In the summer of 2007, we sat down to visit with a local missionary at a cafe in the centre of Stara Zagora. As we talked, we soon heard the sound of children angrily yelling at each other. It was a group of boys, confronting one single boy—a gypsy. Because his skin was darker than theirs, he was singled out as something less than worthless.
This one boy was backed into a corner, clearly scared but ready to fight. As the shouting continued, we stepped between the boys.
“Why are you yelling at our friend?” we asked.
Suddenly, it got quiet. None of the boys knew what to think. I am certain that this was the first time anyone had called this boy “friend.”
Over the next week, we were able to show Krasimir that we weren’t kidding. He really was important—to us, and more importantly, to God. Everywhere we went in Stara Zagora, out of the corner of our eyes we’d see him following us. If we were carrying things, he’d be right there to carry them for us, proudly showing us how strong he was. If we had food to share with him, he’d first make sure everyone else had enough. By the end of our stay, we knew him to be a smart kid who cared about others and was thankful to be called a friend.
Our hearts broke when the time came for us to leave, and Krasi tried to come with us on the bus. We told him that we couldn’t take him with us, but that God would never leave him. We promised him that we would come back again and find him.
That winter, Natalie and some friends returned to Stara Zagora, spending several days in below zero weather searching for Krasi. They walked all over Stara Zagora, showing people his picture and asking if they knew where to find him. Everywhere people recognized him, and pointed them to another place he might be. All over the city, people recognized his picture and tried to help find him, but to no avail. We realized that his community probably moved somewhere warmer in the winter months, and would return when it was warmer – and when they did, everywhere that Krasi went people would tell him about the tall American woman who had come looking for him that winter, and he would know that we kept our promise. We immediately began to pray and make plans for the following summer.
By the time we got to Bulgaria in the summer of 2008, the story of Krasimir had spread. We discovered that many of our Bulgarian friends thought that the idea of us returning to a city of over 150,000 people to try and find this one boy, whose last name we didn’t even know, much less his address, or anything else about—was nothing more than absolutely crazy. However, they were willing to humor us, so back we went, with our entire team.
We got to Stara Zagora early on a Sunday morning, and immediately went to church. It was the longest service of our lives. After the service, the dear old ladies at the church wanted to feed us. We were extremely thankful and blessed, but it felt like time had stopped. We walked a mile or so to our hotel, got everyone checked in and gave them time to shower. We called home and asked our pastor to have the church pray that we would be able to find Krasi. Finally, we left the hotel, focused on our mission.
Spoiler alert: this story probably doesn’t have the ending you think it does. 150,000 people. One boy. One random summer day. A general idea of where he might be. We don’t know anything about him, other than his first name. You have to admit, the odds were stacked against us.
We didn’t find Krasimir.
As we made our way to the Centre, we walked slowly, craning our necks to see down every street, in every group of people, every alley. We hadn’t gone more than two blocks before we saw two young shapes running toward us from several blocks away. As they got closer, our hearts beat faster and faster. Our Bulgarian friends faces showed shock and disbelief. We had not found him. Krasi and his brother Yakov found us! They ran and jumped into Natalie’s arms, surrounded by a crowd of people who didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Most of us did both. We spent the rest of that day and the next with them, continuing to show them that they were valuable and not forgotten, treasured by a loving God.
When you expect God to be there, He always delivers.