downside: I didn’t bring enough Bibles! The 15 Bulgarian/Turkish bilingual New Testaments went like hotcakes! We look forward to continuing our relationship with the many people in this village that we met.

The brief intermission was on Sunday, when the team got a taste of two of our four churches in Bulgaria. In the morning we worshipped in Varna, as they celebrated their sixth birthday as a church. And then in the evening they worshipped in Shumen, as we celebrated our church’s ten-week birthday. 😊

In the second village the team assembled two covered picnic tables and placed three park benches. They also painted two offices, one long corridor, and replaced several old light fixtures in city hall. On day three we did a similar outreach event, again with over 75 people. We gave out 21 New Testaments and clearly explained how we can come to know God. Our prayer is that the people who took Bibles in both villages will read them and contact me so that we can go there and study with them. Share the gospel -> Start in-home Bible studies -> Bible study becomes a church -> Train up leadership and help the church plant another church.

The group was extremely hard-working. Every day of the village projects was a full day of heavy lifting and rigorous painting. There were no sleep-in days or “go to bed on time” days. They were ready to sacrifice of themselves so that many people in Bulgaria could see with their eyes and hear with their ears the love of Christ.

By the grace of God, we can say that their mission was accomplished!

Thank you, Walter, Barbara, Gary, David, Rachael, Jamie, and Abbey! And thank you to the First FWB Church of Ozark, MO for sacrificially giving to make this trip a reality. And thank you to all of you who have prayed for this trip and continue to pray for church-planting in Bulgaria!

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Seasons

Tim and Lydia Awtrey

Seasons

Church planting work in Bulgaria has two seasons; a season lasting from September to June of frenetic activity that involves church services, Bible studies, English clubs, one-on-one discipleship, interns, tears, strong coffee and laughter and a second season running from July to August where we plan out all the craziness of September to June. As we move into July the hectic activity wanes and I start to prayerfully plan out what comes next. As we make plans for the next season of ministry, I have realized two things about myself and our work of planting churches in Bulgaria.

First, I always want MORE. I know it’s selfish and, perhaps, not entirely godly, but I do. I want to see more men and women serving in our churches in Bulgaria. I want to see more Bulgarian pastors and church workers. I want to see more people come to faith. I want to see those who are still babies in Christ to mature and grow in the faith. I always want MORE.

Second, we are playing the LONG GAME. I have to remind myself of this in a country where quick success is hard to find. We are not trying to start ONE church. Our team is beginning a church planting movement that will plant and sustain churches throughout Bulgaria until Jesus returns. Our dream is a network of local churches, led by Bulgarians, that will be a lights in the darkness of a post-communist society that has rejected Jesus Christ. One day I can see the FWB churches in Bulgaria sending out missionaries to Serbia, Macedonia and to Turkey. And yet… at the present we have only a handful of churches with a mix of new and mostly new believers who are just beginning to walk in the faith. It’s okay. We are playing the LONG GAME.

So, as we now we move into the season of planning and strategizing, we do what the good Book says, “keeping our eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of our faith.” Always wanting MORE and filled with the confidence of one who has read the end of the Book, knowing that in the LONG run Jesus will be glorified. Amen.

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Stateside Assignment Coming Soon!

Trif and Vanya Trifonov

Stateside Assignment Coming Soon!

Hello everyone!

Just a week from now, on July 6, we fly to Nashville to spend a month or so on our stateside assignment. After we visit Hendersonville FWB Church on July 7, we are going to attend our daughter Debbie’s marriage ceremony on July 12. My family and I are looking forward to seeing our daughter getting married to this Godly man, Brenton Driscoll!

Then we are going to visit 7 more churches: First FWB Church Lebanon MO, Happy Hill FWB Church MO, Mosaic FWB Church Rolla MO, Stonebridge FWB  ChurchTroy MO, Beacon FWB  Church Raytown MO, LifePoint FWB Church Blue Springs, MO, First FWB Church Pocahontas AR. Also, I (Trif) am going to speak at the Nationals on Sharing the Gospel in Postcommunist Bulgaria.

So, your prayers are much appreciated!

Please, pray for:

+ the preparation for Debbie and Brenton’s wedding ceremony. Pray that God would see to it that any details we might be neglecting or any unforeseen challenges or issues be covered by his mighty power and great care. Pray for protection over each traveler. And we pray for loving interactions between each of us, even when we feel the stresses that undoubtedly come with an event like this. More than anything, we ask for the Holy Spirit’s presence!

+ God’s guidance and annointment for me and Vanya while we share about the work in Bulgaria at the churches and for open ears and responsive hearts as we share the prayer and financial needs. We need to raise $1,500 more for our monthly expenses.

+ A great time of reuniting with old friends and meeting new friends at the National Convention; pray that Trif’s seminar on Sharing the Gospel in Postcommunist Bulgaria (IM Seminar, DECC 251, 1 pm on Wednesday, July 24) will be well attended by pastors and that new relationships and cooperation would start between New Life Church Varna and other stateside churches.

+ the Bulgaria IMPact Project presenting the need for buying a property for building an Outreach Center for New Life FWB Church in Varna, Bulgaria. Again, pray that God would speak to the right people and would help us raise more funds and build a bigger prayer house for the church that would serve also as a center for sending out missionaries to eastern Bulgaria!

Thank you and God bless!

Trif, Vanya, Monika and Stefan

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