Bulgaria is a beautiful country in Southeast Europe on the Balkan Peninsula, bordering Greece, Turkey, Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, and the Black Sea. “Balkan” means wooded mountain and Bulgaria is filled with beautiful mountains, fruitful valleys, and a beautiful seaside.
Bulgaria has had a long and interesting history. It officially became an Orthodox Christian nation in the 9th century. For 500 years (starting in 1393 AD) it was occupied by the Ottoman Empire. In the 20th century Bulgaria experienced numerous wars and a communist government. Although it entered the EU in 2007, Bulgaria still struggles with corruption and migration and has been harshly hit by the financial crisis. All of these factors (and many others) play an important role in the current Bulgarian culture. There is a general atmosphere of pessimism and most believe that there is little hope for their country.
The majority of the population is nominally Orthodox Christian with significant and growing portions of the population that are either Muslim or atheists. The evangelical community is rather small in Bulgaria and is viewed as a cult by most of the population. Bulgaria is a very relational culture. All ministries must be done in the context of relationships of trust. For this reason, sometimes ministry looks slow as much work must be done to build relationships of trust before one is able to come alongside of a person on their journey of faith.
The Bulgarian Christian Student Union recently celebrated 30 years of ministry. Originally, the student work thrived as many students were interested in Christianity after the fall of communism. But by the late 90’s the ministry grew smaller, and it has become harder to engage students with the good news of Jesus. This difficulty is enhanced by the general prohibition of any religious activity on university property (including the student dorms) and the overall attitude towards Christian groups that are not Bulgarian Orthodox. Currently there are student groups that meet in 5 cities throughout the country. After the pandemic more and more students started joining BCSU’s groups and it is getting more and more difficult for the small team to care for each student individually.