"Now may Our Lord Christ himself. . . comfort your hearts
and establish you in every good word and work."
(2 Thess. 2:16-17)
This passage from Scripture headed a letter received last month from one of our indigenous pastors in Bulgaria. In the letter, he conveyed to us solace for the passing into her Eternal Home of Vula Rushdoony's mother on April 12. He also conveyed thanksgiving for the food, money and clothing delivered by Outreach Director Vula and Secretary Linda Applegate on their two visits to Bulgaria.
This last mission to the Balkans was both the most rewarding and the most heart-rending ever taken by our Outreach officers. Rewarding in that they were able to touch at least 2600 people in that region with much-needed food, clothing and shoes. Heart-rending in that they saw poverty, including children without shoes, and the deterioration of a nation. The story of this venture with God follows.
As you are well aware, Albania has been literally engaged in a civil war. Currently, there is an armistice with troops from Italy, Greece, Turkey and other countries occupying various regions of Albania to maintain "the peace."
With rare exceptions, all foreigners, including our missionaries in Southern Albania, were ordered out of the country during the civil war. The evangelical community in Greece housed many of these missionaries during their time of waiting. However, they are returning to Albania little by little.
During these troubled times, through outside sources, approximately 200 pounds of clothing were delivered to Albanian refugees on the Island of Corfu, Greece, or to those who remained in Albania. Also, money was given to buy food which was then distributed among the people in Southern Albania.
Outreach Director Vula and Outreach Secretary Linda participated in two missionary journeys, one in mid-March and the other in April, to distribute clothes, shoes, food and money to help the starving in Bulgaria. I n all, forty-nine Gypsy congregations were provided bread for a month and six other congregations bread for two weeks, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of friends of the Outreach who responded to the call for "Food for Bulgaria."
During both visits, Vula and Linda found conditions worsening and were confronted with snow. Yet they found the cheerful, grateful faces of Gypsies, Armenians and Bulgarians with whom they met and worshiped. They found that children could neither attend school nor church as they lacked shoes.
Another campaign was launched in the U. S., namely, "Shoes for Bulgaria." Again the response was great. Over 1400 pounds of shoes, clothes, and food have been shipped or taken to Bulgaria this year. And more is on the way. Another finding was the need for medication of all kinds. Much has been received and some has been taken or shipped already. Remember that it costs $2.25 a pound to ship any of this via surface mail and $21.60 for four pounds via air mail! Air cargo shipments are no longer feasible because of unrealistic customs regulations.
The San Francisco Bay Area Armenian congregations. Apostolic and Protestant, have also been very responsive to the needs of Armenian Bulgarians. First, the San Francisco Armenian Congregational Church committed money to help the Armenians in Bulgaria. Secondly, during a joint commemorative service for the genocide of one-and-a-half million Armenians in Turkey in 1915, five congregations of the San Francisco Bay Area Apostolic and Protestant churches had a special offering for the Armenians. Money was taken by Linda and Vula and has since been sent to meet the needs of the Armenian people in Bulgaria. Armenian Apostolic and Protestant pastors have faithfully distributed money and food where needed most. Remember the letter from the pastor, cited in the opening of this newsletter? He reports that sixty families have already received assistance from the money taken by Vula and Linda. Another 140 families were helped in the next distribution.
Before and after their mission trips into Bulgaria, Vula and Linda sent more food, medicine and money for food from Greece to two other Bulgarian communities which helped fifty additional families.
The needs are endless in this land of high inflation where people are starving because they lack sufficient money to buy basic necessities. Last September, Vula exchanged dollars for levas at the rate of 270 levas per dollar. In March, the exchange rate was 1550 per dollar! Pray that the people will continue to stand firm in their faith and that help will continue to come so that they will survive the early spring months.
In a central Bulgarian church, Vula and Linda met with pastors of eighteen of the Gypsy villages during their first mission trip. After much prayer and praise, each pastor was given an amount of money according to the size of his congregation. As they all felt the need to be accountable to the Outreach and to the indigenous pastor who oversees the Gypsy ministry, each signed his name as he received the money. It was a very emotional scene of how Christ transforms a sinner's heart. Every Saturday, each pastor buys the quantity of bread needed. On Sunday, at the end of the church service, each family takes home the number of loaves needed for the week.
Together with other Christians, Vula took clothing for people in the psychiatric hospital in Northern Greece. Clothing was also distributed to the refugee and orphan children and families of Northern Greece. In all, over 1000 pounds of clothes have been distributed in Greece this year.
Earlier this year, a teenage girl was brought to Boston's Harvard University Medical Center for treatment and later surgery. She is hack home recuperating. Mr. and Mrs. Steve Sideris, friends of the Rushdoonys, took care of Kostantina and her mother throughout their stay here. Although the Outreach did not assist financially with Kostantina's transportation and stay here, it did make contact with Dr. George Koustas, a Greek-American doctor, who laid the groundwork for Kostantina to come to America.
The Outreach, through the Child Society Benjamin, continues to support nine orphan children and to send clothing and food to refugee families. Part of the San Francisco Bay Area joint Armenian memorial service offering is also being used to feed Armenian refugees in Greece.
During a recent trip to Southern California to attend a funeral, Vula found God reopening the doors to Romania. She met a group of Romanian Christians who knew one of the indigenous pastors there whom we know and have supported. Vula found specific needs and people to whom to send clothing and other necessities. Clothing has already been sent to Romania.
Vula's mother's death on April 12 shortened this mission trip in the Balkans. Otherwise, both Linda and Vula had their visas ready to go to Yugoslavia from Bulgaria in April. They had planned to meet with doctors, former and future patients and refugees. Their inability to realize this trip has slowed the pace of bringing additional critical heart patients to the United States for treatment. However, the Outreach is in touch with the hospital there and is in the process of bringing at least two patients to the States soon.
The United States
Scores of individuals and families have been instrumental in the continuous drive to feed Armenians, Bulgarians, Bulgarian Gypsies and Albanians. The doors thus far are open to continue to help whether through food, medicine, clothes and, most importantly, through God's Word.
We thank God for your prayers . . . for they indeed helped Vula and Linda to cross borders to deliver what needed to be taken. Your prayers helped them in a safe journey and through the severest winter in the Balkans in 100 years. We praise God for what little we could do "for as you have done it to the least of these . . . you have done it unto me," our Lord reminds us.
Meanwhile hack at home base, we thank the Lord for the many, many people who give so graciously of their time to the Outreach. One of these is Outreach treasurer Joyce L. Benioff. Joyce spends innumerable hours keeping our hooks in order and making sure that we meet all the requirements for our nontaxable, charitable status. She keeps tabs on all the designated donations and keeps the advisory board abreast of any changes in the tax laws. We thank God for Joyce! And we thank you immensely, Joyce.
We covet your prayers and ask for your financial support for the continued work of the Lord through the Outreach!
P. O. Box 398, Danville, CA