IYC From a Different Point of View
By Carl Stagner,
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others,” (2 Timothy 2:2). This is the verse of scripture that Dave and Kathy Simpson, missionaries to Bulgaria for the past five years, used to conclude their July 2010 edition of Plovdiv Perspectives, a newsletter of excerpts from Kathy’s journal, which chronicles the couple’s experiences on the mission field. It also captures the heart of the education and training that two of their friends from Bulgaria were able to receive at the International Youth Convention of the Church of God, which was held in Orlando, Florida in early July. Tsonka, experienced leader in the Plovdiv congregation, along with Gabriela, 18-year-old developing leader, were blessed to attend IYC 2010 with the Park Place Church of God group. The entire journey with Dave and Kathy included time spent across much of the eastern half of the United States, two Indiana churches, and a camp meeting at Yellow Creek Lake in Indiana. For Tsonka and Gabriela, it was the adventure of a lifetime.
As a result of prayer and the generosity of God’s people, Tsonka and Gabriela were given the unique opportunity to attend IYC in the United States. In February, Plovdiv Perspectives included a plea for funds to be donated to send the two ladies to IYC. According to Dave and Kathy, “More than 20 churches and individuals contributed funds to make this experience possible.” Tsonka had been outside Bulgaria in the past, so her venture into unfamiliar territory would not be too uncomfortable, yet still rewarding. Gabriela, on the other hand, embarked on a tour that would result in not only spiritual and leadership strengthening, but also in the observance a new culture first-hand.
Tsonka and Gabriela had never been to an event comparable to the magnitude and complexity of IYC. In their prior church gatherings, they had only witnessed the company of no more than 200 Christians. To their amazement, they joined nearly 5,000 students in worship. “IYC was more than they could imagine,” Dave and Kathy reflect. Gabriela was especially moved by the unashamed passion for Christ she saw in the students. Tsonka’s experience last summer in Malta and this experience in the United States left her amazed at the detail that goes into planning large-scale events such as IYC. She is thankful to the Church of God for caring so much for youth and helping make this opportunity possible. They sent an e-mail of thanks to Dave and Kathy, which said, “The days in America cannot be returned to us or repeated, but now for us they are light, joy, and strength.”
While Tsonka and Gabriela enjoyed several elements of American culture, including Indiana corn on the cob, huge department stores, and organized cities, they will cherish most the investment that churches and individuals put into them. They are developing leaders who will carry the Gospel into places where many cannot go. Following their IYC experience, Dave, Kathy, Tsonka, and Gabriela felt a sense of urgency to minister to Bulgarian teens and young adults through fellowship, worship, and training. “Beyond this,” David and Kathy insist, “we pray these reliable young women will become the leaders who touch the lives of many, many Bulgarians.”