Have you ever been starving, standing in below freezing temperatures with just summer clothes on your body and your only option is to cry out to God for help?
Have you ever been kicked out of your house at age 14 and you were expected to make your own living separate from your family, because the culture surrounding you cannot help or support you?
Then I need to tell you about my friend, Pastor Lubcho. He grew up under difficult situations, but by God’s grace, he is now on a mission to help others, his people, the Gypsy (Roma) people. Pastor Lubcho’s heart is to impact the broken and hurting in his community and surrounding communities in our area in order that their lives will be transformed by Jesus.
Normally when you see me, Chance, traveling in Bulgaria or Macedonia, I am in the company of Pastor Lubcho. You will see us laughing about the adventures we get ourselves into like:
*taking me to a large Muslim community during Ramadan, or
*us sliding on black ice into a ditch after a weekend in a village high in the mountains, or
*him wondering how in the world I can eat fried pork skins.
One thing I know, the work in Bulgaria is about relationships…Our relationship with Jesus and our relationship with each other. Lives being transformed, including mine. It’s an honor to call Pastor Lubcho a friend.
Growing up in "The Great State of Alabama" you know about different cultures, especially concerning college football. At an early age you had to choose between Auburn or Alabama an embrace one of their cultures. Each culture has its differences and each culture has its strengths and weaknesses, but they do have things in common. Differences in culture can be how we talk. I live 20 miles from Macedonia where they speak Macedonian and 20 miles from Serbia where they speak Serbian. These two languages are very similar to Bulgarian but still different in their sounds and even their Alphabets. Since working with a lot of ministries from the United Kingdom, I've learned that I really have no idea how to speak English. The best way to say this is I speak Southern Americish, not English. Lord knows with my southern drawl, I am not even close to a lot of English words. I know you are asking, what does this have to do with mission work in Bulgaria? Well, I'm glad you asked,,. We live in Eastern Europe and the culture is very different from Western Europe. Minimum wage in Bulgaria is currently 310 BGN a month ($218 a month). To put it into terms for us Southern Americish speakers, that is a little over $8 a day or $1 dollar an hour (40 hour work week). Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia and several other Eastern European countries live in poverty. Their buildings and roads are in serious need of repair. Bulgaria is the size of the state of Tennessee and every country around it has a different language and very different culture. But, I have noticed a great strength in all these different cultures, they care about family and friends. They bond together to work through any problems together. They eat and live together no matter what the circumstances are surrounding them. They are not too busy in their lives to make sacrifices for each other on daily, monthly or even yearly commitments to each other. I started off this blog by saying each culture has its strengths and weaknesses but they do have things in common. Even though we all may speak different languages and live in different parts of the world. Whether we live in poverty or have riches...stop today...and think about your family and friends. Is there anything you can do to make their day a better day? Wake up tomorrow and do the same thing again and again and again or make a difference in your family and friend's lives today.
Over many years we have had the privilege to be friends with several families that have embraced adopting and investing in the lives of special needs children from around the world.
We have had the honor of knowing Skip and Ashley Perkins and family, Jack and Elsabe Louw and family, and several new families adopting special needs children from our area here in Kyustendil, Bulgaria, but I wanted to share about Derek and Renee' Loux and family and their heart for the broken. Anytime I start to feel down or dejected, I just read this blog from Derek Loux sharing his heart and experience about Redemption and the real love that God has toward us. Derek Loux passed away a few years ago and Renee' is still continuing in the work they started together many years ago. God bless this family and ministry as they show us the true heart of God. God bless all families that have a heart for the broken.
