The Salvation Army opening in Bulgaria started as a dream, literally.
Portions taken from the Norwegian ‘War Cry’ # 3 2021 By: Stine Frimann
In 2015, soon after receiving farewell orders from their home territory of Norway to serve in Moldova of the Eastern Europe Territory, Colonel Jostein Nielsen had an unusual dream. In the dream, he saw a vivid celebration even including a Brass Band together with other ways of witness, because the Salvation Army had started mission in Bulgaria. Could it be that the Salvation Army was meant to open there?
“I have experienced many times that God has spoken to and through me, but never in a dream.” says Jostein Nielsen.
Strange things began to happen a while later, which brought back Bulgaria on the horizon. They received confirmations that the Salvation Army was welcome and necessary in the country.
-For example, by chance they got in touch with a man who had taken a quick trip to Moldova who had properties and contacts in Bulgaria and wanted to help. He ended up introducing Jostein and Magna to his lawyer in the country, who became the one who gave the assistance with completion of the registration The Salvation Army needed to be able to operate legally in Bulgaria.
– Together with the EET leaders, Colonels Wendy and Rodney Walters, they were invited to a conference for leaders in Europe. On the way they stopped in Sofia, Bulgaria. In advance they contacted some leaders of the Evangelical Alliance in Bulgaria and arranged a meeting. They were very excited and said: “For 20 years we have been waiting for The Salvation Army to come to Bulgaria!”
As for the Army’s plan in Bulgaria
“It does not necessarily bring fruit if you come from the outside and create something that may not fit the culture in that country. We must see what the needs are and what people are interested participating in, everything must be locally based. They who will lead the work in Bulgaria will start by talking to people they meet in various contexts, invite them to a cup of coffee and a chat about the Bible around a table” -Magna explains.
And fortunately, the work will be led by a couple who are good at just that: Eduard and Inna Lebedev.
Jostein and Magna had enrolled Inna as a soldier and had known her for a couple of years when they met Eduard for the first time in 2007. There was nothing in the first meeting that suggested that Eduard would become an officer and lead a new venture in the Salvation Army. Eduard had had a troubled youth and was just out of prison when the Nielsens met him. After their conversation, they prayed over him.
Later Inna and Eduard fell in love and got married. They served first as soldiers and later together in ministry after becoming officers. And now the relay continues as they take the lead in Jostein’s “dream project” in Bulgaria.
It is a mission they will do together with an officer couple from Sweden, Erik and Kathleen Johansson, who will be part of the pioneer team of four.
That is also a remarkable story. Jostein and Magna attended the Salvation Army’s congress in Oslo in 2019. While there, they met a couple they had never seen before, the Johanssons. They quickly found out the Nielsens and Johanssons shared a special passion for Eastern Europe.
“We prayed together in the meeting and during the prayer I suddenly broke off the prayer and asked: “Are you going to be involved in the opening the work in Bulgaria? Of course, it’s not for me to decide this, but is it you?”. The answer came without hesitation: “Yes, it’s probably us”, he said. And so it is!