"Dr. Culbertson is going to Bulgaria in September. He'll be glad to take anything you want to send." That's what Southern Nazarene University president Loren Gresham said in the late summer of 1994 to relatives and friends of the first Bulgarian volunteers.
Through four years of college, parents had sent favorite snack foods, clothing, and other things to their sons and daughters. When the son or daughter moved across the Atlantic, those parents wanted to do the same thing. However, they soon discovered how expensive mailing a box overseas can be. That's especially true if it goes by air!
When Dr. Gresham said that SNU had someone who could take packages to Bulgaria, parents and friends came to campus to drop off boxes and even a full suitcase or two. A call went out for "big" suitcases in which to try to pack all that stuff. Two really enormous ones showed up. Somehow everything fit inside! They were packed and repacked to get them at the weight limit of 70 pounds per bag.
Those American volunteers in Bulgaria were right in the middle of some culture shock when those suitcases arrived. So there was a real morale boost as the contents of those packed suitcases were distributed. It was like "Christmas in September."
One initial concern of prospective volunteers was about how their parents would react. Many have said: "What will my parents think? They're still reeling from my college costs. They think I should find a job right away. How can I convince them I should give my first year out of college to volunteer missionary work?"
In the spring before the first group left for Bulgaria, Philip Rodebush's dad partially answered those questions. It happened over a lunch I had at El Pollo Chulo. That's a Mexican food restaurant about a mile from the Southern Nazarene University campus. Eating there with me one day, Harold Rodebush fell silent and began gazing out the window.
He got a faraway look in his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he looked back at me. Then, he said, "I don't know how we'll do it. But we'll do all we can to help Philip."
Evangelicals have watched young Mormons put their career ambitions on hold for a year or two of volunteer mission work. Usually, their immediate family supports them during that year of volunteer service. Not long after a baby is born, Mormon families begin saving funds for his or her "mission" years.
The parents of the Bulgarian volunteers are not like Mormon parents. At the birth of their sons and daughters, they had not begun putting aside money for volunteer missionary work by their offspring. Still, Rev. Rodebush's resoluteness to help Philip respond to the call of God is symbolic of the willingness of most parents. Most have gladly made necessary sacrifices to put a son or daughter in the Bulgarian tapestry.
As young people have committed themselves to going, parents voiced worries about safety in Eastern Europe. During the Cold War, those parents had spent years listening to the perils of the communist menace. Still, even with all the fearful unknowns, these parents have strongly supported the pioneer venture that whisked their children away for a year. Parents have found themselves asking the question: Do I really mean it when I sing "I Surrender All" in church?
Fortunately, they've been able to respond: "Yes, I really did mean all -- including my children."
Most of these parents have done far more than contribute their offspring for the team. They have helped mobilize prayer support. To local congregations, they've passed along news gleaned from letters and telephone calls. They've duplicated and mailed monthly support letters from team members. Their own letters to the field are sources of encouraging support.
In many important ways the parents of team members are essential threads in the Bulgarian tapestry. . . . [ continue reading ]
1: Weaving the Tapestry
2: A Presidential Thread
3: Thread from Empty Spools | 4: Directors' Threads
5: A German thread
Colored Thread |
7: Broken Threads
| 8: A Youthful Thread
9: Of Shuttles or Spinning Wheels
10: Faded Red and Gold Threads |
11: Discarded Threads |
12: Some West Coast Threads |
13: A Very Weak Thread |
14: Some Mexican Thread |
15: Threads of Greenbacks and Tears
16: The Compassionate Ministry Thread
| 17: Some Parental Threads |
18: The Emerging Pattern
-- Howard Culbertson,
|In the middle of Genesis 3, the dust began to settle across the universe after Adam and Eve's cataclysmic choice. In the awfulness of that moment, God stepped forward to promise a Redeemer for His rebellious creatures. The account of how God keeps that promise is the story of the Bible. God's call to Abraham included the promise that through Abraham all peoples of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12). That promise included Bulgaria! So, it's no surprise to see God using Abraham's spiritual descendants in Bulgaria. . . . [ more ]