Lovech, Bulgaria is a small town 2 1/2 hours from the capitol city of Sofia, nestled in the middle of a beautiful mountain range. On July 10, the COHEU staff was at the Sofia airport to greet a 30-member team from Glad Tidings Assembly, St. Petersburg, FL and New Hope Assembly Three Rivers, MI. These two churches joined together to form this skilled construction team. Over the next 5 days, the team would work in sweltering heat, with temperatures upward of 100 degrees Fahrenheit to complete and transform several areas of the old town Communal Bath building that now houses the local church and provides facilities for community events.
Though the local pastor, George Michailov, has been working tirelessly for 16 years on the building with very little outside help, it has only been in use the last few months. The USA team came with the goal of completing projects that would bring the facility to a level where it could receive certification by the city. Many of the projects that the team finished not only required skilled professionals, but were also very labor-intensive. One of these labor-intensive projects was laying a new courtyard that fronts the building and is used by the community as part of the walking street and plaza area. The team worked side-by-side for days with the local workman laying 40,000 concrete pavers. They not only completed the courtyard, but forged new friendships with many of the local people.
Professional plumbers, welders and drywall hangers were among the team. While they were installing plumbing and hanging wallboard, others were painting and laying hardwood floors and installing a suspended ceiling. A concrete handicap ramp was also completed.
Although the days were busy and long, the team was able to visit two orphanages in the evenings, bringing gifts of soccer balls, hula-hoops, candy, games and lots of miscellaneous hygiene items. The children loved playing games with the team, which often lasted for hours.
Throughout the entire week, the team was able to interact with the people of Lovech. With the community being so small, the group walked everywhere, and was continually greeted by the locals, sometimes with big smiles, sometimes with hugs and always wanting to know “who are you, what are you doing here?” Everyone knew that this group of Americans was working on the old bathhouse.
By Sunday, with the work completed and the week coming to an end, the team celebrated with the locals in the new facilities. One team member had met a Bulgarian girl, now living in the USA. She was astounded when she heard the team was going to Lovech, her hometown. She asked if someone would visit her father who still lived in Lovech and was very ill. Two of the pastors visited her father and the rest of her family came on Sunday to meet the team.
When the team finally left there were tears and hugs all around. Though the team has physically departed, Lovech remain in their hearts and many new friendships have been forged.