We work in two villages in Bulgaria, Tulovo and Tahza, both located near the city of Stara Zagora in Central Bulgaria at the foothills of the Balkan Mountains and both facing similar issues within their communities. Tulovo and Tahza each have a population of roughly 1,500 people, with a nearly even split between Bulgarian residents and Roma residents. The Roma people are primarily living in sequestered ghetto neighborhoods, apart from Bulgarians. Many people depend on agriculture for their livelihood, growing lavender, raspberries, and oil-bearing roses. The Roma population often works in menial services such as sweeping sidewalks or hauling trash if not employed in the agricultural industry.
There is a great ethnic divide between Bulgarians and the Roma, and even if the conflict is not overt, there are issues of racism and prejudice that keep the populations from integrating and building strong relationships. The only evangelical churches that exist in these communities are in the Roma neighborhoods and the Bulgarians are either completely unchurched or nominally affiliated with a small Orthodox church in town. Another issue the communities face is a lack of good education. The local schools provide a mediocre education at best, and most Bulgarian families send their children to schools in larger neighboring towns. Student and parent apathy is prevalent because few people see a need for education. Classes are held in Bulgarian so the Roma population can only attend school if they learn Bulgarian as a second language.
Our ministry in both communities has an emphasis on children at risk and reconciliation between the two ethnic groups. One of the largest obstacles we face in addressing the spiritual needs of these communities is the fact that Bulgarians see evangelical Christianity as a religion of the Roma people and not something they need. We hope that a Church Pioneer could help us work towards an integrated church with both Roma and Bulgarians worshiping side by side. We are looking for someone who shares this vision and desires to see spiritual transformation happen in Tahza and Tulovo.
The Church Pioneer would be most effective if he/she has a variety of experience and gifting - music, children's ministry, evangelism, and mercy to assist in a church plant which would be open to all ethnic and language groups in the villages. While a seminary degree is not required for this role, an adequate knowledge of the Bible is necessary and a degree in religious studies, ministry, Christian education, or related field is helpful. Independence is needed, as the team now lives in central Stara Zagora and commutes to the villages daily. The ability and aptitude to learn languages is a must.