Inspired by the cross-media interaction of ideas and teams during the 2018 GAiN Europe* conference in Valencia, Spain, Communication leaders in Bulgaria committed themselves to develop similar outreach projects in their own country – a land that is traditionally Orthodox but that is today very secular.
While Bulgaria is part of the Inter-European Division [EUD], it shares common ground with many of the media challenges in the TED, resulting in Trans-European Division Communication director, Victor Hulbert, being invited to join with the eighty participants at the Bulgarian Media Academy over the holiday weekend of 3-6 May.
Under the motto ‘Let Us Do Something New!’, Seventh-day Adventist leadership organised the Academy in order to actively develop the use of communication skills so they could reach people with the good news of salvation.
According to Communication director, Peter Kuzev, the volunteers invited to the event, many of whom were “the best, of the best of the best”. Seeing their commitment and enthusiasm during the meetings at Hotel Detelina near Varna, on the Black Sea Coast, Hulbert would have to agree:
“This Media Academy was an inspiration to me. To see a very small, but committed, team of church employees generate such a high level of commitment, dedication and passion from a mixture of youth and volunteer professionals makes me wonder how many times this could be mirrored across Europe,” Hulbert stated.
Addressing the audience, Corrado Cozzi, EUD Communication director, remarked that the audience looked to him like a youth camp. “This is surely the best investment for the Church: to have young people involved in evangelism through media,” he said.
The aim was to combine lectures, workshops and the development of practical projects. To help motivate and train the participants, Kusev, invited outstanding international speakers like Pedro Torres, Franco-Belgian Union Communication Director, Wolfgang Schick, Vice-President of the Stimme-der-Hoffnung Media Center in Germany, as well as Hulbert.
They talked to the group about the role of media in the Church’s outreach activities, how to get a local church event into the news, how to avoid the traps of the fake news, and how ordinary lay-people and volunteers may become full-time media employees.
On the first evening, participants were challenged by Cozzi to decide who they want to be – journalists or witnesses. Journalists report other people’s stories which they have never seen for themselves. Witnesses talk about their own experiences as the Gospel’s mission demands.
The highest point of interest for the participants was linked to workshop topics like: “Smartphone vs. Hollywood”; “Blog & Vlog”; “Journalistic Writing”; “How to become successful leaders”; “Artful writing of text for an article, documentary and movie” and “How to improve the image of the Church in society.”
Many ideas emerged during the conference, including a major plan to celebrate the historic translation of the Bulgarian Bible with a roaming exhibition around the country as well as a media presence, to produce a series of social media clips highlighting the importance of fathers in a country where almost 50% of birth registrations do not name a father, and to record at least thirty clips of young people sharing their first-hand faith experiences. Working through the night, some of the youth managed to produce several short video clips on values and presented them during the closing ceremony.
“The dedication to the task that could be felt during the Media Academy was outstanding. I compliment the Bulgarian Union for the very good organisation and their efforts to include young people in the work of the Church, for the benefit of all,” Wolfgang Schick shared.
“Seeing so many young people engaged and willing to serve God and His church has encouraged me to continue in my ministry with even more enthusiasm,” reflected Pedro Torres. “The Church in Bulgaria has a brilliant future,” he added.
“I was impressed by the creativity and constant improvement of the talents and abilities of the communication, and other departments involved in this meeting in Bulgaria,” said Elsa Cozzi, EUD Children’s Ministries director. She was present at the Academy to support child-oriented projects and believes that the plans they developed will be a real blessing for children across Bulgaria.
Hulbert believes their vision may stretch even further. “The engagement in the workshops and projects was impressive,” he said. “It bodes well for Mission for Bulgarian-speaking people, both in the country and the wider diaspora.”
Among recommendations that came from the young participants was a perceptive one to include retired people as a viewer-target group on YouTube, an often-overlooked group. However, the main recommendation was to dedicate more time to practical implementations of the group’s ideas as their hands were itching to get right to work!
“This Media Academy was an inspiration to me,” affirmed Iskra Tomanova, co-organiser of the event. “With an army of young people willing to share their faith in contemporary ways through social media while trusting in God as the Helper at their side, both the present and the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bulgaria looms bright.” That is the hope and belief of the organisers.
The original verson of this article was first published in Inter-European Division News.
*GAiN Europe is the combined Global Adventist internet Network of the Inter-European and Trans-European Divisions. It will next meet in Bucharest, Romania, 24 – 27 April 2020.