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Al & Diane Mellinger's Missionary Adventure - 5 new articles
January 23, 2020 - (written by Diane) -
We don’t get to see the children receive the gifts we assemble for the Virtual Christmas Gift Box. We know that God uses these gifts in ways He sees fit and are grateful to be a part of what He is doing in Bulgaria. The churches often use these as outreach to children in their community, including the clear message of Christ and a time of fellowship. Thank you for your support of this part of the ministry.
For many years in Petrich, our church gives to the school (Sunny) for handicapped children. We have dropped the gifts off before the school Christmas party. We have also included the teachers with a gift of some kind. The work they do is difficult many days. We only are allowed into the lobby, but this year we received a thank you (pictured). The students probably attached the dot. I am grateful that we are able to give a smile or something needed or uplifting to a group in our community that are usually overlooked or treated poorly.
Here is our Virtual Christmas Gift Box Thank You Video!
This year we also were able to give from our land that produced potatoes. Chance and DeeDee Galloway reported how thrilled the pastor overlooking the land was to see the work of his (and God’s) hands blessing people who are extremely poor. God knows what He is doing and His timing surprises us, though it shouldn’t.
This week pray for the transitions happing over the next month or so with the nationals assuming more and more of the oversite of the work in the Balkans.
Pray too for the missionary team as we adjust to new roles.
Pray for the ongoing church planting projects that have and will be starting this year.
January 11, 2020 - This week's post is a bit later than usual. We have been prepping and then traveling as we have been getting ready to launch some new products. We are adding some Yoga Socks, new styles of Wrist Warmer, Messy Buns and Scarves. In our sewing group, we are launching Clothes Protectors for senior adults. More on these in a few weeks after we pick up the new product.
We also completed our year-end report for Marketplace Manna, Inc - our company in the states that help with the distribution of what our folks make as well as our partners around the world - our digital version can be seen here
It has been another year of growth and change. A great deal of learning is happening and we still very excited and very passionate about helping the church learn more about how it can make a difference in the stewardship habits.
This week pray for:
The upcoming meetings in Mid February when our group of churches becomes an annual conference in the FM movement.
The future and direction of our companies here in BG and in the US.
The New Church Plants that will be launched in North Macedonia in 2 weeks.
January 2, 2020 - 2020 is the year and it is also a reference to seeing clearly. We began our missionary adventure on the ground in Bulgaria on April 20, 2007. If you want to read all that God has done in the 13 years you can go to (https://almellinger.typepad.com/almellinger/2019/12/december-21-2019-it-is-longer-than-usual-but-it-is-a-brief-history-of-what-god-has-done-during-the-year-end-process-i.html).
In February of 2020 the churches will become their own Annual Conference (that is a self-governing group) of almost 40 churches in 3 countries. For that we praise God
But that means changes in our role and that is why we are asking folks for prayer. Prayer that we might see clearly (that is 2020) in 2020! We are looking for what is the next step and role we are to have in God’s bigger plan.
Would you join us on early in the new year is asking God for clarity for us as to what HE wants us to do next be that here in the Balkans or beyond!
That is the prayer request for our first Report of 2020!
All of our Livelihood groups are started in our church plants and this gal we will call her Lily has been a part of one from the beginning. Every month she faithfully comes with her finished knitting to turn in and ready to collect the yarn for the next month’s projects.
Earlier this year the church she attends was part of helping with the girl’s home – they went to provide some muscle for cleaning up the place. But more than work they were told and got to see firsthand what we were doing and why. They were able to be a part of a solution to the problem of Human Trafficking here in Bulgaria. I remember seeing photos and hearing of the church working and getting excited about being a part of (even in a small way) this project.
A few weeks ago, as we were picking up the finished products in December and giving them their earnings. Lily after we paid her gave us back 10 lev (she only received about 80 for this month’s work) and I was thinking did we over pay? Did we calculate the wages for this month wrong? Why is she giving us back 10 lev?
As she was giving us the funds our translator explained that she wanted the money to go toward the girl’s home. Lily had not forgotten the project and purpose behind what we are doing. She wanted (and wants when she can) to be part of making a difference in the world.
This is one of many stories we could share from all of the different locations of how these folks with little are willing to share and give back to the churches they are part of and others in the communities.
As this year comes to a close we are looking at the new year and with it we want to begin more groups in more area where poverty persists and the folks have real needs. But to do that we need development funds, we need the startup costs for the raw materials and we need funds to pay the workers for the first few months until the products they make can get to market and be sold. It takes an investment of about $5,000 - $6,000 to start a group and get it running. Our goal (dream) is 10 more groups this year – that means we are shooting to raise $50,000 plus.
And we know that most of our readers do not have $50,000.00 to give but maybe you like Lily have a smaller gift that when put with other smaller gifts can make a huge difference for the lives of people.
If you would like to give to our Development Fund click here or send a check to Marketplace Manna – 1088 Jackson Crossing, Jackson, MI 49202. Any gift received by 12/31/2019 will be issued a tax receipt for 2019.
This week pray for our livelihood groups and the impact they have the folks we serve. It is not about making something to sell it is about helping them develop as disciples of Jesus.
Pray for the development fund – Pray that God would lead us to the right folks who will help us with the dream.
