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.
Both of these communities, Tulovo and Tahza, have a need for a Youth Worker who will focus their efforts on investing in the many Roma and Bulgarian children and young adults in the villages. This role would be a crucial part of the vision to work with children at risk. This position would involve building relationships with children ages 11-19, sharing Jesus, discipling them, and helping them understand their worth and potential. In Tulovo we seek to create a racial reconciliation group of young Bulgarian and Roma girls to learn from and build friendships with one another. In Tahza, we are starting an After-School Program for 6-7th-grade girls. These girls often need to be protected by their relatives, so that they are not kidnapped and married off to an undesirable family. This will allow those who want to learn to have a challenging and helpful atmosphere in which they can continue their studies. Those are just a couple examples of ways a Youth Worker can contribute to lasting transformation within the community, but many more opportunities exist as well.
Creativity, patience, youth group leadership, ability to understand what is being said between the lines, answering questions they are afraid to ask, and seeking to develop young leaders.
Since young people in the villages don’t see much of a future for themselves this leader must be able to encourage the youth to think of their futures as well as the present.
Independence is needed, as the team now lives in central Stara Zagora and commutes to the villages daily. Past work with students and youth is extremely helpful, and the ability and aptitude to learn languages is a must.