International Ministries

The Bulgaria--Uganda Connection

September 11, 2011 Journal
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In May of 2010, I (Tom) shared with you through our newsletter of my acceptance into a master’s program in International Development at Eastern University, and I would like to take this opportunity to bring you up to date on my progress.  For three weeks in June/July of 2010, and then again in June/July of 2011, I had the opportunity to meet with my classmates and professors for intensive classroom time.  The classroom time is followed by a year of online work for each of the five classes taken each year.  The online work includes discussions with classmates and the professor on various readings, and there are, of course, the many papers to write!  I am now just over half way done, and if all goes as planned, I will graduate in May 2012. 

The classroom for both years was located in Kampala, Uganda.  In 2010 we met at the International School of Uganda and stayed in several guesthouses in the vicinity.  This past summer we were on the beautiful campus of the African Bible University.  You may be asking yourself, why choose a program that includes traveling to Africa?  There are a couple of reasons for this.

When I first started looking for a master’s program one of the primary requirements for me was the possibility to do the program while still living and working in Bulgaria.  The program at Eastern offered this possibility, along with the added benefit of bringing a Christian perspective to learning more about development work.  As Eastern developed their master’s programs, they felt their calling was to take the program to the places where development workers were, rather than only offering it on the U.S. campus.  Therefore, they have held the classroom portion of the program in Africa-- first in South Africa, and now, for the past two years, in Uganda. 

While I admit to being a bit apprehensive about traveling to Uganda for the first time in 2010, it was an amazing experience.  The time spent in Uganda and the networking I did with other development workers allowed me to see the similarities between my work and the work being done around the world.  I have also been introduced to vast differences in development.  But the greatest experience has been the new friends I have made.   When the time came to go again this past summer, I was looking forward to once again traveling to Uganda (except for being away from my family for three weeks).  It was an opportunity to see friends, and experience once again a different culture and foods.  Fresh Ugandan pineapple and mango alone are worth the trip!  Uganda is unlike the United States or Bulgaria, and the opportunity to see a different part of God’s creation is always an amazing experience.     

Is God calling you to something you believe is out of your comfort zone—working with children, ministering to the homeless or traveling to serve on a short or long term mission?  God’s calling often leads us into the uncomfortable, but when we step out in faith our apprehension gives way and we experience God at work in new and exciting ways. 



Take 59 kids.  Add food, games, crafts and a Bible story.  What do you have?

A great final day of Vacation Bible School, of course! 

In July we were joined by a family from Colorado, who helped organize a VBS for the children of Klutch.  We were also joined by Ivan, our Bulgarian pastor friend, his family and two other friends who helped with translation.  Klutch is a small village in Southern Bulgaria where we have previously hosted a children’s weekend, and have also taken Operation Christmas Child boxes to the pre-school children.  This summer we returned for three days of food, fun and an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the children, many of whom have never heard any Bible stories.  We thought we would have less than 30 children each day, but Day 1 was a pleasant surprise, with more than 30 children in attendance.  Day 2 attendance was 48 and on Day 3 there were 59 children!  Having twice as many children as we had planned on could have created problems with having enough supplies, but God knew just what we would need!  Our friends from Colorado had packed enough supplies for up to 60 children—just to make sure we did not run short!  We all learned something during the week—the children heard about Jesus and the adults were reminded once again of God’s provision.  Many thanks to the Currier Family for all the love and many hours of work they put into the VBS to make it such a special time for all involved!   



It is that time once again when American Baptist Churches receive the World Mission Offering.  Even though missionaries now raise most of our own support, WMO is still a very important part of financing the work of International Ministries.  The largest percentage of the funds raised through WMO are still used to supplement the support of more than 100 International Ministries missionaries serving around the world.  In 2010-11 this was 2.5 million dollars.   The remaining funds go to help support IM global Christian partners and programs, including schools, seminaries and colleges, health clinics, agricultural projects, peace initiatives and anti-human trafficking programs.  We thank you in advance for your support of our ministry through personalized gifts and the WMO!