A few weeks ago, hundreds of residents of one the largest Romani neighborhoods in a Bulgarian city packed the streets for ten days to hear the Scripture preached from an outdoor platform. The guest speaker was Erick Flickinger, from It Is Written, an evangelistic ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At the end of the seminar, 52 people were baptized in a lake outside of the city of Kyustendil, in the southwest region of that European country. Having found hope and salvation in Jesus Christ, they chose to wade into the water testifying they had surrendered their hearts and lives to the God of heaven.
Romani are a people group residing in countries throughout Europe and the Americas. It is said that the group’s origins are from the Indian subcontinent. A considerable amount of Romani live in Bulgaria as well; in fact, they amount to 4.9 percent of the total population, or 325,000. Many Romani around the world lead semi-nomadic lifestyles, moving from one town to the other in tented communities, but in Bulgaria, more than half of them are integrated into cities, according to the 2011 Bulgaria’s National Census.
Along with the 52 baptized, hundreds of friends and family members made the mile-long walk from the church to the baptismal site, eager to be a part of the celebration. Waiting for baptismal candidates in the water were a local pastor, a visiting pastor, and the speaker. Three at a time, the baptismal candidates were plunged into the chilly waters of the lake, only to come up again with smiles beaming from their water-streaked faces. Those baptized were between ages 20 and 74.
Their example made a powerful impression on others who had attended Flickinger’s nightly meetings. In addition to those baptized, 450 people are now studying the Bible in preparation for their own baptism.
“It was a privilege to share the gospel in such an amazing place, and work alongside so many people who are truly committed to God,” Flickinger said. “My translator was a full-time medical student. Between travel and time at the meetings, she was giving five hours every day to this outreach effort—while carrying a full load of medical school classes. And there were so many others who gave themselves to sharing Christ. It was inspiring, and God blessed their ministry in an amazing way.”
Local church and supporting ministries leaders are now asking members to keep the work in Bulgaria in their prayers, as evangelistic series and Bible studies continue across the country. More baptisms are scheduled for the next few weeks, they said.