Derek Loux wrote:
“Renee’ and I are sitting in the office of a telephone company in Novograd Valenski, Ukraine, using wireless internet. We are in the middle of adopting three special needs boys from an orphanage here. Two of the boys have Down Syndrome. Roman is high functioning, energetic and happy. Dimitri has serious mental retardation, failure to thrive, and though he is five years old, he is the size of a 1 year old. He has sores on his face, a distinct smell of death on him, and yells out if we try to do anything with him other than hold him. Because he has less ability to respond and learn, he naturally gets less attention and care from the orphanage workers in this world of limited resources. The harsh reality of the “survival of the fittest” principle is a life and death struggle that this little boy is losing fast. Our third boy Sasha, is a brilliant six year old who has Spina Bifida (the condition our son Josiah died from in 1996). He is like a learning sponge that can’t get enough! He is happy and alert and thirsty for knowledge and experience. So with two of our boys, we get an immediate return on any investment we make. With Dimitri, there’s not much immediate gratification. In fact, it’s unknown when and if there will be a return at all. This is the kind of situation that makes the carnal, fallen, human reasoning think, “Why try? What’s the point? What will this produce? What good will this do? Why not select a boy who has more potential? This looks like a lost cause.
Two days ago we drove for hours into the Ukrainian countryside to the village where Dimitri was born. We met with officials there and signed papers and answered their questions. We also went and saw Dimitri’s house. The day had been long, we were still recovering from jet lag, I was beginning to really miss my six daughters at home and all the familiar things our fragile human hearts entangle themselves with in feeble attempts to feel secure. Sitting in the dark on our very long drive back to Novograd that night, the Holy Spirit began to whisper to my heart, and new understanding about redemption began to take shape.
I was thinking, “Man, adopting this little boy has been so much work. This is exhausting, expensive, uncomfortable … and it doesn’t feel very rewarding right now.” What am I doing in some little Soviet car in the dark, in the middle of rural Ukraine in frozen December, as the driver dodges cats and potholes? What if Dimitri doesn’t improve at all? What if we get “nothing” out of this? … Ahhh, there it was; that dark, fallen, unreedemed, selfish human love, rooted in the tree of the knowledge of “good and evil”. The love the Greeks called “erao” love. The love where we treat someone as precious and treasured for what we can get out of it. This is unlike “agapeo” love, the God kind of love that treats someone as treasured and precious for their good, not for my good. It’s when I love a person in order to meet their needs, having no expectation of them meeting any of my needs. At a whole new level, God is working His kind of love into my weak heart, and He’s using little Dimitri to do it.
On the drive home that night, the Lord whispered in my ear, “This is Redemption. Derek, do you know how far I travelled to get you and bring you back? I had to be separated from my Son, in order to get you, just like you are separated from your children in order to get these boys. Do you know how expensive it was for Me to purchase you? It cost me everything. Do you know how broken, sick, damaged, twisted, dirty, smelly, and hopeless you were? And at the end of it all, you had nothing to give me or add to me. I did it for you. I emptied myself and became nothing so that you could have it all. This is redemption.
My friends, adoption is redemption. It’s costly, exhausting, expensive, and outrageous. Buying back lives costs so much. When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him. And when He redeems us, we can’t even really appreciate or comprehend it, just like Dimitri will never comprehend or fully appreciate what is about to happen to him … but … he will live in the fruit of it. As his Daddy, I will never expect him to understand all of this or even to thank me. I just want to watch him live in the benefits of my love and experience the joys of being an heir in my family. This is how our heavenly “Papa” feels towards us.
Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.”
To learn more about their ministry, the Orphan Justice Center click the link below.
We live in country that has many needs and many people are in desperate situations. You have certain groups of people from the elderly Bulgarians to the Roma with a very uncertain tomorrow or future. It is our job to encourage and build hope for their future. I was reminded recently of the movie Finding Nemo, when Dory and Nemo's dad, Marlin, are surrounded by darkness in the ocean and Dory makes the statement of "just keep swimming". In other words, just keep moving forward no matter what is in front of you. This month has been busy moving forward with Discipleship Training, Food For All, and continuing to build relationships. As we look around Bulgaria and see all the poverty, you wonder how you/we can make a difference? We have to be like the old man in the story about "The Starfish" that goes like this:
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t
possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts
won’t make any difference at all.” The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another
starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
When Dee Dee and I first arrived in Bulgaria we were overwhelmed by the task in front of us of how we could ever make a difference in a part of the world that has been around for thousands of years. But, God's mercies are new every morning. We have to "Just Keep Swimming" and the remember the starfish story. We have seen many people's lives changed and we will continue to do what we can each and everyday.....we will just keep swimming and let God cause the growth. Our job is best described by Mother Teresa "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.
