Turning pain into passion

"If I have Jesus, I have everything,” Jordan from Bulgaria says. Before choosing to follow Christ, he was without hope. This same hope that has received from Christ is what he desires to share with others.

Sitting on the Black Sea’s western coast and pocketed by Greece and Romania is the country of Bulgaria. For husband and wife, Jordan and Dimitrinka Tsoneva, this country, its many mountain ranges and golden sand beaches, is home. For all its beauty, Bulgaria is also a country with a population of less than two per cent evangelical Christians* and Jordan and Dimitrinka want to see this number grow.

Jordan himself remembers the former hope he placed in Eastern Orthodox icons, traditions and animal sacrifice rather than in a personal relationship with Christ. “When my wife was pregnant,” he recounts, “I promised the Lord that I would sacrifice a goat if the Lord would protect her and her baby.” However, this all changed in 2004.

Around this time, Jordan and his wife were living in Italy. Nikolay, Jordan’s mentor, as well as the ministry leader in Bulgaria who works in partnership in OM, was also living in Italy, and though he was there for non-OM business purposes, Nikolay sought to establish a discipleship group with fellow believers in the area. It was because of this group that Jordan felt a tugging in his heart toward Christ. His physical ailments, however, kept him from fully giving himself to the Lord.

For years, Jordan experienced excruciating knee pain. Even after an operation, the pain persisted. So, he decided to make the bold statement: “Lord, if You exist, heal me.” And, gradually, He did. Jordan saw first-hand the healing power of Jesus, and this put a fire in his heart for the gospel because it became clear to him that belief in God was the key to his strength, both physical and spiritual. Not long after, Dimitrinka also chose to give her life to Christ, and the couple began looking for ways to disciple others. Eventually, work moved Jordan and his wife to Greece. There, they met fellow believers who spoke their mother tongue of Romanian and began forming discipleship groups. The Lord faithfully took their small group of seven individuals and expanded it into a flourishing 30-person ministry. God was working and hearts were being moved, but this did not mean that the road ahead would be without tribulation.

“But then, I became sick,” Jordan recalls. “A lot of money was spent on this sickness,” he continues, “there was no air to breathe. I could not sit down, I could not move my arms, I could not walk.” Confined to an oxygen mask, Jordan visited numerous doctors across Europe in hopes of finding a solution to the cysts that ravaged his skin. Unlike his previous knee affliction, this new pain did not act as a hindrance to his fervour for Christ. Jordan continued with his ministry, even when doctors could not provide a solution to his condition.

In Bulgaria, he reunited with Nikolay and worked to establish groups of Jesus followers across the country. Jordan understood that, regardless of his physical condition, the gospel was still worthy of being shared; more than worthy, he saw this task of evangelism as a necessity. Six years and five operations later, Jordan’s cystic illness subsided, and by 2015, Jordan had taken up the role of pastor, preaching to a group of believers ranging from 30-35 people.

Keeping aim

Since then, Jordan has continued to live for the Great Commission. “Our aim,” he expresses, “is to go where there is no church and we want to share the gospel and bring people close to Jesus.” To do so, often overlooked people groups and areas need to be loved and sought out. For instance, Jordan shares the story of how he went with a group of Christians to Orlintsi, a small Bulgarian church-less village with a population of around 350 people, to spread the good news. Here, they prayed with those they met, passed out Bibles and went door-to-door telling others of Christ.

Jordan and Dimitrinka have faced many roadblocks in their journey to disciple new believers and plant churches, but looking back at the difficulties and the illnesses, Jordan only reflects on the blessings God provided along the way. He mentions his appreciation for OM and their constant support. Because OM has come alongside them to provide financial support, Jordan and fellow believers in the community have been able to go out to the least reached. More so than to OM, however, Jordan gives all the glory to God. “If I have Jesus, I have everything,” he says. Before giving his life to Christ, he was without hope. “I didn’t have a house, I didn’t have money, but when we believed in the Lord, He blessed us with work and strength.”

This same hope that Jordan has received from Christ is what he desires to share with others. He speaks of the future with zeal and excitement for how God is going to use him and his community to spread the gospel. “With the years I have left,” he concluded, “I want to make churches, make disciples and teach people because we understand that a person without Jesus is nothing.”

Please pray for Jordan and Dimitrinka as they prepare to move to another small village in Bulgaria to share the love of Christ as well as for financial support. Pray for those in Bulgaria who do not know Christ yet, that the Lord will prepare their hearts. And pray for Jordan’s community of believers so that they may receive the finances necessary to continue their ministry.

* https://joshuaproject.net/countries/BU

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