Velin was born and grew up as a Muslim in a village in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains. His Bulgarian ancestors converted to Islam in the time of Turkish occupation (1396–1878). As converts, they wouldn’t have to pay the special tax assessed on Christians, and they could get ahead in society.
The first crack in his cultural armor came when his wife turned to Jesus after her sister was led to Christ by a Bulgarian missionary. Velin resisted stoutly, but eventually yielded to God’s persistent and loving pursuit. Under Velin’s leadership, a small congregation of new believers began to meet in the village.
The next breakthrough came when the local Muslim clergyman asked Velin to pray for him to be healed of a crippling disease. God answered Velin’s prayer, and the man was completely healed and consequently stopped leading prayers at the mosque. Because no one led prayers, people stopped coming, and the regional Islamic association closed the mosque.
Meanwhile, the church was growing, but Jesus followers were still a distinct minority when Velin sensed the Holy Spirit prompting him to run for mayor of the village. He did so, and was elected. Within a few months of assuming office, he persuaded the national government to build a road to his village. Because his remote mountain community was situated at 4,000 feet above sea level, no road had ever been built to the village. Then Velin persuaded a bottling company to open a plant in the village to provide jobs. Later he arranged for an educational center (there had been no school), a medical clinic, and a library.
Through one believing family the message of Jesus transformed an entire village!
Postscript (by Eric Vess): This story of God at work illustrates beautifully how ANM connects American believers with what God is doing to bring the message of Jesus to unreached ethnicities throughout the world. ANM regional director George Ainsworth heard the story directly from brother Velin, whom he met through Hari Atanasov, an ANM ministry partner in Bulgaria. Hari had organized a meeting for all the Rhodope Mountain missionaries while George was visiting Bulgaria this past summer. This is a story that will likely never be carried on any news channel or news feed. You are reading Velin’s amazing story because ANM takes seriously our calling to serve as a bridge for American Christians and churches to the front lines of missions around the world.
Eric Vess contributed to this article.