There are a number of villages located on the outskirts of Stara Zagora that we are currently working within. Whilst each village and town is unique there are a number of commonalities between them. There is a divide between the Roma (Gypsy) community and the ethnic Bulgarian community, whilst the towns we are working in have an equal divide in the numbers of each community, the shared space of the town has not overcome the decades of segregation between these communities and there is little to no intergration between them.
There is a lack of good local education services within local towns and villages with many children having to travel either to larger towns or to the city in order to access good standards of education. For those who cannot afford to pay for such luxury this leaves their children struggling to gain qualifications and education required to free themselves from the cycle of poverty they find themselves in.
A major area of focus will be the local school, working to encourage and motivate teachers toward excellence, and partner together to improve the learning atmosphere and
In addition, we play soccer with the teen boys from the area on a regular basis, it's a wonderful way to build deeper friendships and relationships, sharing the good news and bridging ethnic divides.
Our most difficult task next will be to integrate the church to include both Bulgarians and Roma. Even though relationships between these two ethnic groups are positive, they rarely interact together. Many old social prejudices and traditions keep these two groups apart. However, through special programs celebrating holidays such as Easter and Christmas, we hope to break the ice and build bridges. We will continue to identify and equip local Roma believers to be involved in leadership positions within church ministries.
In one of the villiages in the area we have located a storefront in the main square that we feel will be a great location for a community centre/church. This space is large enough to accommodate a thrift shop and a classroom - each being an advertisement for the other! The rent is a reasonable, but it will need extensive renovations to be a multi-purpose space.