Population: 7.5 million
Official language: Bulgarian
Major religion: Eastern Orthodoxy
IFES movement: Bulgarian Christian Student Union (BCSU)
Bulgaria is a predominantly Eastern Orthodox post-communist country with a Muslim population of about 10 percent. Economically, it is one of the poorest countries in the European Union.
Evangelical Christians are about 1 percent of the population. Although the first Protestant churches were founded in the mid-19th century, evangelicals are perceived as a sect, and Eastern Orthodoxy is perceived as a national rather than religious identity.
- 10 student groups in 8 universities, about 120 students in total
- 2 full-time staff workers and 12 volunteers
- work among graduates and international students in two cities
Most of the student groups are quite small in number and lack support from local churches, so the challenge is for them to trust that God will help them do great things for him at university, not only in terms of proclamation but also social justice.
This trust in God is already bearing fruit. BCSU’s leaders and students are constantly thinking about new ways that they can reach out to the students in their cities. They have organised mission weeks in different cities throughout Bulgaria as well as seminars, clubs and projects (cultural exchange and social outreach). By God’s grace they are seeing the students they meet at these events take new interest in Jesus and some are becoming his disciples.
As Jesus says, ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’ This is certainly the case in BCSU. For this reason they have developed a Volunteer Training Program that prepares graduates and students to help the student work in capacities that use their gifts and bless students: mentoring student leaders, welcoming a student group into their home, leading seminars and conferences etc. As a result the volunteer team is continuing to grow and they are able to reach more students.
View from the Inside
Darena Tsoneva is the General Secretary for BCSU. She writes, ‘when I think of the pioneering work in Bulgaria and when I see the student ministry now, it gives me strength and assurance that God is leading us and helping us in this ministry’.
1 Corinthians 3:7-9 reminds Darena that they are co-workers with God: ‘so neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.’
- that Bulgarian students would have Christ-centred lives;
- for closer relationships with evangelical churches;
- for a change in the way evangelical Christians are viewed in Bulgaria;
- for God to raise up more workers for the harvest among students.