E-book: God's Bulgarian tapestry (Part 8)
I have a
Kingdom strikes back
Our balanced attack
Pasta, pizza and Pinocchio
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Searching for God's will?
Mission trip fund raising
by Howard Culbertson
8. A youthful thread
On a flight into Bulgaria, an SNU professor sat beside a
U.S. Commerce Department official. The professor was on his way to Sofia to visit the
volunteers. As the two fell into conversation, the Commerce official found out what the
university was doing in Bulgaria.
"This country's only hope is its young people," he
said as the plane crossed into Bulgarian airspace.
Was his analysis correct? If so, maybe that's why God has made youth an important part of His Bulgarian
The American volunteers in Sofia became used to lots of
different things. They no longer stared at the stocky women in blue coats scouring city streets
with high pressure water hoses. They became used to seeing an occasional horse-drawn wagon
coming down the street. They learned to endure long lines at bakeries and periods without hot
water. They learned to survive intermittent water supplies and elevators that break down twice a
These young people grew up in single family dwellings in
small towns. They played in lush grassy back yards. In Sofia, they lived in bland,
badly-maintained apartment buildings with very little grass in sight. Most of the volunteers
owned a car in the U.S. In Bulgaria they had to walk everywhere. The first group even joked
about have "lost" a member of their team. How did that happen? Well, walking almost
everywhere during their first two months in Bulgaria slimmed them down. In fact, they took off a
combined 125 pounds. That's equivalent to losing one person!
The Mission Corps volunteers in Bulgaria got a month or so
of language study. That's not nearly enough to really learn a language. Career missionaries often
get a year or more of full-time language study. But these Mission Corps volunteers will be there
for just one year. They want to accomplish something for the Lord other than learning a
language. Actually, the limited language study time is not completely a negative. Many young
Bulgarians are eager to learn English. So they cluster around these young Americans with whom
they can practice their English.
Some strands of the Bulgarian tapestry's youthful thread
stretch back to the 1960's. In 1962 Bob Bolton was the youth minister at Oklahoma City Trinity
church. That year, he took his high school group on a missions trip. It was the first of many
youth-oriented mission trips he has led. For these annual trips, Bolton started using the name
"Ambassadors." At that point, he did not know he was beginning something that would affect a
Bulgarian tapestry. He was just trying to expose his youth group to missions.
However, a year or two into his mission trip experiences
General Church leaders approached Bolton. They had some plans for a youth cross-cultural
project and wanted to borrow his "Ambassador" title. Thus, in 1964, a group of musically
talented Nazarene college students called "Nazarene Evangelistic Ambassadors" made a singing
tour of several mission fields. Two years later, two such singing groups spent the summer doing
concerts on mission fields.
One negative thing about the Ambassador concept was that
it involved only a few young people. It did help the denomination see how effective young
people could be in cross-cultural evangelism. But, with the General Church was picking up some
of the expenses, there was no way to expand it. The performance group concept did make a great
impact on those mission fields involved. However, with the program's costs, it could only
involve a handful of people at a time. Franklin and others wanted a way to put lots of young
people overseas each summer. So, the program's focus was shifted from performance to
The program's name also changed. The name Nazarene
Evangelistic Ambassadors was dropped. In what may have been a take-off on the U.S.
government's "Peace Corps," it became Student Missions Corps. Today, we call that same
program Youth in Mission.
After the first year of SMC, Franklin Cook wrote a book
called Discovery -- Student Missions Corps. In that 1969 volume, Franklin quoted a
missionary: "Young people can do things we veteran missionaries could not accomplish.
They can imagine things that to us are unimaginable. They have energy we don't have, vision that
we call foolishness, and smiles that are completely disarming."
In the Student Missions Corps early days, an SNU religion
major named Roger Hahn applied. He was accepted and spent the summer of 1970 in Nicaragua.
Gifted in language learning, Roger came back from Central America speaking Spanish. He also
came home with a heart for world evangelism. In Guatemala, Roger worked with two missionary
families: the Galloways and the Birchards. As those missionaries worked with that young college
student, they had no idea they were forming strands for a Bulgarian tapestry.
Roger went on to earn a Ph.D. in New Testament studies. A
gifted scholar, he returned to Bethany to teach. There, his Student Missions Corps summer saved
him from being the stereotypical "ivory tower" scholar with very restricted vision and interests.
Roger Hahn became good friends with Loren Gresham. Based on their cross-cultural
experiences, they had long talks about what Nazarene young people ought to become. They
talked about the experiences which a Nazarene university should provide for its students.
Loren and Roger dreamed about organizing huge Work and
Witness trips to Mexico each year. Loren Gresham became SNU's president in the summer of
1989. One of his first acts was to appoint Roger Hahn -- who was by then religion department
head -- as director of the school's first New Year's holiday trip to Mexico.
In the summer of 1993 Loren Gresham asked Roger to
assume chaplaincy responsibilities. For Roger, that meant more than scheduling speakers for the
three-times-a-week chapels. Combining his missions' passion with his new responsibilities for
students' spiritual development, Roger became a key player in launching the Bulgaria
It was Roger who actually wrote SNU's partnership proposal
to the General Board. Roger Hahn's summer on the mission field turned him into a life-long
missions mobilizer. He became the facilitator for sending other college students overseas. The
youth thread thus keeps reproducing itself. That is, of course, what everyone had hoped for all
along. . . . [ continue reading ]
Of shuttles or spinning wheels
more to weaving a tapestry than just accumulating threads. There are looms, shuttles, and
spinning wheels and the hand of a master weaver. Some things about this Bulgarian experiment
seem more like spinning wheels or shuttles than they do tapestry threads . . . [ read more ]|
SNU missions course materials and syllabi
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma
City, OK 73132 | Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax:
Updated: February 3, 2019
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