Friday, December 24, 2010

American Roots, Slavic Zeal, Divine Will

The book that I spent over a year editing, translating and formatting for my former Bulgarian pastor, Rev. Hristo Kulichev, has been reviewed by William Fillebrown in "The Congregationalist Magazine".  The original review is viewable on page 21. A mutual friend of mine and Pastor Hristo, Anne, tipped me off that it had been reviewed - she was disappointed that my name was not mentioned, as the book would not be available in English had I not volunteered my time to edit and produce it. Still, I personally am very glad that Rev. Fillebrown has given it such a glowing endorsement, as it will greatly stirr interest among American Congregationalists with an interest in Church history! May God get all the glory.

Review of Heralds of the Truth:

The History of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria
by Hristo Kulichev, 184 pages, $12.00

Our friend Hristo relates the birth and grown of his nation’s evangelical church

by William Fillebrown

Pastor Hristo and Tsvete Kulichev are dear to our hearts. They have visited our churches and stayed in our homes. We have heard their passion and their pain as they have told their stories time and time again. We have marveled at their resiliency and commitment to the gospel.

In 2006, I was part of a group that visited Bulgaria. While in Plovdiv, we visited the church planted by the Rev. William and Susan Meriam, missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, who died tragically in 1862. Their story of sacrifice made the experience of leading devotions from the pulpit of their church profoundly moving for me. Multiply this experience exponentially and you will have a sense of the significance and value of Hristo’s second book, Heralds of the Truth: The History of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria.

The fact that the book exists is a miracle in itself. The earlier portions were duplicated on a mimeograph machine many years ago. Over time, all but one copy was lost. Providentially, Hristo and his brother Dimitar came into possession of that one copy. To this, Hristo has added material that brings the history up to date.

My overwhelming impression on reading this book was of hearing the voices of a great cloud of witnesses. Names, dates, and events are listed; but behind them all is a zeal for the gospel born of a deep love of God and a compelling passion to proclaim Christ to the unreached and to live out a genuine faith that affects and impacts every facet of life. The movement of the gospel in Bulgaria began with American Congregationalist missionaries, but it was taken up and fueled by the Bulgarian people themselves. In some regions, Bulgarians advanced the gospel without the aid of missionaries. The common approach was simple: Booksellers went from town to town, selling books and preaching. They planted house churches, many of which grew into larger congregations and erected houses of worship.

We can only imagine the stories beneath the words that describe so plainly the efforts to reach the people of Bulgaria. Those who advanced the Gospel were driven by a desire to reach all kinds of people, regardless of who they were—Turks (oppressors), Gypsies (social outcasts), or even Communists enemies of the gospel).

There is evidence of many failures, and doors were slammed shut. But there is greater evidence of the supernatural work of God in opening doors and changing hearts even in the most desperate and seemingly impossible situations and circumstances. One line in the book is written in all capital letters. It summarizes the message of the book and epitomizes the history of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria:


I am deeply grateful that this book has been written, so that the names of these servant saints will be recorded and remembered, and that Hristo’s story within the larger story of Bulgaria will be known. My prayer is that they will stand as a testimony to the faithfulness of God and will inspire us to greater efforts for the gospel and God’s Kingdom.

Since 2000, the Rev. Dr. William P. Fillebrown has served as pastor of Chiltonville Congregational Church, Plymouth, Mass. He and his wife, Deborah, have served Congregational churches since 1976. His 2007 doctoral degree in Ministry to Postmodern Generations has ignited his passion to convey the gospel generationally and internationally.

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