Pray for the Churches as they will become more self-governing this year as they become an Annual Conference (more on that in future blog posts).
December 19, 2019 - This post is longer than usual - we think it is worth the read.
During the Year-End process, I want to give a brief history and overview of the history of what God has done. When Diane & I were sent here there was nothing established for the Free Methodist Church. Mike Long along with Renewal Christian Centre Church (in the UK) had held a power conference and some follow up visits to Bulgaria.
Upon our arrival, it became clear that the connections Renewal had would be the ones that we followed upon. That lead to many years of training and serving the existing Church in Bulgaria. We also did this through youth conferences and events as well as speaking most weekends in established churches of all denominations.
Part of our strategy was to be a catalyst for what God wanted to happen. We were and are more interested in Kingdom work than we are in building just our brand of the kingdom. We wanted to build “Healthy Biblical Communities” (churches) because out of them, disciples are made and communities transformed.
Along the way, God added folks to the team, the Galloways, the Wells (for a time), the Sweets and soon Joy Crumpton.
Early on we were only functioning under the Anagenesis Foundation which Mike Long started and transferred over to us.
As the team grew and needs observed we began to figure out ways to address what we saw. In conjunction with Renewal Christian Centre, a church planting project was begun. We were not trying to plant FM churches but rather train leaders from other churches to go back and plant churches.
We also observed that human trafficking issues needed to be addressed and so we began exploring what could be done. It began with education in our youth events and grew from there.
We also knew that the economic realities in the region were (and are) not good. Every church we went to asked us for funds. I would say my initials are ADM, not ATM! Over time God began to challenge us to do something about this too!
In 2015 the Light & Life Church was established because some of our church plants were not being covered legally in the country.
In 2015, we also launched New Start LLC – a company to handle the Livelihood and Micro Loan projects that we were beginning.
We also purchase land for an agricultural project with a gift from Renewal. The idea of giving folks work and a share in the produce was our plan. In addition, it would help with the humanitarian work we are involved with. Our first crop was brought in this past fall (2019). The produce was used for what we intended it to be used for.
With all that was happening, we began to realize that a holistic approach to people’s lives had to be looked at and addressed where and when we could. Starting a church without ministering to the real needs of the people was not Biblical. The early church cared for each other and responded to the needs they saw. They created “Healthy Biblical Communities.”
With this in mind, we set out a goal to have one economic program in each of our churches. Not run by the church but with input from the church. We do not want to make the church pastor a “Kingpin” of all that goes on but rather the spiritual leader and counselor. We begin a group by asking the pastor to bring together people who might want to do what we are going to do and we take it from there. People drop out and new folks are brought in usually by someone in the current group.
From the very beginning, we hosted teams. Inviting them to come and assist in what God was doing. We now average 2+ groups a month coming to help year-round (some summer months are more and some winter months less). These groups come from all over the world but mainly Europe and North America. A good many are beyond the FM movement. It is out of these groups coming to serve that we are building a great deal of support.
The International Fellowship of St John was also established in 2015 for projects like the girl’s home and our ongoing church plant projects. We were advised that having a non-church foundation for getting grants was the way to go. Our church plant cohorts are run out of this foundation and not the church as these are not church-sponsored projects. Not all of the church plants start out as FM churches and most of the funds we receive for this come from groups beyond the FM movement. As time goes on we invite them to become part of our movement if they want (of which most do).
Additionally, in partnership with Disciple the Nations, we have a Bible School that has had three weekly meeting points over the years. We are currently working on creative ways to get this to more folks with the use of video and tech tools.
We now have church plant projects in North Macedonia and Serbia who are affiliating with us as we are still in the process of establishing their legal covering in these countries even though their eschatological oversite is with us. Given time this too will come into line as we sort the legal differences (currently these 2 counties are not part of the EU but both are applying to be and when that happens things will be able to move much faster).
The thrust of the FM Missions Movement currently is to get the nationals doing the work as quickly as we can. And we wholeheartedly agree. In fact, that has been a keen part of our third term – Out exit strategy (not that we want to leave but how do we turn over what we are doing to those who are local that will keep it going)!
Currently, we have a national leader for the Provisional Annual Conference, the Bible School is run by a national, all of our legal entities have Bulgarian as well as the missionaries on the board and when we meet they (the nationals) have input and often asked to choose where we go next when there is more needs than funds to meet them. We are bringing them along in the process of how to lead within their culture and we are so excited about what we see developing as we know that our time as missionaries here is limited and at some point, we will be gone.
Within the Light & Life Churches, we met the requirements to become a Provisional Annual Conference in 2018 and in 2019 we officially were designated as one. We are on schedule to become an annual conference in February of 2020.
There is an amazing team of missionaries and nationals that work together to see the Kingdom of God advancing. Hard choices are made but they are made in open transparent discussion with all parties involved. This is how it has been done and I hope will continue to happen.
I hope this helps everyone to understand what has brought us to where we are and the track we are on to move forward.
This week pray for all that you just read about - Praise God for the changed lives and pray for wisdom and Team Balkans moves forward!
Bonus - Yearend giving links.
If you are looking at your yearend giving we have a number of areas of need. Below are links for online giving.