buildings and street



a shack

Located a mere 17 kilometers north of Stara Zagora and an entire world away is the village of Tulovo. An impoverished town of about 1,300 people, lying in the heart of Bulgaria, Tulovo’s residents have few opportunities for economic progress. The population is nearly evenly divided between Roma (Gypsy) and ethnic Bulgarians. While their relationship is generally positive, the two communities rarely interact. Possibilities for good employment are few and far between as most of the Roma population works in menial services such as sweeping sidewalks, hauling trash, or agricultural jobs in nearby communities or in the village itself.

The local school provides a mediocre education at best, with most Bulgarian families sending their children to school in the nearby city. Relationships between school staff and parents are poor, with expectations for student success low. Parents rarely attend required student-teacher meetings and see little need for education. Aggression and student apathy are huge problems.

The only evangelical church is located in a neglected building in the Roma neighborhood with no facilities beyond the general meeting space that is barely large enough to fit all who attend. Naturally, the Roma community attends this church while most of the Bulgarian population is either completely unchurched or nominally affiliated with a small Orthodox church in town. However, we have begun to make connections with a small Bulgarian house church that we learned of last summer and the possibilities for collaboration look promising.

children playing

One Collective's current ministry consists of work with youth and children, with the young people providing inspiration and help for our kids’ ministry. A major partner in our work is the local school, as we work to encourage and motivate teachers toward excellence, and partner together to improve the learning atmosphere and level of education. We long to improve the relationship between the school staff and Roma families in the community. We are working to improve literacy on a number of levels by working with individual children as opportunity arises.

We are seeking to deepen our partnership with the local Roma church and encourage them to move their ministry beyond their weekly services. We continue to identify and equip local Roma believers to be involved in leadership positions within church ministries.

We also work closely with local Roma youth through a discipleship program that trains and mentors them. We meet several times a week with various youth including a weekly youth group meeting and several smaller gatherings. We’ve been encouraged to see the growth and progress in these young people over the last several years.

A growing ministry is a youth worship band. Several youths are learning musical instruments including keyboard and guitar; others are vocalists. The most recent project is creating recordings of music that will bless the Bulgarian Christian community.

Our ministry center, The Gathering Place, provides the location for most of our ministry and outreach in the village. The teenagers refer to it as Our Place. This building, in the heart of Tulovo, is where we host meetings with youth and children.

We are on the verge of making The Gathering Place a true hub for community activities for all ages and ethnic groups. We are also attempting to engage more intentionally with the ethnic Bulgarian community and deepen the relationships we have made. Through special programs celebrating holidays such as Easter and Christmas and connections with the village teens, we hope to break the ice and build bridges. A number of the youth are deeply passionate about seeing reconciliation and cooperation between these two communities and it is a frequent topic of prayer, as we seek new opportunities where God is at work and leading us. 

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