Monday, November 10, 2008

Samantha's Story

Dr. Phil Lineberger, the Pastor of Williams Trace Baptist Church in Sugarland, Texas, shared with us a great story of missional faithfulness from one of their younger members. 
Check it out on the website under "Support" or by clicking the link below!

October 25 - November 1, 2008--The Heights Baptist Church, Richardson TX Shoe Team

The Heights Baptist Church has been a great partner in ministry in Bulgaria for many years. We are blessed that they continue to serve here in so many ways and that they have hearts for the children living in Bulgarian istitutions.

Each year for the past several years they have sent at least one shoe team each spring and fall. This fall they sent 12 eager volunteers. Jim Abernathy led the team.

He has been to Bulgaria several times and is recognized by many each time he returns. Several other team members are well-known here after repeated trips: Jan Margrave and Rhonda Caldwell have been here 6 or 7 times each! Dwayne Hansen made his third trip, this time bringing with him two of his sons. Tom and Jennifer Schleef were here for the second time this year and so was Brandy Baker. Besides Chuck and Doug Hansen, there were 3 other first-timers on the team: Ronda Horton, David Yu and Mayee Lam.

Fortunately, this team was up for a challenge. Several days we worked after dark and had very late dinners, but they all managed the difficult schedule.

It was a great week of hard work and lots of blessings. We visited 15 orphanages and drove hundreds and hundreds of miles.

Our grand total distribution for the week was:
881 pairs of winter shoes/boots.
452 coats
704 hats, gloves, scarves
968 articles of winter clothing
384 pieces of underwear - with Spiderman being the undies of choice
1,256 pairs of socks.

Though Bulgarian Child bought a few hundred pairs of shoes and socks and about the same number of coats, the rest of the items were all donated.

Thank you, Buckner International, for supplying most of these wonderful shoes. Thank you, Kelly's Kids, for the winter clothing. Thank you, Burlington Coat Factory, for the donation of so many winter coats last January. Thank you, Heights, for shipping them and other items to us.
Sunday afternoon we visited the home in Lom for children without parental care ranging from 3-18 years of age. Our afternoon arrival found the little ones down for naps so we "shoed" the older children first, then the sleepyheads. Our limited space here made the distribution of clothing quite a challenge. But the ladies gave coats and clothing to everyone.

Then we packed up and traveled about an hour to the preschool home at Georgi Damyonovo. To say the kids were glad to see us would be putting it mildly. Some one has described the home like a box full of puppies with everyone climbing over each other to get in a better position to get attention! Anyway, we gave them wonderful shoes and lots of hugs. I doubt that they settled down very easily for bed that night!

Monday was another long day as we visited the baby home in Montana in the morning. This is always a poignant experience. The babies are so sweet and the staff is caring, but it is so sad to see so many babies living in a institution. They all deserve loving families.

Then in the afternoon we visited all 3 of the homes in Berkovitsa. Of course the young people at the home for handicapped were excited about getting their new shoes - and about seeing old friends on the team. They were also very proud to show us all the wonderful things they are making in their textiles workshop.

Tuesday morning we visited the baby home in the city of Vratsa. We had never been to this homes, so we were a little slow in getting accepted and getting to see the kids. The director and the workers provide the best care they can for the 110+ babies living here. While we were there, some of the workers from Berk 4 arrived to move 3 of the older handicapped kids to Berkovitsa. It was very touching to the several of the workers crying because they loved these little ones and didn't want to send them away. It was good to be able to reassure them that the home in Berkovitsa was the best one of its kind in the country.

In the afternoon we visited another home in Vratsa, this one for 70+ school-age children. We were all shocked to see about 25 little boys come in for shoes. They were all 1st and 2nd graders!

Then it was on to the big home in Roman. There we put shoes on nearly 100 kids. There was also coat and clothing distribution here!

We arrived for the night in Pravets a bunch of very tired people.

The next morning we visited the home for handicapped in Vidrare. Another good director provides as much care as he can in this home for nearly 100 children and youth. This is always a difficult place because so many of the children are very hard to fit. Many have mis-shapen feet. But we managed to fit them all and to show them some attention. We clap and "celebrate" as each child is fitted.

We returned to Sofia this day to load the truck with more boots, socks, clothing, and teeshirts.
On Thursday the team headed south, first visiting the home for mentally ill children in Gorna Koznitsa. This is another very difficult place. BCI, along with Come Over and Help (a Dutch foundation) and Reach Out Bulgaria (British group), supports a baba program here. These are Christian grandparents from the Dupnitsa Baptist Church and have really made a great positive impact on this home. The home is supposed to be closed, but that is sometime in the future. In the meantime, we do what we can to improve their lives.

