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Chris and Gabriela with Pastor Thorp in front of The Banquet Table.

Break Bread, Not Boards

Anton was fascinated by the martial arts. Karate, judo, kung fu, kickboxing—he loved them all. He became so skilled, he was selected to study in the prestigious Bulgarian National Sports Academy, where he started a sports club and competed in scores of tournaments.

Anton was pleased with his hard-won success, but he felt that something important was missing in his life. One day, he discovered what that something was when he learned about Christ. He fell in love with Jesus and became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church family.

Anton was a changed man. He had never felt happier—or more unsettled. The tournaments he had once relished not only created a conflict with Sabbath keeping but also generated an internal sense of aggression that he found incompatible with his new life. But what was he to do? Martial arts competitions were the only way he knew how to make a living.

It was during this time of Anton's struggle that God answered a special prayer for a group of his Adventist friends, including a businessman named Chris and his wife, Gabriela. They had been praying for two years, asking God to show them how to reach their city of Ruse for Jesus. They had never heard of Urban Centers of Influence, as advocated by Ellen White, yet they felt impressed to start such a center in one of their rental properties.

Chris and Gabriela wondered what services they could offer to meet people’s needs and form friendships with them. As they evaluated their community and the resources God had given them, they discovered some amazing possibilities. Their pastor was a psychotherapist who was willing to conduct weekly seminars. A church member was a masterful seamstress. Community members wanted to volunteer their talents to teach classes in fitness, English, and German. Gabriela could create scrumptious pastries. All that was missing was for someone to bake delicious, healthful bread.

Anton, with his martial arts background, had always been interested in healthful living and wondered whether he could become a successful baker. With Chris and Gabriela’s encouragement, he searched the Internet for recipes and hesitantly started to learn how to bake bread. Today, with God’s blessing, Anton is a successful artisan baker, and the center sells every loaf of bread he can bake.

  • Anton, martial artist turned baker.

  • A delicious, healthful meal served to customers.

  • Chris and Gabriela were delighted to see God at work when a friend donated a piano and then a local music academy asked if its students could perform concerts at The Banquet Table.

  • Attractive books and magazines are available to everyone.

Thinking of Psalm 23 and the bountiful table God provides, Chris and Gabriela named their center The Banquet Table. “What a joy it is to see people become interested in the Bible!” says Chris. “For the past three months, a group has met here every Sabbath and some are preparing for baptism!”

There are plenty of incentives for guests to step inside, including a bakery, café, free classes and seminars, counseling services, a literature rack, concerts, and a playroom for children.

In The Banquet Table, visitors find excellent products and services and, best of all, new friendships with joyous Adventist Christians. They may even discover how God changed Anton from a competitive martial artist to a baker for the Bread of Life!

Pastor Brad Thorp is the assistant to the president for Evangelism Outreach at the Seventh-day Adventist Church world headquarters. He visited Bulgaria in preparation for the Total Member Involvement initiative in Eastern Europe.