Dee and I are here showing people that they are loved and cared for by God and their is hope in future and
Just Keep Swimming!
One of the most common questions we are asked is, "How did you become a missionary?". Well, there is not a short way to answer this question. There were many factors that played a role in us being on the mission field. I could say it was going on short term mission trips or God dropping a love for the Bulgarian people in our hearts, and yes these were factors, but I want to share about my personal revelation or discovery that I realized during our visit this summer to the United States and how we were already being trained for the mission field some twenty years ago.
I have come to realize over time that not one ingredient makes a chocolate cake, but we do tend to focus on what we think the main ingredients are like cocoa and sugar (chocolate). In reality, the main ingredients in a chocolate cake is the flour, milk and eggs. We, or I, just tend to focus on the sweet and delicious flavor of chocolate instead of the main ingredients that makes up a cake. Now you are probably asking yourself... "What does chocolate cake have to do with becoming a missionary?",so let me explain. While home over the summer and visiting different ministries and pastors that have meant so much to Dee Dee and me, I realized about the main ingredients that made us missionaries. We have been a part of some super ministries over these last twenty years that shaped us and imparted certain gifts in our lives. What I call our "main ingredients that made us missionaries" are: Christian Life Church, that gave us a hunger for God's word and a passion for his people, Calvary Baptist Church and Calvary Christian School taught how to be faithful to God's vision and God's purpose and stay on that path until you accomplish the goal, and Christ Community Church that taught us how to love your brothers/sisters and live together in fellowship in the grace of God. These were the main ingredients that made us become missionaries, this is our flour, milk and eggs that made the missionary cake that was twenty years in the making. I thank God for these ministries and people who have poured into our lives, and I am very grateful for God baking our "cake". Now you know how we became missionaries.
For years I have been trying to understand a certain passage in the Bible. The verse is:
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I have listened to many pastors, teachers, evangelist, and instructors. I have read many opinions on this subject, also studied the Bible, and meditated the verses dealing with love. But in my life I have had doubts, unbelief and placed myself under condemnation in some way, which opens the door to fear. We all know that fear does have punishment that comes with it, in the form of torment. I am not unfamiliar with love; I know God loved us so much He sent His Son. God introduce me to my wife (the love of my life) and we have four kids that I love with all my heart. God saved my wife from cancer by His love. Also God has saved me hundreds of times in my lifetime. I was a “chance” in a million to even be born (hence the name Chance) and I am alive and well today doing missionary work in Bulgaria. I still struggled with this verse in understanding the full meaning of “no fear in love”, that is, until yesterday.
I am the type person that God has to occasionally hit over the head with a 2x4 to get my attention. Yesterday God showed me what love is about in His unique way concerning me (no 2X4 this time). Dee Dee and I took a friend and his family to visit his mother. When we arrived at the home for women in the mountains, several women came running to the front gate to greet my friend. One of the caretakers came to the gate and was informed he wanted to see his mother. We were going to take her and have a picnic under the apple tree beside the home. While this is going on Dee Dee and I were sitting in the car waiting and then I noticed the caretaker escorting an elderly lady. All of a sudden the elderly lady stopped, the caretaker starting pulling the elderly lady. The elderly lady sat on the ground, the caretaker started dragging her, and then the elderly lady pulled away from the caretaker in absolute fear, hiding in some bushes. The caretaker walked up to the gate and let my friend in the front gate, at the same time the elderly lady crawled out from under the bushes and was sprinting away in the opposite direction of the caretaker. Then my friend starting calling, “Momma, momma!” At this point the elderly lady saw her son and came running….all of her doubts, unbelief and fears were gone…she was running to her son. After kissing and hugging her son in an unbelievable embrace, Dee Dee and I wiped the tears from our eyes and looked at each other and said, “Love casts out fear”!
