"And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf,
because he hath received him safe and sound." Luke 15:27
Our praying friends and family in the Lord,
Greetings from Dabravino, Bulgaria! It's been close to a month since we were received "safe and sound," and while we're not quite back in the swing of things, we're certainly closer. Every return trip requires readjustments. Returning to "life as usual" in Bulgaria is a relearning process. The first night in country, trusting adrenaline to overcome travel delirium, I went into town grocery shopping. Ambling through the store, filling my cart with what I deemed as necessities, I eventually made my way to check out. Placing my items on the conveyor, the attendant began setting certain things aside, eventually accumulating quite a pile. She then informed me her scanner wouldn't read these items and asked if I wanted to put them back or allow someone else. Somewhere inside me, a voice said, "Welcome back!"
A week after our arrival, we headed north to Romania, to Casa Julia, for our Missionary Camp Meeting. It was the first meeting we've had without Bro. Cheatwood. Things were notably different, not bad, just different. Things change. We wish they could remain comfortably the same forever, but they can't, and won't. Change isn't necessarily bad. Change awakens us to what is missing, and what was, and forces us to forge onward. No one felt more keenly the loss of Elijah than Elisha, and yet he didn't wish him back, but rather sought the God who made him the man he was. We missed Bro. Ralph; every message reflected that, but we met to worship God. While there was a definite loss felt, there was also an unmistakable presence. I preached the first service on "The Empty Seat and the Missed Servant" from the twentieth chapter of first Samuel: David was gone, but he left a binding promise of perpetual kindness to Jonathan and his house; he exhibited a surpassing love; and he eventually enjoyed a glad reunion. It is a comfort to know that when inevitable change comes, it brings to light things we've missed. When temporary things pass, eternal things shine forth. It was a good spirit-refreshing, soul-restoring meeting, and I bless the Lord for it.
A few days following our camp meeting, we were invited to a Sofra in the village of Zlatna Niva. As you may recall from previous prayer letters, a Turkish Sofra is a meal of thanksgiving. When the Lord has done something extra special in someone's life, to show gratitude, they hold a supper. They bid all who can, come to the feast. The supper is preceded by a service. Hymns are sung, then the individual is given the opportunity to declare the reason for the Sofra. In this case, national pastor Alish's oldest daughter, Emine, wanted to give thanks to God for a clean bill of health from the oncologist. After her testimony, many others testified of God's great kindness and mercy in relieving their distresses. Young Alish brought a message from Matthew on "Ask and ye shall receive," regarding our heavenly Father's love for His children. A young woman, herself battling cancer and touched by the testimonies and preaching, begged for prayer. We cheerfully obliged and are trusting God for her help. The service over, like all good Baptists everywhere, we eat. We dined on young goat, wild rice, cucumber-tomato salad, and fresh rustic bread, with a side of hot peppers. We wish all our believers would be that thankful.
We held our first big meeting of the summer last weekend, our first Bulgarian meeting without Bro. Cheatwood. We had planned for a modest crowd, around one hundred people, thinking most would be working. When the count was made, we had over a hundred and fifty. Pastor Demir called me that morning and informed me more people wanted to come than we had planned. So, we changed our plans and made accommodation for them. The service was excellent, with Bro. Zach preaching from the first chapter of John regarding the baptism of Jesus. That afternoon, four souls who had professed Christ in their village church were baptized in the Kamchia River. The Kamchia was flowing particularly swiftly that day, and after almost losing the last candidate and a few of the missionaries, no one else felt the urge to enter the baptismal waters.
For the foreseeable future, I'm helping national pastor Demir. He's been ill for the last couple of years, suffering the after effects of a number of mini-strokes. Due to his health, he hasn't been able to shepherd his meetings as he'd like. Prior to his initial stroke, Demir was as faithful a pastor as we have, always in church. Now he's uncertain what the day will hold or whether his strength will sustain him. Still, he doesn't complain. Rather, he says his change in health is the best thing that's happened to him in a long time. In every meeting this last week, he's testified that it's better to have no strength and rely on the Lord than to know everything and be able to work but miss God's will. He said for years he preached from the shallow pool of his own understanding. Then he had his stroke. He couldn't speak hardly, and he wasn't strong enough to walk unassisted. All he could do was lie in bed. He returned to his Bible and prayed for strength. He said the Lord opened His word to him, and everything was sweet, fresh, and new. He's a different preacher now. He said today, "Sometimes when I come back from meetings, I can't remember how I got there or how I got home. But in the church, during meeting, I feel like a young man, like I could do anything, and all I want to do is preach!"
The meetings have been strong, though sparsely attended. The other day in Venelin, four people came out. Still, we had meeting as if there were a hundred in attendance. We closed the meeting with an invitation for prayer. While praying, a horse wandered in. Demir, without missing a beat, said, "Lord, grant this horse whatever he came for!" The woman of the house, embarrassed, hurried the horse out. On the way home, the ladies who came with us were lamenting the size of the crowd, wondering aloud where everyone was. Asiye, Demir's wife, said, "Tsk, tsk, tsk, only four people!" "Six," Demir said emphatically, "the horse counts as two."
The Lord sure has been awfully good to us. Before departing America, money came in to be put toward a future home, while still other money was designated for a vehicle. We're a ways off from both, but closer than we were. We thank everyone who gave, and bless the Lord who put it in your heart to help. He's a good God, and our eyes are upon Him, trusting Him to do what's best. We miss you all. Pray for us. We love you and look forward to hearing from you. Believe for us when our faith wanes, and we'll do the same for you. The good Lord bless you all out of His abundant riches in glory.
Because of a living Savior,
The William LeFevre Family