UMC building in Bulgaria collapsed

The first days of August once again brought heavy rains to Bulgaria, which caused severe floods in the area of Mizia in the northwest of the country. At least two people were killed, many people lost all their belongings, and the United Methodist Church was also hit very hard: the house, which served as church building, collapsed on August 6.

Following heavy rains, the level of the river Skat, which passes through Mizia and enters the Danube less than 10 km in the north, increased within hours. The river burst its banks and flooded the town of about 3700 inhabitants. At least two nearby villages were also flooded. The water level was between three and five meters.

Two people lost their lives, and dozens of people were missing. Since many houses became uninhabitable, hundreds of people had to be evacuated. Bulgarian Red Cross teams provided them with drinking water, food and shelter.

On August 6, when most parts of the town were still under water, the house, which was owned by the United Methodist Church in Bulgaria and which served as place of worship, as meeting room for Bible studies and as home for a comprehensive ministry with children and youth, partly collapsed. The construction is so heavily damaged that it is not meaningful to repair it – if it will not entirely collapse in the next few days anyhow.

Only a few days ago, on Saturday, August 2, there was a youth meeting in this church, and a joint worship service was celebrated with members of the nearby Voyvodovo UMC and with a mission team of the partner church West Market Street UMC in Greensboro, NC (USA). These were the last activities before the extreme floods came.

Mizia UMC is a quite young congregation. After restoration of the church in Voyvodovo, a desire grew for establishing a church in Mizia, as well. The beginning was laid in 1996 after a successful mission. A public hall was rented, and preachers from Pleven UMC (about 100 km away) as well as a Korean missionary couple from Sofia (about 200 km away) regularly travel to Mizia in order to preach there. It was and still is an important mission because there is no other Protestant Church in town. In 1999 the house, which now collapsed, was bought. Mizia UMC has 12 professing members, an average worship attendance of 25 people, a youth group with about 10 young people, and a Sunday school with more than 20 children.

The area of Mizia and Voyvodovo is one of the poorest regions in Bulgaria. Many people are unemployed and hardly have anything to live on. The perspectives for the future are not good at all. Now the broader community is very heavily affected by this disaster. The town still cannot be reached without special equipment, and mobile communications are very difficult. But in spite of all this leaders and members of the UMC in Bulgaria are and will be present in this difficult situation in order to provide people with practical help, comfort, and hope. The Methodist family abroad is once again called to stand at the side of those faithfully serving people in distress.

Source: Supt. Daniel Topalski, Bulgaria / Mary Ann James, West Market Street UMC
Date: August 7, 2014