Befriending a Shoeshiner
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, June 27.
Note: The narrator doesn’t need to memorize the story, but he or she should be familiar enough with the material so as not to have to read it.
The man shining shoes caught Filip Dmitrov’s attention in Cyprus’ capital, Nicosia.
The stale odor of tobacco smoke clung to his clothes. His hands shook from alcoholism.
Filip didn’t ask for a shoe shine.
“How are you doing, my friend?” Filip asked, speaking in Bulgarian. “Do you need any help?”
The man, Yulian Jankov, looked surprised. No one had asked him such a question since he moved from Bulgaria a decade earlier. It was pleasant to hear someone expressing an interest in him.
But Yulian remained silent.
“Jesus loves each one of us no matter what situation we are in,” Filip said. “He gave his life for us.”
The mention of Jesus impressed Yulian.
The next day, Filip returned.
“How are you doing, my friend?” he asked. “Do you need any help?”
Yulian was surprised that the stranger had returned. Again Filip didn’t ask for his shoes to be polished. Instead, he encouraged Yulian not to waste his money on alcohol and cigarettes.
“It would be wise to put some money aside for savings,” he said.
Every day, Filip spoke with Yulian. Eventually, they exchanged introductions and began to converse. Yulian said he had worked in construction after arriving with his family in Cyprus, but he had lost his job and was kicked out of his home for drinking.
“My family has rejected me,” he said. “One by one, even my closest friends have left me.”
One day, Yulian led his friend to the abandoned building where he slept. The sight brought tears to Filip’s eyes. Yulian slept on a hard floor. He owned nothing but the clothes that he was wearing. His income went only for alcohol and cigarettes.
“You have gone so far,” Filip said, softly. “You have ruined your life, and you need to do something about it. You need help. To God, nothing is impossible. You know, God loves you.”
Filip began to talk about God and to pray with Yulian. Yulian sensed that Filip saw something valuable in him. He began to see God’s love in his life.
One day, Filip said, “Soon you will be 50, and you have only served Satan. It’s time to give your life to Christ, and He will bless you.”
Yulian wanted change.
“I’m ready to give my life to God,” he replied.
Although he had drunk heavily for 35 years, he gave up alcohol that day. Although he had smoked heavily for 35 years, he quit a week later.
Filip and Yulian studied the Bible together. The two men attended Bulgarian-language Bible study groups that Filip led in various places in Cyprus.
Yulian learned that Filip, a native Bulgarian, was a full-time lay preacher employed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the Mediterranean island. Eight people had been baptized through Filip’s work in three years, a significant number for a country where the Adventist Church has only 103 members in a population of 1.1 million.
Yulian became the ninth baptism when he plunged beneath the waters of the Mediterranean Sea on June 23, 2018.
After being baptized, good things started happening in Yulian’s life. He found work in a hotel kitchen that allowed him to take off Sabbaths, a rarity in Cyprus. His family welcomed him back home.
He tells everyone who will listen about his love for God.
“From the day of my baptism, I can’t stop praising God for what He has done in my life and what He is ready to do for every person,” Yulian said in an interview. “Whenever I meet a new person, I like to share my story. I say, ‘If God did it for me, He can do it for you.’”
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help construct a much-needed church building and community center where three Adventist congregations will meet in Cyprus’ capital, Nicosia. Thank you for your generous Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for this and the two other important projects in the Trans-European Division today.