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Missionary Spotlight – Called to Bulgaria

November 2008 | by Ralph Gatti

Called to Bulgaria

 

Not all missionary work is direct preaching and evangelising. In this article I share my testimony of working in Bulgaria to show the various ways in which the Lord uses us.

 

I am a representative of Navigators, an international Christian organisation that has been ministering in Bulgaria since the 1980s. Navigators evangelise the lost, establish new believers in the faith, and equip disciples of Jesus Christ for ministry. My association goes back to 1983, when the Navigators first played a large part in my own spiritual development.

 

Openings

 

Navigators in Bulgaria work in such contexts as universities, NGOs, businesses and churches. I focus on ministering to business contacts. I was also involved in establishing the first state-approved Christian school in Bulgaria – P. R. Slaveikov Primary and Middle School in Sofia.

     ‘Why Bulgaria?’ I am often asked. Why would the Lord take a middle-aged business owner and executive with many ministry opportunities in his own country (the USA) and send him 6000 miles away to a place some would describe as a spiritual backwater?

     From the start of my Christian life over twenty-five years ago, the Lord has brought people across my path who have taken time and trouble to help me grow towards maturity. The Lord used such a person to introduce me to his work in Bulgaria. I have learned from this to seek out others that I in turn could help.

     It was spring three years ago. I was praying one morning that the Lord would direct me to someone new who would be willing to invest in my spiritual growth. The Lord brought to mind Ed, a Navigators missionary to Bulgaria, returning to the USA after three decades of serving the Lord in Eastern European countries.

     Our church and adult Sunday school class had supported his ministry so I had got to know Ed and appreciate his perspectives. When I met with him, he shared with me about Bulgaria and how I needed to go there.

     Almost immediately, I found myself committed to a ten-day trip in the fall of 2005. This wasn’t a first for Ed. He had recruited others from our church to visit and had even had Bulgarians visit us in the States.

 

Heart work

 

The months leading up to our November trip passed quickly and I found myself saying goodbye to family and leaving my business in the hands of others. I had a sense that the Lord would use this time in a significant way, but I wanted to keep my expectations in check and let him lead.

     But almost from the moment we boarded the plane for our first leg of the journey, I could feel the work in my own heart commencing. And twenty hours later, as we de-planed in Sofia, it was in full motion. As my feet touched the ground, Bulgaria and its people were grabbing my heart.

     In that first trip Ed introduced me to a number of his friends and contacts. We focused especially on those connected to businesses and I was given opportunity to share with them my experiences and business concepts from a biblical perspective.

     The relationships formed were in many cases immediate and I found myself invited into the lives of people hungry to minister in society in a Micah 6:8 kind of way – ‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?’

     I realised there were opportunities for kingdom work in three specific areas – discipleship and mentoring; Christian education; and social and economic justice. With that first trip, the call to Bulgaria was laid on my heart and I came back a changed and redirected person.

 

Striving together

 

My wife and children saw where it was going and over time got on board with me. I’ve made about fourteen more trips to Bulgaria and they’ve joined me each of the last three summers.

     Today the Lord allows us to work together with our Bulgarian friends to strive to introduce the hope of the gospel into all parts of Bulgarian society – one heart and mind at a time.

Ralph Gatti

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Bulgaria