Blessing Bulgaria

Bulgaria is situated in the southeast of Europe. It is a beautiful country, rich in natural resources, where the dominant religion is Eastern Orthodoxy. The first Jewish settlements were established in Bulgaria after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and since then there has always been a Jewish community in our land
During the Second World War, the Bulgarian people resisted Hitler's attempts to deport the Jewish community. Not one Jew who lived under the jurisdic­tion of the Bulgarian state was deported to any of the Nazi concentration camps. Indeed, during the war the Jewish population of Bulgaria actually increased in number by more than a thousand.

In 1948, when the world recognised the establishment of the new State of Israel, many Bulgarian Jews wanted to settle there and to give of their best for the building up of the nation. So between 1949 and 1951, 45-48,000 Bulgarian Jews made Aliyah*, leaving only 4-5,000 in Bulgaria. Then, after the fall of Communism in 1989, many younger Jews left Bulgaria. Now the average age of the 3,000 who remain in the country is eighty and reaching these elderly Bulgarian Jews with the gospel is not an easy task.

Open my eyes Lord

When I ask Jewish people if they ever read the Bible, they often say something like, "I am very old and cannot see well". To overcome this problem, I now offer to read the Bible to my friends when I visit them. Initially, when I started reading to the Mashiah family, Mr Elijah Mashiah was very suspicious. However, after a few weeks, he would ask me to read the Bible as soon as I arrived and then we would speak about other things. Eventually Mr Mashiah insisted on coming to church with me and then in July, he told me that he would like to ask Jesus to forgive his sins. We prayed together and I am convinced that Mr Mashiah is now born again and believes in Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

Due to the influence of the Orthodox Church, Bulgarian society has many traditions that are deeply rooted and that have found their way into Jewish minds. On one occasion Mathilda called to ask if I would visit her and her husband. When I arrived, she told me that many bad things were happening to her family and asked me to consecrate the house because she believed that some evil spirits were probably in control of the family. Consecrating a house is an Orthodox tradition but I decided to use the occasion to share the gospel with Mathilda and her husband. I said I would bless the house but not in the same way as an Orthodox priest. Instead, I read Psalm 91 and told the couple that if they would like to have peace in their home, they must first have peace with God. They asked me how and I explained that the only way this could happen was through Jesus the Messiah. I then asked Mathilda the question, "What do you think of Jesus? In your opinion who is He?" She gave me the answer I least expected: "He is the Son of God." When I asked if she really believed what she had told me, Mathilda replied, "Yes!" Then we prayed and she and her husband received the Lord into their hearts. It all started with a simple tradition!

When I first discovered that Jesus was a Jew, it amazed me! The discovery turned my world upside down. I realised that Jesus had lived in history and was like many other Jewish people in the first century world. But, being the Lord, He was so devoted to God and knew His will so well that He was able to explain God’s story in such a way that it reached the hearts of many people.

We are called to do the same; to live in this world but never to forget that we belong to another Kingdom and that we are commanded to tell the story of Jesus "to the Jew first".

* Made Aliyah: emigrated to Israel
This article first appeared in the Winter 2007 edition of the Herald

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