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Staying Where the People Are

Staying Where the People Are

The sudden death of a friend caused Martin to stare out across the Black Sea and contemplate his own life as he sipped some strong afternoon coffee.* Martin was a successful importer of furniture from Thailand into Verna, Bulgaria for distribution all across Europe. Growing up as a missionary kid in rural Thailand, he would never have imagined being where he was today.

Even as a teen, Martin discerned that his parents, although “faithful,” were a bit too colonial and not very effective. At age 16, he kept his head down through the reverse culture shock while attending a boarding school and then a Christian university in the United States.

Graduating with a double major in Bible and business, he went on to do grad studies in entrepreneurship at Indiana University. It was at a Christian student fellowship that Martin encountered three life-changers. He met Sarah, he met Andrei, and he also repeatedly heard challenges to “live for a purpose, not a paycheck,” to use his career to fulfill the commission that Jesus gave His disciples.

He and Sarah wove their lives together and puzzled and prayed for two years about how they could do marketplace ministry. Martin knew Thailand. Should they just move to Bangkok? It was certainly a needy city. Four months after they were married, and with the enthusiastic support of their church, Martin and Sarah convinced Andrei to go with them on a vision trip to Bangkok. Andrei was from Bulgaria, and after some struggles with a visa, the three returned to Martin’s old home.

They were hit with the odd and horrible mixture of Western materialism and Eastern mysticism in Bangkok. While gathering their thoughts over an afternoon coffee next to a furniture shop, Andrei amazingly melted down with a burden for his own Bulgaria. Martin and Sarah listened compassionately, and as Andrei regained his composure, he laughed through his tears that there was really beautiful furniture next door that was extremely popular in Bulgaria. And the idea was born.

Now, six years later, after raising start-up capital, a commissioning service in Indiana, two years of learning Bulgarian, and having all of the red tape of setting up a business in a foreign country blessedly behind them, Martin and Sarah were importers of Thai goods.

And now Andrei was gone. They could blame it on the medical system, but it was God’s timing, and neither fact made the pain easier. They had been a great ministry threesome, and God had blessed them with many who had trusted Christ, from furniture dealers to dock workers.

Martin and Sarah are now involved with two church-plants; a blue-collar group in Varna, and 20 minutes to the north a white-collar church in Chaika. Like Aquila and Priscilla, they have no plans to leave the marketplace. That is where the lost are. That is where their relationships are. “Ministry” looks very different from what his parents knew, but they have no doubts and no regrets.

*Names and places have been changed for security reasons.

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