Driving a stick shift for the first time across a foreign country? Check.
Preaching week after week to a family church that knows no english? Check.
Spending hours each day on hot public transportation fighting the urge to throw up? Check.
Getting caught walking home in a hailstorm mid summer? Check.
Getting fleas from the local street dogs? Check.
I have a long list of exciting and interesting experiences that are frequent occurences this summer. They have kept me on my toes to say the least, and i hate to say it, but mom they even made me regret not bringing the anti-itch cream that your tried to force me to take. :)
SO much has happened that it's impossible to stay fully updated, but here is a short paragraph of some of my own personal endevours. I have made a few friends with local guys my age at the outdoor basketball courts who speak a little english, and we play a couple times a week when it doesnt rain. It's been really fun, and during those times I feel like I am back in the states just hooping with old friends. I have been blessed to preach on a weekly basis at the home church zhana has begin in the village of Manaselska Reka. The people there are so wonderful, and the friday's that we spend there weekly are some of my favorite days of the summer. Let me tell ya - Mama Petya can throw down in the grill, and we had some killer porkchops and fried zuchinni one afternoon. YUM.
Another highlight - Preston and I have been teaching history/logic/ethics at the biggest high school in bulgaria. They brought us in because they wanted us to practice speaking english with the kids, and it has become more of conversation time than anything. They love to compare lifestyles of Bulgaria and the States, and even though we are different its comforting for both sides when we find that we have so much in common. Also, our team goes Bulgarian folk dancing twice a week! There is a small class in the neighboring village from us, and we dance for about an hour and a half straight. Talk about cardio! We get better everytime, and it's a fun way to dive headfirst into the culture.
We have recently passed the one month marker for our summer away from home. Time is both moving slowly and flying by...it is a strange feeling. Home has taken on a new meaning for me while I have been away, and I think i speak for all of us. Yes, I miss my family, my bed, cold drinks, and driving my own personal car. I mean, what seems like my entire identity is waiting for me in the Nashville area. Nashville - a city that very few who I have encountered here even knows exists. Our own personal lives are so insignificant in light of the entire world, and I believe this is something we needed to be reminded of often. The world does not revolve around our schedules, desires, dinner plans, or activities, and while we may be enjoying a nice dinner and a trip the movie theater there are people all over the world who are fighting hunger, hatred, and hopelessness.
I feel called to live out the Kingdom in places of the world that have little to no hope, and whose lives are so full of chaos and darkness that they would sacrifice everything to experience peace. I knew that this summer would most likely be a "make it or break it" trip for me to decipher my calling; sort of like tossing my calling into a stormy sea and seeing whether or not it will sink or swim. I came to the rural countryside of Bulgaria - a place where violence, hatred, injustice, and hopelessness runs wild. I have been thrown into situations far outside my comfort zone, and have experienced my share of highs and lows. I was hoping on my departure from the states that I would fall in love with Bulgaria and living overseas while I was here - loving the food and accomodations, the atmosphere, the lifestyle, etc. While some of these are true, I must be honest and say that I have not felt completely at home while I am here. No story book affirmation to my calling I guess. However, never have I felt such a strong conviction on my life- a calling to spend a lifetime in fellowship with Christ in a place of the world that needs the most hope. It has become even more obvious to me that this is not in America, and I believe that I would be going against the will of God for my life if I stayed in my current home. I would not trade anything for the conversations, learning, and friendship that i have already experienced this first month here. Away from the busyness of my "real life", I have found my real self. God has sanded my rough edges, and he has/still is purifying my heart and mind, and bending me more and more towards the man he wants me to become. I have found myself dependent on him and his word in a fresh and vital way, a life-giving way, something that I have yet to experience even as a religion major in a Christian university. As I examine my life- my past and future- God's fingerprints are evident on both sides of the present. The peace that I have in my heart surpasses all understanding, and I know that my God will be faithful to me as long as I surrender myself to his will and take up my cross and follow him; wherever that may be. All I have to do is to step out of the boat.
Grace and Peace,