Our guest bloggers today, Stefan and Ellie Sultanov, are a ministry team from Bulgaria and fellow classmates of mine at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Their post focuses on a unique ministry that they initiated among international students working in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Myrtle Beach Ministry
In recent years the immigration law and reform in the U.S. have been a hot issue. Politicians have taken sides and so have voters. But what about us as Christians? It is enough to just side with our preferred political party when it comes to foreigners? There are also no doubt legal implications. But what about the spiritual implications? In this brief post I will address one with eternal significance.
Our story began in 2008 when Ellie and I began a 5-year ministry to international students while working at Myrtle Beach, SC on a work-and-travel program. According to local news statistics, there are some 3,000 international students that flood Myrtle Beach each summer. Most of them come from Eastern Europe which, of course, includes a large number of Bulgarians. During our summer outreach each year, we came in contact with Bulgarian, Russian, Moldovan, Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Turkish students.
Our strategy was quite simple. Over the summer we developed relationships with students by inviting them for meals at our home, watching movies together, fixing their bicycles, and taking them shopping. Because they only used bicycles for transportation, we drove them on short trips to visit other places and even took some to church with us. And we talked and talked.
We had countless opportunities to share the Good News with them. Remember, these young people came from former communist countries. Most of them had never heard about God or held a Bible in their hands. Most of them had no sense of spirituality. At best, they might share some vague understanding of eastern religions or their personal philosophy of life.
Still, at Myrtle Beach some took significant steps forward in their spiritual journey. Some decided to follow Jesus Christ right by the beach. Others began the thought process and later took the final step with someone else in their lives.
Over the years we looked for other people and churches who might share in this ministry. This seemed like a perfect opportunity for international evangelism that does not require travel or the need to send missionaries overseas. Still, we were unable to identify any ministry partners. Then, about three years back, we talked with a pastor of a local church that is strategically located in the middle of Myrtle Beach. He was excited about the opportunity. We offered to outline the whole project and to train a ministry team. However, our timing is not always God’s timing.
A few months ago, missions people from that same church contacted us to learn more about this ministry. We got together for breakfast and emotions ran wild! This group was as passionate about missions among the visiting students as we are. Soon, a mission group from that church plans an organizational meeting where we will be able to present our ministry experience.
*****Please pray that God will give us utterance–the ability to share passionately, fully inspired by the Holy Spirit–at this meeting.*****
We are excited that this ministry will come back with more resources than we were ever able to offer. God knows how many students would be impacted by a more systematic, more sustained, outreach effort.
Stefan’s passion is building deep and long-lasting friendships, teaching and discipleship.
Currently, Stefan is a full-time student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (www.gordonconwell.edu)–Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed a Master of Divinity degree (Magna cum Laude) and is now finishing a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling degree. Stefan also holds a Master of Arts in French Language and Literature and prior to becoming a seminary student he has worked as a private language tutor and worship leader. Stefan is a founding member of Holy Trinity Bulgarian Free Church in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
Stefan was born and raised in communist Bulgaria where he had a first-hand experience of living under an atheist dictatorship. Shortly after the fall of the regime, when he was only 14, he responded to an altar call and gave his life to Christ. Stefan’s early ministry experience includes working with worship teams, children’s work, orphanage visitations and open air evangelism. While serving the Lord in different capacities, he started sensing a special call from God to pursue seminary education.
Ellie has a special heart for evangelism, discipleship, counseling, and the persecuted underground church around the world.
Currently, Ellie is completing a Dual degree – Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Christian Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary-Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ellie grew up in Bulgaria while the country was still under communism. After the fall of the regime Ellie began attending church with her parents which marked the beginning of her family’s journey with God. Shortly after, Ellie’s parents became some of the first full-time missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ International in Bulgaria (http://bit.ly/1oTfxOr) – a ministry they have been working with for nearly twenty years now. Ellie’s point of conversion came at a winter children’s camp organized by Child Evangelism Fellowship where she gave her life to Christ at the age of 9. Ellie’s favorite time was at her father’s side as he traveled extensively throughout the country to show the Jesus Film, evangelize and preach (www.JesusFilm.org). Ellie became a natural witness of Christ to people around her and the life and work of a missionary were already deeply ingrained in her spiritual identity.
Read Stefan and Ellie’s full stories at www.tabletalkinternational.org.