Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Happy Ending

July 18, 2013

By: Nicky Wilbanks

After saying good-bye at the group home and the orphanage, we headed to Chiprovtsi.  Chiprovsti is known for its handmade carpets and pottery as well as its lovely scenery.  However, we were going there for something much more important: to visit Zoran and Alex, two former group home residents.  We met Zoran and Alex in 2007 on our first trip to Lom.  The boys, now 13 and 14 years old, have spent most of their lives in government care. Recently, they were allowed to go back to live with their mom. 

We were anxious to see how the boys were doing.  After so many years  in orphanages and with very little contact with their mother, we were concerned about how Zoran and Alex would adjust.  Would their mom be able to provide for them?  Would they make new friends?  Would they miss their friends and caregivers at the group home?

As soon as we saw Zoran and Alex, all of our fears were put to rest.  They boys looked happy and healthy.  They and their mom were all smiles as they greeted us.  Their uncle and grandmother live close by; they go fishing and play with new friends. Both boys are looking forward to starting in their new schools in a few months.  They were thrilled to show us their new town.  We spent a few hours touring a local museum and going into the mountains to view the scenery.

We will stay in touch with Zoran, Alex, and their mom with the help of Steffi, our translator, and Katia, the director of the group home.  We are thankful that Zoran and Alex have been reunited with their mom.  We wish all the children in Lom could have such a happy ending.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The last day!

It’s been a very short week!  We can’t believe it’s time to leave Lom!  Even though our time has been shorter, we feel like we have been able to accomplish a lot.  The floor is finished in the girl’s rooms in the orphanage!  The swings on the playground have been repaired.  The bathroom shower fixtures have been ordered and the plumber has agreed to install them for free.  Along with our church funds, the Didcot church in England has contributed money to help pay for the installation of a tile floor in a building at the group home.  

Susan, Emily, Kathleen and the older girls have enjoyed cooking for several days.  They taught the girls to shop and prepare pizza, macaroni and cheese, crepes and peach cobbler.  Wayne, David and Joe got to enjoy lunch with them today.  The cooking class has definitely been a success! 

We have enjoyed two new friends from England – Anne and Kelvin.  The kids fell in love with the projects they brought. Anne brought hand knitted teddy bears for the kids to stuff and finish.  Kelvin brought his balloons and pump and created several balloon animals for the kids.  Both of them have entertained the kids for hours each day!  We are grateful for their willingness to join us this year!

Emily and David brought a load of supplies this year purchased by their church in Didcot.  The kids loved the paint, markers, beads, tattoos, nail polish and games that they brought this year!  Each year the children amaze us with their artistic talent. We found out that two girls, Sylvia and Asia, were very talented with painting.  They worked diligently for two days painting pictures.

 Wednesday we will say our goodbyes and begin the trip to Sofia.  We plan to stop in the village where two boys from the group home have moved with their mother.  After we spend some time with Zoran and Alex we will be heading to Sofia to spend the night before we catch our flights the next morning.

As always, thank you for your prayers and your continued support!!  

Day Four

By: Joe Sanders

Today started with the question of “How can we finish?” and ended with “How did he do it?!”

The work in the girl’s apartment is nearing completion. After a few days of wondering if the project would be done by Wednesday, boss man Wayne is confident the new floor will be completed by the end of Tuesday. Monday consisted of plenty of measuring and cutting. Wayne put down the support beams for the new floor while David and I cut the OSB board (particle board) to fit the cleaned out section of the old floorboard. To make sure we were on the right track to finish, we skipped lunch and worked a full day from 9 to 5:30 without a break. By the time we finished, the particle board had been placed in one of the rooms we had been working on and the next room had been prepped for completion. We are hoping to be very close to putting down the completed floor by lunch time Tuesday. Misho has been a lot of help with the work on the floor. He is very smart and a very hard worker. Also, Niden and Bobby continue to work on the downstairs showers and they have done a very impressive job.

