What is Bulgaria like?
Bulgaria is a beautiful country in South East Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, bordering Greece, Turkey, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, and the Black Sea. “Balkan” means wooded mountain and Bulgaria is filled with beautiful mountains, fruitful valleys, and also a beautiful sea side.
Bulgaria has had a long and interesting history. It officially became an Orthodox Christian nation in the 9th century. For 500 years it was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. In the 20th century Bulgaria experienced numerous wars and a communist government. Although it entered the EU in 2007, Bulgaria still struggles with corruption and migration and has been harshly hit by the financial crisis. All of these factors (and many others) play an important role in the current Bulgarian culture – their beliefs and attitudes. Although this is slowly changing, there is a general atmosphere of pessimism by most people in Bulgaria that it will ever flourish as a country. The majority of the population is nominally Orthodox Christian with significant and growing portions of the population that are either Muslim or atheists. The evangelical community is rather small in Bulgaria and is viewed as a cult by most of the population.
Bulgaria is a very relational culture. All ministry must be done in the context of relationships of trust. For this reason sometimes ministry looks slow as much work must be done to build relationships of trust before one is able to come alongside of a person on their journey of faith in Bulgaria.
What is the present state of the work?
The Bulgarian Christian Student Union recently celebrated 20 years of ministry – having been established in 1993 by IFES workers from Western Europe. Originally, the student work thrived as many students were interested in Christianity after the fall of communism. But by the late 90’s the ministry grew smaller and it has become harder to engage students with the good news of Jesus. This difficulty is enhanced by the general prohibition of any religious activity on university property (including the student dorms).
Currently there are student groups that meet in 8 cities throughout Bulgaria and about 120 students in total. Some of these groups have had a long tradition and are thriving; others are very fragile and need more support and training. There are two cities with major universities and a few cities with small colleges where there is still no Christian witness.
The majority of the workers in Bulgaria are volunteers and graduates, with only 2 paid staff. With over a quarter of a million students in Bulgaria – many of them who have never seriously talked about issues of faith – BCSU still has a lot of work to do to reach students with the gospel. It is true what Jesus says the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
One are where we particularly feel this is among international students. There are a growing number of international students coming to Bulgaria to study – especially from Turkey, Greece, and Macedonia. We would love to do more with these students (and we have had some open doors to this work) but because of lack of workers we have not been able to fully realize this opportunity.
You can find out more about the work of BCSU at our website: http://www.bhss-org.com/home-en.php
What does the Team do?
We are seeking team members who would work alongside of the Bulgarian Christian Student Union in pioneering work among international students, training students in evangelism, helping to organize outreach events, and mentoring students through one-to-one relationships. We also seek to encourage, help and train the volunteer team in Bulgaria.
The team is based out of Sofia, where we will be able to serve BCSU in reaching out to students there. As the country is not too big, there are also many opportunities to travel in the country in order to serve the students and volunteers throughout Bulgaria.
What special requirements are there for joining the Bulgarian InterAction Team?
A visa is required for team members coming from outside of the European Union. Visa requirements include a proof of ability to support yourself, and adequate health insurance.
We would like all members to learn the language while in Bulgaria. This not only speaks to the Bulgarians of your willingness to know them but will also give you an opportunity to meet international students also.
Above all team member must have servant hearts and be flexible and take initiative to help the ministry in ways that BCSU needs.
What about accommodation, living costs, courses, jobs for InterAction Team Members?
Teams live in private apartments, or possibly in student dormitories. Usually accommodation can be arranged for team members before they arrive, but it may sometimes be necessary to look for an apartment after arrival.
The Bulgarian Lev is fixed to the European Euro at 1 lev = 0.51 euros.
Most people live in apartment buildings in Bulgaria. You will be able to rent a relatively good flat in Sofia for about 200 euros/month and will need to about another 50 euros/month for utilities (phone, internet, water, heating, and electricity). This can be shared among flat-mates if you choose to live with others.
Ministry expenses, including language school and in country travel, will cost about 200 euros/month.
Bulgarian-Orthodox 76%, Atheism 12%, Islam 10% Evangelicals: 1%