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.
In April 2016, they launched the Integration Through Sport Project at a primary school in Svishtov. Since the start of the school year (September 2018), Dessi has been helping Toni to train the younger group.
In early November 2018, during a conversation with the school principal concerning taking children to a Judo tournament in a nearby town, she was eager to employ Dessi as an Educational Mediator, or a liaison between children and parents.
It’s our passion to work with children and help them grow in their relationship with God and His Word. We started a weekly children’s ministry at our church every Thursday. Children from the neighborhood where our new rented facility is have joined us for the last few meetings. Their parents are non-believers.
We work with orphaned teens who have now left the state institutions. Some of them are already married with children. We continue to encourage and assure them in God’s care and love for them. 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.
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%.