Once four years ago, Chalcedon Report readers were first introduced to the work of "The Macedonian Outreach." In that article we reported basically the ministry's work in its first 14 months of existence. For readers who missed that article, we will give a short synopsis of our modest beginnings.
In early 1992, we asked the Lord to use us in whatever way he wished. We had both retired, though we had returned to work on a part-time basis. He answered our prayers in ways we had never anticipated. That summer, we found ourselves on a mission to Bulgaria with a Greek evangelist and his wife, participating in services, and witnessing scores of people being touched by God and giving their lives to Christ. We worshiped with Bulgarians, Armenians and Gypsies. One service was led by a Turkish pastor who was raised as a Muslim. We praised God that a Turk, a Greek (Vula) and an Armenian (Haig) could peacefully and joyously worship the same Lord together. It was a moving experience. We attended an outdoor service on a football (soccer) field in a remote Gypsy village, where our presence was announced by word of mouth. The Gypsies kept coming and coming by the hundreds, until there were approximately 1500 in the stands chanting "Salva na Boga" over and over again. This means "Praise the Lord." Upon our return home, "The Macedonian Outreach" became a reality and each newsletter since then closes with PRAISE THE LORD.
The title of our organization and the emphasis came from Acts 16. Thus, our purpose was to glorify God in the Balkans in three practical ways: (1) spiritually, by supporting indigenous priests, preachers and missionaries who serve the Lord and by supplying Bibles and Christian literature to adults and children, as we saw the need, and as God opened doors for us; (2) medically, by bringing patients, especially with heart problems, who could not be adequately treated in their countries, to the United States for treatment and possible surgery and to supply medication and vitamins whenever possible; and (3) physically, by meeting the everyday needs of the Balkan people, young and aged, with food staples, clothing, shoes, bedding, and financial assistance for heating their homes or for emergency needs. This three-fold purpose expanded from Bulgaria in 1992 to Albania and Yugoslavia in 1993 and subsequently to Greece, Romania, Croatia, Bosnia and FYROM (Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia).
Until March of 1997 we either went on these missions alone or with Greek Christians. Last March, Linda Applegate, our secretary, accompanied Vula to Northern Greece and into Central Bulgaria to meet the needs of a starving people. Over 5000 people were fed during the severe winter of 1997. In August two other Americans, Clifford and Mary Erickson, accompanied us to distribute food among refugee Armenian, Greek and Russian immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were mostly living in unheated former Greek army barracks in northern Greece. The following month Martha Settlemyre, a former business colleague of Vula's, accompanied us into the Gypsy villages where we distributed clothing and financial assistance through four pastors. Later that month Vula and Haig entered FYROM successfully for the first time. A young Macedonian girl served as our translator and her friend's father drove us into the highlands where we had never been . . . to meet and help pastors and Gypsies there. Both girls are exchange students in the United States. We brought them both to our home for a short visit during this spring and Easter recess from school.
Since the report about our activities through 1993, more Bibles have been distributed throughout Bulgaria by the Macedonian Outreach than by any other organization. Last fall, the gentleman to whom we gave our first Bible in 1992 reported that now he is a Christian. He was raised as a godless communist. Last summer, we began distributing en masse Armenian, Greek and Russian Bibles among the refugee families in Greece. Although our primary purpose is to undergird the ministry in these lands, whenever we have gone on an evangelistic mission many, many souls have surrendered their lives to Christ. We have supported in the short existence of The Outreach, thanks to funds donated by readers like yourselves, and as God opened door after door, 20 indigenous Christian leaders throughout the Balkans. For example, in Bulgaria we have assisted with the establishment of small Christian libraries, Christian seminars, the construction of new churches, the support of vibrant children's ministry in 50 Gypsy villages and have also assisted Bulgarian, Turkish and Armenian churches.
Medically, medicine and vitamins are an ongoing endeavor and medical care in the Balkan countries is ongoing as needed and as we are able. Sixteen youngsters from ages nine months to nineteen years have been brought to the States for medical care. All have returned home and are doing well. We have helped two adults and have referred two others for appropriate assistance in the Balkan region. We are in the beginning stages, with two sister Christian organizations, exploring the possibility of medical equipment for a pediatric cardiology unit of a Balkan hospital so that the young, critical heart patients can be treated in their own country.
We try to meet everyday needs in a variety of ways. Over 50,000 pounds of clothing and food have been shipped or taken there since we began. Sometimes, we need to provide money to buy food or to heat their dwellings. The needs are endless.
As you read this article, we will have returned from the Balkans with another American Christian couple, Zeus and Charlotte Ebio, and their young daughter, Chattelle, and Greek Christians after feeding approximately 2500 immigrants in Northern Greece and distributing a Bible to each family who desired one. This is how the Lord leads us. But these acts of God's love and mercy are not demonstrated only by the few names alluded to above, but by scores of volunteers (we are all volunteers). On a given day at home, two to six people may drop in to help Vula pack clothes or food. Four men assist Haig in shipping them. Some of the work is organized more formally. Besides an Advisory Board to give guidance, we have special committees. The Intercessory Prayer Committee prays for specific needs and guidance. The Medical Advisory Committee has specialists who review certain cases as to whether treatment in the States or surgery may be feasible. The Resources Committee searches for grants, vitamins, clothes, shoes, socks, medication, or finances to bring medical cases to the States. The Sew and Reap Committee members take donated new materials and sew jumpers, shorts and pants that are sent with turtleneck shirts for children. The newest project is to prepare comforters and knit sweaters and booties . . . all of which are sent or taken to the Balkans. Finally, The Desk Top Publishing Committee is responsible for the master list of names, labels, home page, and reproduction of our newsletter. We mentioned the refugees in Northern Greece. Many of the children have lost their parents and they along with the remaining members of their families, are destitute. The Outreach supports 13 orphan children on a monthly basis and sends funds to Greece for 200 Christmas presents for the refugee/orphan children each year. What does God have in store for us now? Only he knows. We keep our hearts and wills open to his guidance and direction. We continue to cherish and rely on the prayers and financial undergirding of our supporters and those of you who help "the least of these . . . for as you have done it unto (them) . . . you have done it unto me," our Lord Jesus reminds us. Yes, he truly does work in wondrous ways!
The Macedonian Outreach
A Ministry of Chalcedon, Inc.
P. O. Box 398
Danville, CA 94526-0398 U.S.A. Our E-mail address is: [email protected].