A Voice in the Wilderness

Dr. Stoyko Petkov

“I was born in 1966 into a Christian family in Bulgaria, and I grew up in a Christian home when it wasn’t so easy to be a Christian,” said my friend and colleague Dr. Stoyko Petkov, founder and director of Studio 865, TWR’s national partner in Sofia, Bulgaria. “Those were the years the big communist propaganda machine was working against Christians and Christian leaders. Christians were marginalized.”

Last Tuesday, Stoyko was honored at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee, when he received the Individual Achievement in International Broadcasting Award. In Bulgaria, where only 1 percent of the 7.3 million people are evangelical Christians, he has a passion to reach and equip believers, as well as to present the gospel to unbelievers.

In my interview with Stoyko, I asked him several questions about his life and ministry:

Tell me about your childhood under communism:

My [paternal] grandfather was a preacher. The authorities didn’t like him, and they saw him and the church as a foreign influence. My uncle was one of a few primary contacts for Bible distribution in our country. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1978 and was released in the early 1980s.

As a child, I witnessed the persecution of my parents’ generation by a communist regime. Our church was very alive. The government would not allow the Bible to be taught to those under the age of 18. There were no Sunday schools, so my parents took seriously their responsibility to teach their children the Bible and take us to church. It was during my teenage years [17] that I decided to repent and follow Christ. That was the beginning of my own personal walk.

How did the Lord lead you to establish Studio 865?

In the late 1980s, during the time of perestroika [the attempt to reform the Soviet system], I considered leaving the country. I didn’t know about TWR but only about the radio programs aired [to my country] from the outside. I visited my uncle in Finland who worked for TWR-UK [United Kingdom] to produce Bulgarian programs.

When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, I contacted TWR to learn if there was a need for Bulgarian producers. By invitation, in January 1990, I and two friends relocated to Vienna, Austria, to be trained in radio and TV production. We moved back to Bulgaria in 1991 and established Studio 865. It was the first Christian media organization established after the fall of communism and it’s the largest.

In 1995 we established a Christian newspaper, Evangelical Newspaper. By 1996, in partnership with other ministries, we had the first Roma [Gypsy] language broadcast in Balkan Romani aired by TWR in Europe, and it was produced by two Roma pastors and one lady. We also have a weekly television program. In September 2011, we established a web presence (www.radio865.com).

What does the NRB award mean to you?

Yes, it is individual [award], but this is also for the work and labor of all my colleagues. I’m very blessed with a good team who believe in what we’re doing and who are ready to take it to the next level.

Being a parachurch organization in a country where there is no history of it is challenging. You need strong church leadership who is willing to back you up. Our focus is to strengthen the church, support the church and to work together. We have the same kingdom purpose.

And we’ve been blessed to work with international ministries such as Words of Hope, Thru the Bible, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Family Bible Hour, Project Hannah and others.

How can we pray for your ministry?

We’re dependent on donations for support. Our desire is for our people to have ownership of this project. Please pray for us.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Tangeman

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