2013 Nehemiah Bulgaria BE Mission Training and Site Visit Trip

Last week I had the privilege of being in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria, along with Ivan Papish, the leader of Biblical Entrepreneurship and the Entrepreneurship Success Center in Ukraine (http://www.center-uspikh.com.ua).   I was invited to Bulgaria by Svetlozar Nikolov, the leader of Biblical Entrepreneurship in Bulgaria.   Svetlozar is the founder and president of the National Bulgaria Business Association (www.nabb-bg.com) and a member of the Nehemiah Global Economic Council.  Both Ivan and Svetlozar receive grants to cover their BE license fee from the Nehemiah Scholarship Fund, thanks to our charitable investors.

We conducted a seminar for 40 college students using the new Nehemiah value-based entrepreneurship course Purpose and Profitability. We also conducted a Biblical Entrepreneurship II course for 30 Bulgarian Christian entrepreneurs, a conference for the National Bulgarian Business Association for 120 business owners, many of whom were family businesses, and we led a strategic planning retreat for the board of directors of the National Bulgarian Business Association where we helped them assess their SWOT, and to develop their business and financial model.

The training and conference attendees ranged from start-up businesses to businesses with up to 100 employees.  The businesses represented various industries from agriculture, to service industries such as legal, accounting and funeral services, to manufacturing, such as jewelry making and prefabricated homes.

One of the trip highlights for me was meeting an entrepreneur who, after finishing the Biblical Entrepreneurship class, launched her jewelry making business at the conference and contributed a tithe of her sales to the association. Another highlight was meeting a woman who has a vision to build a TV and film media production company. After  the exercise on how to clarify an idea and align it with God’s call, she was able to identify an opportunity through Nehemiah to conduct an internship in the United States with TV 45, a Christian broadcast station in Orlando, Florida, to learn  how to operate a TV station. I also met a young college student during the Purpose and Profitability seminar who asked me “What was the key event that happened in my life that led to a personal transformation to commit my life to doing business for the common good and not just for personal gain?”  I shared with her that it was my relationship with Jesus Christ and she committed to pursuing a personal search for God in her life.  She has a Christian mother and a Muslim father, but hasn’t yet made a commitment in either direction.

The final exciting moment for me was during the retreat with the Association board of directors. After we had assessed their SWOT and determined how much they had to raise to be sustainable, they seemed overwhelmed by their weaknesses and threats and the financial obstacles that they had to overcome to become sustainable.  The Holy Spirit led me to stop and usher us into a moment of prayer and worship.  We prayed, had each person share why they felt compelled to commit to this vision and why they felt the Lord will grant them success, and then we began to sing Our God is an Awesome God.  Tears were shed, we all felt an overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit and we re-engaged and continued the retreat. We left with a completed budget and each board member committing to a sacrificial contribution in the next 12 months to make the association sustainable.

The National Bulgaria Business Association was founded in 2008 by Svetlozar Nikolov.  They have been taking on the banking system in their country for their unjust practices, have fought for the rights of small to medium size businesses throughout Bulgaria and lobbied their government for laws and regulations that favor small to medium size businesses rather than the big multinational corporations.  They are nationally recognized for leading the fight for human rights and friendly government regulations for small to medium size business in Bulgaria.  Since 2010, through the help of Ivan Papish from Ukraine, they began exploring the use of Biblical Entrepreneurship as their core business training curriculum to bring transformation in the lives of their members and reinforce the value of business for the common good versus personal gain. They have now adopted BE as their main training course. All their twelve board members have completed the Biblical Entrepreneurship training and to date they have trained a total of 150 entrepreneurs in Bulgaria.  One of their members, Stanimir Petkov, won third place at the Nehemiah International Business Plan Competition last year in Portland, Oregon. They plan to send another member to this year’s competition in Orlando, Florida during Nehemiah Week from October 8th to 13th.  Svetlozar plans to attend with a small delegation.

Bulgaria is located in Southeastern Europe and is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south and the Black Sea to the east. The population of 7.36 million people is predominantly urban with about living 1.2 million living in the largest city of Sofia. Bulgaria has an industrialized market economy in the upper middle-income range. The private sector accounts for more than 80 percent of GDP with the main industries being energy, tourism, transportation, IT and telecommunications, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and textile and clothing.  Bulgaria is a secular state with guaranteed religious freedom but most Bulgarians subscribe to Eastern Orthodoxy, about 10 percent consider themselves Sunni Muslims, less than three percent are affiliated with other religious and about 30 percent do not identify with any religions or refuse to state their beliefs.

For more information on the work in Bulgaria, Ukraine or our other international ministry partners, or to inquire about acquiring an international license for one of our training programs for another country, visit our website www.nehemiahproject.org.  If you would like to support our scholarship fund for international partners, please visit our Stewardship website at www.nehemiahproject.org/build-walls-with-nehemiah.