Twice already my son-in-law has been out to Bulgaria with a friend. Their concern is to help widows and orphans. On the 8th December they will be travelling east once again, this time for a week’s stay, where funds raised at home from the sale of calendars will be distributed personally, as they see needs. The following is an article describing his second trip.
“We remove our shoes, careful not to mark the floor. It is morning, and we are in Eastern Europe sipping cinnamon tea in the sumptuous home of a prominent Charismatic Evangelist. Our host is gracious; his home, tastefully luxurious. I can’t help thinking how l would love such a place if I could pre-order my heavenly abode! After our meeting, our restful time seated out on the veranda draws to close. The morning sunlight picks out the blossom trees and the distant snowy mountains. It is a quiet neighbourhood sensibly located away from the noise and tumult of the city. We leave for our next appointment the other side of town.
The sun is still shining as we approach the refuse fields which separate the gypsy neighbourhood from the city. Instead of seeing blossom trees l observe a man with an old trolley, picking his way through the sea of rubbish scattered either side of us, hopeful to discover something useful with which to improve his existence. Between sky and city lies the Balkan Mountains. Between the city and my feet lies the scavenged carcass of a mule – there could be no greater contrast to the affluent suburb we had been so enjoying half an hour ago, where in socks we had stood on polished floors. The mud, the shacks, the poverty, are in peculiar contrast to the people I meet. My interpreter makes the connections as we walk through the neighbourhood. Our hosts are gracious and kind. The children, curious, but ready with their smiles, despite the surrounding refuse and deprivation. Humanity’s heart shines through the poverty somehow. I witness dignity, self respect, loyalty and friendship. When our time there draws to a close, I carry far more away with me than the dust on my boots. I am reminded that God created Adam from such.
In the evening we are again sitting in a luxury home, this time of a prosperous Christian businessman. Food and drinks are plentiful; we have an evening of singing, prayer and testimonies, sharing how good God is. The temperature outside is dropping. It begins to snow, but we are warm and comfortable within. The meeting over, it is late; our interpreter tells us we have one more appointment with a widow whom he knows. It is approaching midnight and I am concerned for keeping an elderly lady up so late, but he assures me that she is expecting our arrival.
Coke is poured into plastic cups for us. We can tell that our hostess feels greatly honoured by our visit. We enter the tiny room. My senses are suddenly assailed. I instinctively recoil at the environment. I retreat inwardly, trying to understand how and why the conditions of poverty which surround me could be home to a fellow human being. I look at my friend who is with me; no words pass, but we are both shaken. The diminutive lady before us has been widowed for more than 40 years. Sometimes she has no wood for fuel in winter. She sells trinkets on the street to help make ends meet, yet refuses payment for cleaning her local church each week. She turns and says something in Bulgarian, raising her arms; she is evidently radiantly happy. Our interpreter conveys her words: “When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was praise God and I said to Him, ‘I am the richest woman in the world!”
I find it hard to hold back the emotion l feel, beholding the strange contradiction before my eyes. An elderly widow had discovered a secret that we in the West continue striving for with increased desperation; ‘perhaps if we could only make more money, our worries might be eased and we would find peace’. But she had discovered more than peace. Somehow, despite material want, she had found genuine happiness, through spiritual devotion. Blinking back tears I reach for whatever cash I have in my pocket, and throw it onto the small table in front of me. She has never seen so much money. I ask the interpreter to say that Jesus wants to bless her. I realise on reflection, that Jesus already has. The blessing was hers to give to me. This was my opportunity, my lesson for recognising the true meaning of prosperity; the divine quality Jesus comes to seek within His Church.”
Andrew White, November 2015.