Later we visited the home in Stob and then the one for older kids in Blagoevgrad.
So, another long day and we were ready for bed!

On Friday morning we visited the home for severely handicapped in Petrovo. This home has shown great improvement over the last few years, but still is a place of suffering children. This day, though, we saw lots of smiles and excitement. They were certainly glad to get new shoes!

On Saturday, we visited our last orphanage of the trip - the home for preschoolers in Dren. The children here are always delightful. Since the weather was warm, we were able to fit them with shoes outside. This is somewhat more challenging, but we got the job done! It was a great end to a great week.
Click here and here for slideshows from the team!

October 11-18 2008--Williams Trace Baptist Church, Sugarland, TX

The Williams Trace Baptist Church, pastored by Dr. Phil Lineberger, has given great support to Bulgaria over the years. For the past two years, they have sent containers of humanitarian aid, followed by a distribution team. We are so grateful for these teams of hard-working volunteers. There were some second and third timers on this team: Cynthia Jacobus and Les and Trisha Dolezal, and Stephanie Burke. First-timers were Dottie and Ken Hemme, Krystina Kram and Majed Khalifa.

These folks hit the ground running. We took them straight from the airport to our warehouse to finish loading our truck! Then we fed them and let them get some sleep.

On Sunday, the 12th we drove a few hours to Pleven where there is a home that houses about 70 preschoolers.

Besides bringing them lots of toys, the team put new socks and shoes on their feet! Actually, these kids got both tennis shoes and winter boots. In return, the children sang and recited poems for us.

The next morning we visited the home for babies from birth to 3 in Pleven. The numbers of children there have reached 250! Can you imagine that many little ones under one roof? We put shoes on 113 of these children and "socked" many more. We delivered baby beds, toys, diapers, baby formula (soy), clothing, and even bibs and blankets from the container.

The team delivered many items to the home for more than 100 kids in Roman. Besides giving them lots of clothing, the team brought chalkboards, bulletin boards, cafeteria tables, chairs, and other items of furniture. I think the kids liked all the balls the best! By this time the truck was empty so we returned to Sofia to fill it up again.

Tuesday morning we headed east to the beautiful town of Kazanluk. George Gurdev, the pastor of the Baptist Church there, had introduced us to a day care center for handicapped children a few weeks earlier. This center is to help provide an appropriate setting and even some therapy for special needs children who live with their families. We were happy to be able to deliver many special needs chairs and table/chair combinations to this center. We would love to see it succeed.

Then it was on to the home for deaf children in Muglish where we delivered chalkboards, bulletin boards, and chairs. The children were fitted with shoes, winter coats and several items of clothing.

Early evening found us at another baby home. This one is just outside of Kazanluk in the village of Buzovgrad. The are just under 100 babies and toddlers here. About 30 or so are older, handicapped children. We put new socks and shoes on the little ones. This is always a bit of a challenge as these kids like to take off their new shoes, hide them, and then go to a different volunteer for another pair! We left many toys and items of clothing with lots of happy children.

The next day we headed back toward Sofia, stopping in the town of Bratsigovo to put shoes, socks and coats on about 70 children in the home for children without parental care. This is a well-run home with very well-behaved children. Besides the shoes and clothing, we were able to leave some furniture items.

Our 8-ton truck was again empty so it was back to the warehouse in Sofia for a refill.

The final leg of the trip was south to homes in Gorna Koznitsa (home for mentally ill children),

Blagoevgrad, and Dren. We delivered furniture, toys, clothing, and other items to all these homes. The kids at Blagoevgrad were especially thrilled with all the balls. When we brought those out, every kid was outside playing. It was great fun.

At the preschool home in Dren we delivered several riding toys, large play kitchens, and many other toys. I think the best hit, though, was a red wagon with a backrest. It was wonderful. It was large enough for two children and engineered so well that even the smallest child could handle it. I hope we see lots more of these in the future.

All told, we fitted 335 pairs of shoes, 686 pairs of socks, 97 coats, 159 items of clothing, and 301 sets of underwear! That was in addition to the true purpose of the team to deliver the contents of their container. This team brought smiles and love with them, too. There was always joy on the faces of the children while we were with them.

We returned once again to Sofia with an empty truck, but very full hearts.

Then, the team really did go the extra mile - they completely loaded the truck for the shoe team arriving the next week. What a blessing!