The occasion gathers both Bulgarian and Ukrainian Adventists together.
Maria Shchedromirskaya from Nikolaev, Ukraine, became the first fruit of Pastor Vladimir Pop in Bulgaria (See the beginning of the story here). The now-retired kindergarten teacher and worker in a convalescent home came to Bulgaria at the beginning of Russian-Ukrainian war. She has an Adventist son and daughter-in-law and while in Ukraine he even went to church a few times with them out of courtesy. However, Maria was never particularly interested in religion. While in Bulgaria she was accommodated to live in the hotel where Ukrainian Pastor Pop decided to give a try and hold spiritual meetings with any people who might show an interest. Maria soon joined the group. Other Ukrainian Adventists residing there describe her as a very quiet and exceptionally dedicated. Since not all refugees in her hotel are free all the time, the pastor organized numerous Bible studies throughout the week. “I’ve never met anybody who would come three times a week to my Bible study,” says Pastor Pop with a smile and continues “She is like a spiritual sponge – absorbing everything she hears from the Word of God. And her family name really becomes her – it translates like “Generous to the World.” Maria shares that her older son (who stayed in Ukraine to work as a volunteer for ADRA) kept urging her to accept Jesus. “We live in perilous times, Mother; there is no time for procrastination.”
So on July 29, 2023 a group of Ukrainian and Bulgarian Adventists gathered on the shores of Black Sea to attend Maria’s baptism. With a beaming smile she entered the waters together with Pastor Pop – first witness of God’s grace in this place so far away from her home in Nikolaev. She was not alone, though. The happy occasion was attended by her younger son with his family. They are also living on the Black Sea coast. Maria’s grandchildren were part of ADRA-UNICEF project that teaches Bulgarian to Ukrainian refugees. Bulgarian Adventists were so happy to welcome their new sister into the church. They kept hugging her, expressing wishes of God’s guidance and protection and showering her with chocolate candies. It is no coincidental that Maria’s grandson has already found some youth friends in this amicable church and stated to attend its activities. Funny thing, Pastor Pop was initially considering moving to Romania but now he is so happy that he stayed. I asked him if there are other refugees that consider baptism. “There are approximately 10 people in my baptismal class but Maria was the first one to take her stand for Jesus.” Let us pray for more and still more people to join God’s last-day movement! God can use any circumstances to bring His children home – to Him!