Since leaving the hospital a few weeks ago, the work of the Lord has kept us busy. The Saturday after being discharged, we had our first baptism of the year in Bulgaria. 28 souls were baptized. Following the baptism, they had a service that went past midnight. They sang and rejoiced and testified for hours.
Sunday morning, my family and I went to Romania, to be with our fellow missionaries at the children's home, for their morning service. (For the last month or so, US military personnel from the base in Constanta, have been coming out for services.) The Lord blessed us, as we met together to sing, pray and preach, and glorify the Lord.
That Wednesday, we baptized 18 in Romania, in a channel of the Danube. Though it was hot outside, they erected a make-shift shelter where Bro. Ralph could preach in the shade. It was wonderful to see so many, with so little, enjoy themselves so much in the Lord.
Today we buried Pastor Hasan. He's the national pastor I've been driving to meetings 5 days a week, since arriving in Bulgaria. We became as good a friends as the language barrier allowed; better even, as our friendship was in Christ and for the spread of the gospel. Hasan was a faithful minister, and a caring pastor. He loved going to the meetings, not only to preach, but to find out how his members fared. Before every meeting he would greet every one personally and ask how they were doing. He was a gracious man. Though I knew very little of the language, he would always encourage me to take part in the services in whatever capacity I could. When I first learned my Turkish numbers, he had me call out the hymn numbers for the congregation. I had no idea what the hymns said, and he knew that, but it gave me practice. Last Tuesday Hasan, his wife, and I went to Yunak, a meeting close by. He sang well, he preached well, he seemed strong in body. An hour after we returned from the meeting, and I had dropped him off, his grandson came running to the house, asking me to come and take Hasan to the hospital, as he was having chest pains. We rushed him to the nearest hospital, but after an hour the pain subsided, and they told him to go home and rest. He rested one day and was back in meetings by Thursday. Friday I picked him up and he seemed stronger and happier than I had seen him in a month. We went to Sadavo, where I noticed, he was rubbing his chest. Still, he sang strong and preached from John 9. At Venelin, he conducted a special meeting at a believers house, who had the church over for a thanks-giving meal. He preached, ate supper, and rejoiced with everyone in attendance. I took him home that evening, and 30 minutes later they came and told me he had collapsed. Again, we rushed him to the nearest hospital. There, they realized he needed more urgent care than they could provide, so they took by ambulance to the university hospital in Varna. That was the last his family saw him alive. After arrival (and dismissing the family), the doctors concluded there was nothing they could do for him. They called the family Monday, and told them to come get him Tuesday, and let him rest at home. On Tuesday morning they called again to say he was dead. About a month ago, Hasan told me he knew he was ill, that there was something wrong with his heart, but that he couldn't go to the hospital until Bro. Matt returned, as he couldn't leave his churches without someone to preach to them.
Today, at the funeral, the believers from Dolgapol (tomorrows village) asked if we would still come. I was happy to tell them yes, and that we would sing, and pray, and thank God for Hasan, and rejoice that we'll see him again.
It's good to be in the Lord's work, whether that means lying in a hospital bed with pneumonia, standing at a river side watching new Christians exercise their faith, or sitting with a grieving family as they say their goodbyes. The Lord is good. The Lord's work is worth it: a fact I'm sure Hasan would tell you now.
PS - Please make it a point to pray for our national pastors. Recently, the support they receive, that puts gas in their tanks, and food on their tables, has dropped off significantly. These men are all full time, pastoring multiple churches, laboring to start more. Without them, we missionaries couldn't cover half the churches they look after. Please pray that the Lord will stir hearts to help the national pastors fund through Charity Baptist missions. God bless you all.