When we start learning how much God loves us and realize that He cares for us, we can start to walk in that love. We have to start by getting to know God, and knowing that He is the God of love. To run to His perfect, loving embrace and let it cast all of our fears away.
A few days ago, I had a thought about an old friend of mine when I came across a song that he liked so much back in the day. I’m almost too embarrassed to mention the song but it was Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again”. The song references “I just called to say hello” and my ole friend would always call me and say hello. I have some very fond memories of him because we grew up together. We would talk for hours about football, girls, and every other subject meaningful to a boy growing up in the south. We also argued about church things, especially the Methodist and Pentecostal movements (he would be surprised I’m a missionary today). I was with him through many of his girlfriends and a couple of his marriages, with him through the death of his dad and brother in law. After the divorce from his first wife, these pains took their toll on his life, and he began to battle with alcohol. We both had our struggles with alcohol, but dealing with the grief, guilt, and failure of his life was very hard for him to handle. We had many conversations over his last days, and he was consumed with his past (before all the tragedies in his life had occurred). He just did not want to talk about the future or face the reality of today. He had such a fear of the future and did not want to take any more chances, because he did not want to fail again. He was such a big part of my life, and I still miss him to this day.
Years before his death, my life was spinning out of control. I was struggling with alcohol and drugs and unable to let go of the past and face the future. I had made a mess of my life with my family and friends. As I happened to be sitting in jail as a result of my actions (solitaire confinement to be exact), it was the first time I was able to think about all my actions and deal with the guilt. I knelt down by the cot in the jail cell and told the Lord, “Not my way anymore, but Your way!” That was the day the Lord forgave me, and I forgave myself. I still, to this day, ask people to forgive me for all of my actions. Please forgive me. I let go of what had been holding me back all those years and gave it to the one person who could take it, Jesus. I was ready to face the future with no fear and no guilt. Now, giving to God is the easy part, but walking it out everyday, was, and still is the harder part. I do not want to limit God in my life anymore.
I tried my best to reach my friend and tell him that there is another way and let’s face the future together. He knew his destiny was heaven, but he was not willing to face the reality of today. The lesson I’m sharing today is to always humble yourself (submit), repent (change your mind), confess everything (and give it to God), take the limits off of God in your life and see how everything changes!
I had the honor of spending a couple of days in the mountains near Velingrad. The Roma people in the village were very gracious in their hospitality. We had several church services and appointed a deacon in the church. It reminded me of my first trip into Bulgaria (in Samokov) many years ago. Dee Dee and I stayed with a wonderful family, who spoke no English. We had no idea how to speak Bulgarian. We spent the whole night basically playing charades and struggling to communicate. The next morning I attended a men's prayer meeting at 6:00AM, to pray for the village and the church. As the men started praying , I was moved, even to the point of tears because I knew their cry to God was sincere and heart felt. That's when God started changing my heart, it was not the poverty or the conditions that the Roma people lived in that moved me, it was the sincere cry for God! On this recent trip to Velingrad, I got to experience that same cry and heart for God and it was so refreshing. Even though I had very little translation help, I was able to understand some of the conversations, I still realized their sincerity for God. Every once in a while I have to be stretched and this was most definitely a stretching. I was out of my comfort zone on all accounts and had to trust fully on the Lord. Every once in while I need to be reminded of what God has done in my life and how good He has been to me. It is great to be reminded of the heart of why we came here and how humbled we are for His calling.
