“For years my sister and I dreamed of creating a place where people felt comfortable and that reflected our artistic and Christian lifestyle values. A place where we could reach out to people and make friends for Jesus,” says Antoniya.
Recently, Antoniya and Silviya launched the Salted Café in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. Silviya, an architect, describes it as a new concept of place. It combines unique features under one roof, including a café, a juice bar, a bakery, a Christian library, a bookstore, a venue for social events, and a screening room.
“Our secular society views believers as outsiders,” says Silviya. “They see us as people who either keep to ourselves or, on the other extreme, are annoying in our attempts to persuade them to believe what we see as truth. We don’t believe we’ve shared the gospel simply by telling people the truth. We want to follow Jesus’ example of mingling with people and meeting their needs and only then inviting them on a journey with God.
Urban Centers of Influence
Adventist Mission supports wholistic mission to the cities. This includes a rapidly growing number of Urban Centers of Influence that serve as a platform for putting Christ’s method of ministry into practice and an ideal opportunity for Total Member Involvement in outreach that suits each person’s particular gifts and passions.
From refugee assimilation centers, juice bars, and secondhand shops to cooking classes, cafés, and after-school child care, Urban Centers of Influence provide long-term, on-the-ground ministry that connects with people on a local and personal level.
“We also want to show society that you can be modern and innovative, appreciate and create aesthetic design, and still be a Christian with God at the center of your life.”
When Antoniya and Silviya created the Salted Café, they’d never heard Ellen White’s concept of establishing centers of influence to reach urban people for Christ, but through study and prayer, God gave them the idea to create just such a place.
“We secured a building and made the necessary renovations, but when it came to thinking of a name for it, we were stuck,” says Antoniya. “We both kept thinking of Jesus telling us to be the salt of the earth and decided on the name the Salted Café. We want to be the salt that makes people thirsty for Christ.”
Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, has a metro population of approximately 1.7 million people. With its universities, businesses, and cultural centers, it teems with young people. It’s a very beautiful but secular city where only a small portion of the population is spiritually oriented.
The Salted Café is listed on all the major tourist Internet sites for vegetarian and vegan food. A rack filled with books and magazines provides a variety of resources while beautiful posters share Bible texts that encourage and inspire customers.
The main table area in the Salted Café can be easily rearranged as an informal meeting space where pastors and other specialists make presentations and lead discussions. Topics vary from Bible subjects to cooking classes to healthy relationships. Between 20 and 45 non-Adventists attend each event.
One tangible way that Antoniya and Silviya share Jesus’ love is through their reinvention of the fortune cookie. They’ve placed a bowl filled with paper fortune cookies close to where customers pay for their meal. When their guests select a cookie, they find an inspiring Bible promise.
Openly Christian, attractive, friendly, inviting, and nonthreatening, the Salted Café is a doorway in Sofia inviting clients to taste and thirst for more of the gospel. “This has been so rewarding,” says Silviya. “We encourage others to use their gifts in a creative way to reach people for Jesus.”
Photos courtesy of Brad Thorp and the Salted Café.
Christ’s Method of Ministry
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’”
(The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).