Hi, I’m Serenity, an MK in eastern Germany.  Christmas is my favorite time of year because I love giving gifts! I mean, I’m the kind of person who was already shopping and planning for next year before the first present was opened this year. This is why I love our church’s Christmas project; all year long we pack gifts and collect donations for Christmas in eastern European countries.

Since 2000, we have collected about 600 gifts each year. As you can imagine, I have always wanted to help deliver the presents in person.  Finally, God opened the door for me to go! And now I realize the wisdom in God delaying my desires. Had I gone earlier, I wouldn’t have been ready for what I saw there.

On God’s appointed day, I boarded a plane in Berlin with three other volunteers. Originally, I was told it would be a group of German teenagers. So imagine my surprise upon landing in Bulgaria and meeting a group of Swiss, Austrian and Italian adults between the ages of 22 and 40. I was the youngest by five years!

After arriving in Burgas, we had a quick briefing.  The translator mentioned that most people here are a little closed off, and that if at any point she told us to get back into the trucks, we should do so immediately.  A whole list of other details followed.

Seeing the faces of these children receiving a gift was something I have looked forward to for a long time, and on the first day that is exactly what I saw. Children in a kindergarten singing, and other children at a middle school performing the Christmas story. They were applauding and giving us hugs.

The conditions were sad; the school yard of rubble and mud, the restrooms barely even recognizable as such and desks half the size of my own school desk, seating three children each. The poverty was shocking. How could this happen in an EU country?!  What happened to “The EU will take care of you?”

Children from eight villages and towns attend this school and have to take the bus or walk for over two hours to get there. Then it was explained to me that many of the children in this area do not speak the Bulgarian language at home, and if they don’t learn proper Bulgarian in kindergarten, they may not attend school. You might be thinking: “Serenity! That makes perfect sense; they need to learn the state language!” And you are right, but remember the kindergarten I mentioned earlier? That is where these children learn their Bulgarian. Before they attend kindergarten they don’t speak one word of the language, and that kindergarten is one of the few left in that area. Many have been closing due to financial issues. That means that there are a ton of Roma children in Bulgaria that don’t get the opportunity to attend schools, and there are scarcely any churches in this area either. So these children whose parents usually give birth to their first child at the age of eleven are neglected and left to fend for themselves without any hope for a bright future.

I saw this same problem escalated as we visited the hospital the next day…

Serenity Sudbrock, MK to Germany

(be sure to watch for more of Serenity’s story in Part 2!)