As a new Christian in 1991 Toni became involved in his local church which eventually led on to his attending Bible College. From the very beginning he started helping in the church of which he was part. He had a ministry in local villages and at the home for elderly people in his town. Together with other young people from the church, they led the youth ministry, Toni preached in his church and was in its leadership. In 1995 Toni married his wife Desislava and God spoke him about quitting his job as a professional judo player/trainer and committing themselves to church planting. Their ministry began in Varbitsa, and later moved to their home town of Svishtov where they pastor Christ’s Evangelical Church, Shalom.
They have two wonderful boys, John, who is currently studying in Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia for a degree in Business Administration. Their second son Ezekiel lives and studies at home.
Toni and Dessi’s desire is to serve God and His people, to see His church grow and reach their city and the region where they live in Bulgaria. Also, to build a church that carries the family spirit and is passionate about expanding the kingdom of God.
Over the past five years they have also been ministering in a home for children deprived of family care, some of whom have a criminal record. In 2016 they started a project called “Integration of children deprived of family care through sport”. I use the sport I used to do, judo, to train them to build their character and prepare them for the difficulties that they may face after leaving the institution and entering the world.
In the last year many of the believers stopped coming to the meetings for no apparent reason. Some of them are very busy working at weekends, others are very tired of the situation in our town, still others just stopped coming. This is also the reason for the significant drop in the church finances. In March this year, my wife was released from work with the church and had to start a regular job. In most likelihood, I’ll also have to be released from working full-time at the church and look for a job in our town. At present, our income is extremely low, and we have no financial aid from elsewhere.
Our greatest expense is the cost of our older son studying in Sofia, which is £260 per month; this is normally a whole salary in our town.
We need a new car. We used our car for all the ministries of the church, and mostly in the last year to serve the children from the home for children deprived of family care. We have traveled over 15,000 km only for this ministry, the car is more than 15 years old. In recent months we have paid more than £600 for repairs. We should replace it with a new one, but we do not have the means to do so.
Bulgaria is the poorest member of the EU. Christians in Bulgaria have a history of persecution stemming from the Communist regime (1980’s) which has left Bulgaria in a state lacking the understanding of religious freedom. Evangelicals stand at only 1.9%.