            After a long day of work, we enjoyed a nice meal (even though we had to wait the traditional Bulgarian service time of one to two hours) and finally made it back to the hotel for Zoiko’s magic show. After being a witness to one of Zoiko’s live bird tricks earlier this week, I was greatly anticipating tonight’s show. Zoiko has three birds: Gooko, Jennifer, and their son Joe. Tonight’s entertainment was Gooko. Zoiko involved him in many tricks, including getting him to play dead only to reawaken with a snap of his fingers. Zoiko showed us many of the tricks he had learned while performing in Turkey, such as magic card tricks and one that comprised taking everyone’s watch and tying a large knot in a rope, only to magically get the watches back to their owners without harming the knot. Zoiko and his assistant Niden were very impressive and Zoiko has improved incredibly from last year’s magic show. If this is what he can do with only one year of proper training, then there is no telling what the limit to his potential is. It is always good to share a few oohs and ahhs and laughs with Zoiko and Niden. We don’t know what we will do next year without them. They are always a big help, Zoiko with the activities for the other kids and Niden with the construction work. All of the other orphans look up to them and it will be hard to replace the help they provide us. Please pray for their future careers and endeavors as they set out later this year to make their own career paths and livelihoods. We know that they will work hard at whatever they attempt and will be successful as long as they do their best. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pictures from the 4th Day

Wayne working on completing the new floor

Some of the older boys assisting Wayne with painting

Zoiko's Magic Show!

The whole group 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Another busy and warm day in Lom.

By: Eric Wright

Many of the kids broke into groups in the morning for different activities. The older girls had expressed an interest in learning more about cooking. Some of the women helped them prepare stuffed peppers and peach cobbler. The girls wanted to incorporate some bulgarian flavors in the peppers so they were stuffed with meat, rice, and spices. The end result were some delicious dishes and the girls had an opportunity to have lunch together and sample what they prepared. 

While the girls learned a little about cooking, some of the older boys participated in a soccer (football) skills competition. The rest of the kids broke into teams for different relay races and team building activities. 

Some of the men continued what turned out to be a very labor intensive repair on the girls' bedroom floors. The necessary materials were unloaded with plenty of help from the kids. Most of the prep work was finished and it's looking like the project will be completed successfully before we leave. This will be a huge improvement for the girls and will help prevent future problems with mold and rotting. The men working on this have dedicated just about every hour of the first 3 days to keep the project moving. 

The morning seemed to fly by and before we knew it, we broke for lunch.

After lunch, most of the kids participated in crafts, listened to music, and danced. They made beaded necklaces and bracelets for one another and enjoyed making them for us as well. While the crafts helped us dodge the afternoon heat, some of the boys continued wall repairs downstairs in the shower area. Naiden has shown himself to be a skilled repairman and his work looked great.

After the older girls enjoyed the lunch they prepared they spent some time with Kathleen, Susan, and Anna Marie. With only a dictionary and some phrases they'd picked up along the way (and several hand gestures and signals), they spent a couple hours asking questions of each other and bonding. One of the girls read Peter Pan to Bulgarian. All in all it was a great afternoon to cap off a wonderful day.

Tomorrow the girls are looking forward to more American recipes. The menu includes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and American style macaroni and cheese.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Day two!

By: Nicky Wilbanks
Today has been another busy day in Lom. This morning many of the children enjoyed individual and team games.  They ran, they threw balls, they splished and splashed, and they wiggled through hula hoops. They especially like competing against each other and winning prizes. Some of the older children played football (I really mean soccer, but we are in Europe, so I will call it what the Bulgarians do.) 
After lunch we packed our activity bags and headed back to the orphanage for glitter painting.  I predict that they will be seeing glitter at the orphanage for several more weeks, but the kids loved it.  Some of the children made special soap while others decorated themselves with temporary tattoos.  The older girls enjoyed playing games similar to those on “Minute to Win It”. 
Meanwhile, the men and Naiden, were working hard.  They spent the day cleaning up mold, tearing up rotten flooring, gathering supplies to replace the floor, and finding a new shower to replace the leaky one that caused the mess.  They are also organizing materials to put down tile flooring in a storage/play room at the group home.  The girls who live in these rooms are delighted to have this problem corrected.
Our days are long, but every minute is fun and worthwhile.  We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be in Lom at the orphanage.  Please continue to pray for these children.  Thank you again for supporting this mission!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Day one!

