Faith revival in Bulgaria

By September 30, 2013

Bulgaria (MNN/CAM) — Something
is missing in the traditional religion of Bulgaria. Devotion for God has waned.

Blame it on 50 years of communist repression, the growing Islamic presence, or
the sway of changing times. Whatever the reason, many Bulgarians are feeling
disillusioned about matters of faith. In the case of the younger generation,
some have rejected religion altogether.

Some
of Bulgaria’s youth, however, are challenging the traditional meaning of the
Christian faith. Good News Churches, an evangelical ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission, is helping the movement. In a landscape of shifting sands,
they seek to give Bulgarian youth a firm foundation in Jesus Christ–a faith
that won’t be uprooted by political ideologies or the latest fad.

This
summer the ministry celebrated the 12th year of “New Wave,” a national
Christian youth program that draws thousands of participants to an annual camp
and to other high energy events.

“It
is exciting to see young people on fire for Jesus and with a deep desire to
serve Him,” said a gospel worker with the ministry. He and his wife serve as national
coordinators for New Wave.

“A
lot of parents are testifying of the change that has taken place in the lives
of their children after the New Wave summer camps,” the missionary said.  

Mini-revivals are held in the fall and spring, bringing together 2,000 young people for a day of praising God and fervent prayer. These New Wave events are held in rented sports arenas or cultural halls in large cities which can be easily accessed via public transportation from outlying towns and villages.

These New Waves events are making in impact. Some
attendees commit their hearts to Christ for the first time. Strengthened in
their faith, many teens return to their communities and become a witness for
the Lord to their friends and relatives. Others discover their calling to
become church leaders, pastors, and missionaries whose outreach will have
long-term effects on the future of their nation.

New Wave has borne so much spiritual fruit among the youth in Bulgaria
that a similar national movement has been replicated in Albania. Called “United
Youth for Christ,” the event draws about 400 youth from Albania, Kosovo, and
Macedonia. The “wave” continues to spread throughout the region, as Romanian
churches have also requested assistance in organizing events for the youth in
their country.

Today’s
generation lives in a different world compared to what their parents and
grandparents experienced during the communist years of 1944 to 1989. There is
more freedom, both politically and socially. Gone, too, is the system that
oppressed religious activities of all denominations and faiths.

Although
Bulgaria’s constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, Orthodoxy is
officially recognized as the traditional religion of the country. An estimated
82% of Bulgaria’s 7 million inhabitants identify themselves as Orthodox.

Evangelical
Christianity, considered a sect by many Bulgarians, is slowly gaining
acceptance, especially among youth. Protestants comprise just 1.9% of the
country’s population, up from a mere 0.4% in 1980.

Authenticity
is what young adults are looking for, and ministry leaders want them to know
what it means to have a genuine, life-transforming walk with the Savior–no
matter what their religious affiliation may be.

“Our
vision is to invest in young people’s lives, to develop the gifts they have and
their character, and to teach them to show mercy to those that are neglected
and rejected in society,” said one Christian Aid-assisted missionary.

One
challenge that hasn’t changed since their parents’ generation is the chokehold
of poverty. According to the National Statistical Institute, over 70,000
Bulgarian young adults were registered as unemployed in August, and 24% of them
are up to 29 years of age. As a result, some of the country’s best and
brightest youth are emigrating to other European countries for jobs and money.

Others
seek solace in alcohol and drugs, or experience failed relationships that
contribute to the nation’s high abortion and divorce rates.

Finding
a sure and steady anchor in Christ is their only hope. Pray for a mighty moving
of God’s Spirit to continue to change lives.

Praise
God for the revival taking place among the youth of Bulgaria. Pray for revival
to sweep across the country and the entire Balkan region.

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