Homeless and Orphan Outreach in Bulgaria
Bojan, a former sailor who had fallen on hard times, raised a hand to get Krasi’s attention once again. The short, bearded man had been attending his Bible studies for a few years and was full of questions:
“Why does the Bible say this?”
“Where in the Bible does it say that?”
“What does God think about this or that?”
Krasi was happy to talk about these things, and the two men shared many long conversations at the homeless shelter where Bojan resided.
Bojan had worked at sea so long that he had no skills to support himself on land. He’d earned good money working on cargo ships but had mismanaged his finances, never managing to save even the smallest amount. Somewhere along the way, his wife left him. He had no children.
The lifelong sailor couldn’t seem to get on his feet, so he remained at the shelter along with other Bulgarians who had lost their homes to foreclosure because of debt, had drinking problems, or abused drugs.
While attending Krasi’s Bible studies faithfully, Bojan grappled with the questions and implications of faith for a full three years before trusting Christ as Savior.
A sharp fellow with alert, curious eyes, the new believer seemed to want to drink in as much Bible knowledge as possible. GEM workers Krasi Yanev and his wife Jessie gave the sailor other Christian literature. He read it all very carefully. Bojan simply wasn’t satisfied with hearing a biblical truth; he wanted to know why, how, when, and what for. He peppered Krasi with questions about life and death, wanting to know what happens after death.
Gradually, Krasi and Jessie saw a real change in Bojan. On the cargo ships, he’d had a reputation for being pugnacious, easily angered, and quick to pick a fight. The down-on-his-luck sailor had carried that demeanour with him into the homeless shelter, but fortunately, the strict rules about fighting had kept Bojan’s angry outbursts to a minimum.
Now, however, something deep within Bojan shifted. He calmed down. No longer motivated solely by fear of being put out on the streets, the sailor responded peaceably to those around him. Krasi and Jessie watched in amazement as the fruits of the Spirit ripened in Bojan.
Perhaps Bojan had sensed he was terminally ill. Was that why he asked so many questions about death and eternal life? He was diagnosed with cancer and died in the shelter, just three months after coming to know Jesus. The man who passed into eternity was not the same man who had entered the homeless shelter three years before. The Holy Spirit had changed Bojan from the inside out.
Krasi is not a pastor, but he does preach once a month in his church in the town of Ruse on the Danube River. His full-time ministry is to hold Bible studies in group homes and in the homeless shelter.
Jessie teaches religion to children in two public schools. Every week, she teaches more than 400 children from age seven through 13. Both Krasi and Jessie help care for the physical as well as spiritual needs of the homeless, using ministry funds to buy shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo for shelter residents.
“We both have a Masters’ in Orthodox Theology from a local university,” explains Jessie, “and that has opened so many doors for us. I have a lot of freedom to teach what the Bible says in the public schools. Krasi also goes to one other school, two or three times a month, giving presentations on drugs, self-esteem, and building good character.”
Krasi adds, “In both the homeless shelter and the group homes for older orphans, I have great freedom to preach the gospel, as well as meet people’s physical and emotional needs. I am involved in three group homes with 22 young people shared between them.
“These young people have aged out of orphanages, but they still have mental or emotional problems. These group homes exist so the orphans won’t end up on the streets. They live together under a government program for their own protection. I am one of those who help provide ongoing assistance and care. I get to have Bible studies with them, and I have conversations with them about the Lord.”
Since the fall of communism in 1990, Bulgaria has become a land of possibilities for Christian workers. With the government not merely tolerating but actively supporting the work of people like Krasi and Jessie, opportunities to share the love of Christ abound.
If you would like to know more about GEM’s ministry opportunities in Bulgaria, click here.
About the author:
Jenny Garrity is a storyteller with Greater Europe Mission. Jenny and her husband Kim joined GEM in 1984. They have served in Germany, Belgium, and most recently, Greece in response to the refugee crisis.