By: Jennifer Sanders

It was a good day today.  The group home hosted a surprise birthday party for Katherine complete with a cake, candles, flowers and gifts!  They did a great job making us feel welcome!  We saw Radi today.  She graduated from high school and is waiting to hear if she has been accepted into the university.  We visited the orphanage today and met several new kids.  Of course we also saw a lot of familiar faces, too.  Zoyko showed us some of his magic act.  Naiden discussed work plans with Wayne.

We are excited to start tomorrow with lots of fun games!  Thank you for your prayers!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Safe and sound in Sofia!

We are all very grateful to God for a safe trip! All 9 of us and our suitcases arrived in Sofia on time today! We are staying in Sofia tonight and will be traveling by vans to Lom Friday morning. Kris Angelov met us at the airport. He and his wife, Tedi, joined us for supper. We were excited to see them again and enjoyed making plans with them for our week.

Steffi, our friend and translator, also joined us for supper along with her son, Sammy. She will join us in Lom on Saturday.

This trip would not be possible without Kris, Tedi and Steffi. They have made travel and hotel arrangements for us. They will be with us every day translating and working with the children. We are so thankful to have them!

We are also grateful for the prayers, donations and support from our church family and friends! Continue to pray for us this week!

Travel update!

We heard from the group around 9:30 this morning that they had arrived safely in Sofia! Pray that they will continue to have an uneventful trip as they travel to Lom, their final destination. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And they're off!

The mission team to Bulgaria left this afternoon for the airport! Although it looks like a small crowd, three more members will be joining the team in Atlanta. 

Be in prayer for smooth and safe travels! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

We are headed back!

We are going to Bulgaria again!

Once again, a group from First Baptist will be traveling to Lom, Bulgaria for our seventh mission trip.  Right now, we are in the process of collecting our supplies and packing our bags for the trip.  We will leave Wednesday, July 10 and will return Thursday, July 18.  As always, we ask for your prayers for the trip.  We are excited about seeing all the kids and getting to spend a week with them.

This year’s mission team is Susan Harvin, Anna Marie Dillard, Kathleen Harvin, Nicky & Wayne Wilbanks, Jennifer Sanders, Katherine Sanders and Joe Sanders.  We have a new member, Eric Wright, joining us for the first time.  Eric has visited FBC with Anna Marie Dillard.  We are excited to have nine people traveling to Lom!  We will meet our friends from England, Emily & David Applegate.  They also have a couple of new people coming this year.  Our trip would not be possible without Kris and Tedi Angelov!  They will meet us when we arrive in Sofia.  Our dear friend, Steffi Petrova, will meet us in Lom.  She has also helped Kris and Tedi make all our arrangements for the trip.
Wednesday, July 10
12:00 Noon Meet at FBC
5:55 p.m. Depart on Lufthansa for Frankfurt
Thursday, July 11
9:00 a.m. Arrive in Frankfurt
11:00 Depart for Munich
1:00 Depart for Sofia
4:00 p.m. Arrive in Sofia
Spend the night in Sofia
Friday, July 12
Travel in vans to Lom after group from England arrives
Saturday through Wednesday, July 13-17
Work in orphanage and group home
Wednesday, July 17
Spend one night in Sofia
Thursday, July 18
7:00 a.m. Depart Sofia for Munich
11:30 a.m. Depart Munich for Washington, DC
4:30 p.m. Depart Washington for Atlanta, GA
7:00 p.m. Arrive in Atlanta, GA