Almost twenty years ago Dee Dee and I started dreaming about travels we would be doing as a couple during our marriage. We would share with each other different places from all around the world and most of the places were different except for one place, Scotland. Being a Galloway whose family came to the United States in the late 1700’s from Scotland, we have documented history of a Galloway dying in Scotland around 1100 in Edinburgh. We also discovered early in our marriage that the Dee River ran through the region of Galloway in Scotland. Dee Dee started making the statement that one day she would stand on the Dee River in Galloway and take a picture. After many children and lots of financial losses through the years it seemed we would never see this event ever happen in our lifetime. This did not stop Dee Dee from saying that one day she was going to take a picture on the Dee River in Galloway. After becoming missionaries in Bulgaria I never imagined that Dee Dee’s dream would ever come true. Then by a miracle, from a grant to attend a minister’s conference in Birmingham, England, Dee Dee got to experience her dream. I now recall that she keep saying I’m going to have my picture taken on the Dee river in Galloway and I started picturing her standing beside the river taking a picture. When I snapped the picture this week of her at the river, God did it better than I had imagined, Dee Dee was standing the Dee bridge on top of the Dee River in Galloway.So what is this simple lesson, Hebrews 11:1now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. I want to focus on the word hope, without hope, faith could not be the substance. Hope is the ability to imagine or visualize something in your mind, like the picture of Dee Dee standing by the Dee River. After years of confessing and believing, with hope, this dream finally came true. It did not just happen, it was first hoped for, then a picture was formed in her mind twenty years ago, and then God did more than we could have imagined. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Ps. 37:4
We just spent a week with the Christ Community Church mission team in Kyustendil, Bulgaria. I think it would be impossible to describe all that happened in such a short period of time. I could start with the two Sunday services we attended or the 160 Roma children that learned Bible lessons, sports and songs for five days. I could describe working with the orphans, elderly or street evangelism, but I want to talk about is the uniqueness of our God. I am reminded of the scripture:
Lamentations 3:22-23 (NCV)
22 The Lord's love never ends;
His mercies never stop.
23 They are new every morning;
Lord, Your loyalty is great.
Definition of New
1. Having been made or come into being only a short time ago; recent: 2. Still fresh 3. Not previously experiencedor encountered; novel or unfamiliar:
I wanted to share about how God surprised us this week, which was new or not previously experienced. We laughed about how these surprises brought us encouragement and even joked how we (Chance and Dee Dee) had arranged all these strange consequences. I thought of the movie “Funny Farm” when Andy (Chevy Chase) and Elizabeth Farmer had compensated the town in order to sell their house. As a prospective buyer looked out the window of Andy’s house he said, “Que the deer!” and the deer ran across the yard in order to impress the buyers. We, as a team, could never have arranged all the unique experiences God had in store for our group. I know by now you want to know what happened, so here we go:
1. One member of the group was baptized in a cold river on Mt. Osogovo during our end of the week picnic.
2. A shepherd walked up with his sheep during this picnic and explained about his sheep and goats.
3. A missionary from South Africa came and gave his testimony about his daughter and their work with orphans in Bulgaria.
4. The Pastors of a church in Kyustendil came by and delivered ice cream for the mission team.
5. A local pastor’s wife gave a testimony about Bulgarian churches during Communist times.
6. A former Bulgarian solider testified about Communist times and how the church was tested.
7. We got to experience the Roman baths.
8. How God moved on the hearts of the Roma people while we were praying during street evangelism.
9. Americans singing “How He Loves” to the Roma during street evangelism.
10. While in Sofiia on our last day, a Bulgarian always showed up right on time to show us around town which was not scheduled AT ALL.
11.Washing the feet of the Roma that served us lunch all week was more than words can express.
We as a grouped cried…. And… cried during all the happenings during this week. We are thankful for God’s love and grace during this trip and we know that without organization you cannot have the power of the Holy Spirit. Even if the same group came next year and we planned things exactly the same, because of God’s uniqueness or new mercies it would be completely different. I am reminded as a member of the Body of Jesus Christ we desire the same, but we need to embrace His unique new mercies everyday and experience His love and grace.
Daniel Chance Galloway