Jehovah’s Witnesses in Bulgaria are busy teaching others the truth about God and his Word, the Bible. To assist them, hundreds of Witnesses from other lands have moved to Bulgaria since the year 2000. What are the challenges of making a move to preach in a foreign land? Why is it worth the effort? Here are some thoughts from those who have moved to Bulgaria.
Setting the Goal
“It had always been our goal to serve abroad where the need is greater,” said Darren, who lived in England. “After I married Dawn, we moved to London to help with teaching the Bible in the Russian language. A few times, we made specific plans to move abroad, but for various reasons we were not able to go. We had almost given up on the idea, but then a friend helped us see that our circumstances had changed and our goal was within our reach.” Darren and Dawn started looking for a country where there was a greater need for Bible teachers and where they could realistically move. In 2011, they moved to Bulgaria.
The joyful example of those who moved to other parts of the world encouraged some who did not initially have the goal of serving abroad. “I met zealous Witnesses who were happily serving in South America and in Africa,” said Giada, who lived in Italy with her husband, Luca. “I was deeply touched by their joy and the experiences they shared. This helped me adjust my spiritual goals.”
Tomasz and Veronika moved from the Czech Republic to Bulgaria in 2015, along with their two children, Klara and Mathias. What motivated them to make the move? Tomasz answered: “We closely considered the example of others who had moved abroad, including relatives, and meditated on some of their experiences. We were touched by their joy, and we talked about it together at home.” The members of this happy family now preach in their new territory in the Bulgarian city of Montana.
Linda is another Witness who moved to Bulgaria. She said: “Many years ago I visited Ecuador and met some who had moved there to preach. That made me think that maybe one day I too could serve where the need was great.” Petteri and Nadja, a couple from Finland, also meditated on the example of others. They said: “In our home congregation, we had some experienced publishers who had moved to other places to help people spiritually. They always spoke enthusiastically about the years spent in that kind of service. They said that those were the best years of their lives.”
Good planning is vital for those who want to serve abroad. (Luke 14:28-30) “When I started to think more seriously about serving in another country,” recalled Nele, from Belgium, “I prayerfully started to look for relevant articles in our publications. I studied them and tried to figure out what points I needed to work on.”
Kristian and Irmina, from Poland, have lived in Bulgaria for more than nine years. They realize how helpful it was for them to have attended a Bulgarian-speaking group in Poland before moving. The group encouraged them and helped them learn the language. Kristian and Irmina said: “We came to realize how wonderful it is to make yourself available and to see how Jehovah God takes care of your needs. When you willingly tell Jehovah, ‘Here I am! Send me!’ then you can do things you never even thought possible.”—Isaiah 6:8.
In order to get prepared and to save money, Reto and Cornelia, a couple from Switzerland, decided to live a simpler life. “A year before moving,” they explained, “we went to Bulgaria for one week to get a clearer picture of what the country was like. There we spoke to experienced missionaries who gave us practical advice.” Reto and Cornelia made good use of those suggestions and have now been in Bulgaria for more than 20 years.
Coping With Challenges
Those who move to a foreign country have to adapt to new and perhaps challenging circumstances. (Acts 16:9, 10; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) A major obstacle for many is learning a new language. “We always enjoyed sharing heartfelt comments at Christian meetings,” said Luca, mentioned earlier. “For a while, however, it was hard for me and my wife to prepare even one very simple comment in Bulgarian! It was like being children again. In fact, the native children’s comments were far better than ours.”
Ravil, from Germany, said: “Learning the language was tiring. But I kept thinking, ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously, and keep a sense of humor when you make mistakes.’ I look at the challenges, not as a problem, but as part of my sacred service to Jehovah.”
Linda, mentioned earlier, said: “I don’t have a knack for learning languages. Bulgarian is not easy to learn, and I’ve thought many times of giving up. You feel lonely when you can’t speak to people and don’t understand what they are saying. To keep my spirituality strong, I studied everything in Swedish. Finally, with the help of my dear brothers and sisters, I was able to overcome the language barrier.”
Overcoming homesickness can be another challenge. Those who move leave dear relatives and friends at home. “Initially, I felt lonely,” said Eva, who moved to Bulgaria with her husband, Yannis. “To cope with that, we regularly communicate with our friends and family back home, and we made new friends here.”
There are other challenges. Robert and Liana, who moved from Switzerland, explained: “The language, together with the culture, was a big challenge for us, and we were not prepared for the very cold winters here.” However, remaining positive and keeping a sense of humor has helped this couple to serve in Bulgaria faithfully for the past 14 years.
Lilly warmly recommends preaching where there is a great need. “I have been able to get to know Jehovah in a way that perhaps I could not have in my home country,” she said. “I can be busier helping others, and this helps me grow spiritually and gives me joy and satisfaction.” Ravil, her husband, agrees. He said: “This is the best life, a unique opportunity to get to know zealous Christians from different countries who have much experience teaching Bible truths. I have learned a lot from them.”
The willing spirit and availability of many has resulted in the successful preaching of the “good news of the Kingdom . . . in all the inhabited earth.” (Matthew 24:14) With their volunteer spirit, those who have come to Bulgaria have seen how Jehovah has granted the desires of their hearts and given success to all their plans.—Psalm 20:1-4.