This journey seemed like it was so far off when I first got in contact with Andrea Faris from Reece’s Rainbow in July. Now the journey is upon us and we are on our way for the first trip of, hopefully, many for BRIGHT Children International. God has opened doors and brought together many connections to make this trip happen. First of all, there was the fundraising that had to be done. God provided many generous people that donated time, items, money, and participated in our inaugural. The result to date of fundraising is $11,337.00. Thank you to all of you that made this a reality!  With such success, all event expenses, non-profit set up expenses, and our first trip with instruments to donate were fully funded. The inaugural fundraiser was a memorable evening with beautiful music, a wonderful setting, and great people all with the heart to support a new venture.

We are now embarking on the first adventure for BRIGHT. The bags are packed and movement eastward has started. Packed in our baggage are 5 gathering drums, 60 kid’s wave drums, 250 egg shakers, 125 rhythm stick pairs, 115 single jingle bells, a 5 hand drum set, 100 CDs with Bulgarian children’s music, a small djembe, 150 printouts of our PowerPoint presentation, and a rhythm CD. 17 boxes arrived to BRIGHT’s office three weeks ago and were consolidated down to 6. There was thought of shipping these ahead, but costs were prohibitive and it was substantially less expensive to just check the bags as extra luggage and it also provided reassurance that the packages would actually arrive to our destination.

Here are some pictures of the packing process.

Thursday afternoon, Amy and Bessie will depart from Detroit and via stops through Newark and Munich will arrive into Sofia, Bulgaria Friday at 12:00pm. At the airport, Tanja Pankratz a missionary with SEND will greet us. Tanja has been instrumental in organizing the Down Syndrome parent group in Sofia and planning the conference being held on Sunday. Friday afternoon will be spent getting settled and preparing for the schedule for Saturday. It will also involve meeting with those members of the Connecting The Rainbow team with whom we have partnered. Amy and Bessie will unpack the boxes and group the instruments to be distributed to 51 families with children with Down Syndrome, orphanages, schools, and a safe house.

The details for Saturday have yet to be announced. However, this Saturday happens to be a day where everyone must go to work. It is to make up for a holiday that was given during the week in the past month or two. Due to this orphanage directors will have to be in the orphanage on a Saturday, opening the doors for us to visit. We are anticipating visiting at least one orphanage and providing interactive music to the children and donating instruments that will remain at the orphanage with ideas on how to utilize these with the children. Connecting The Rainbow will also be providing art and other activities and donations. In the evening, there will be a gathering of families with children with Down Syndrome and the Downs Ed group. This will be a time for families to interact with other families, those from Downs Ed and Connecting The Rainbow, and us.

Sunday is a big day. There is a daylong conference from 9am to 5pm with four presentations by professionals who work with children with Down Syndrome. BRIGHT will provide a presentation regarding Music Therapy and providing examples of ideas on how families, teachers, and therapists can incorporate music to assist their children to develop skills and be successful. BRIGHT will also be providing an interactive music group for those children at the conference and consultations with families as time allows. When the plans first started for this trip, there were going to be 30 families and a handful of professional where going to be in attendance. As of Sunday, there are 51 families, 30 therapists, and 30 “others”—teachers, doctors, etc. The number is expected to grow. One thing we have learned is that Bulgarians do not plan ahead and do things last minute.

Over the course of the last few months, Bessie has been in contact with another missionary who works in Stara Zagora, two and a half hours from Sofia. When Bessie first shared about the trip to Margie, she offered to work a way to work with groups in that area if the right doors opened. Margie began talking with an orphanage and a women’s shelter/safe house with whom she works; both groups welcomed the opportunity. Sunday, after the conference, we will head to Stara Zagora.

Monday will be a day spent at the Nezabravka orphanage. We will have the opportunity to work with the younger children up to six years and meet with a teacher at the orphanage. We will possibly have the opportunity to visit Samaritan’s Women’s Shelter. In the later afternoon, we will return to the Nezabravka orphanage to work with the older, school-age children. We will also have a dinner meeting with teachers and others who are interested in learning more about Music Therapy.

Tuesday will have another opportunity to visit the Samaritan’s Women’s shelter and work with the children doing some therapeutic music interventions. We will also have a chance to talk with the psychologist of the shelter to share about Music Therapy and who it could be beneficial to those at the shelter. We will have the chance to do activities with the donated instruments. After these visits, we will head back to Sofia to allow us to get ready for our return to the states bright and early Wednesday morning.

Somewhere in the midst of the busy schedule there are two more missionaries that we would like to at least meet and talk with. We will see what time allows.

We are hoping to provide pictures and blog entries as things happen. In the meantime, here are some ways that you can be praying for us. irst of all safe travels, there are many connections, details, and miles to cover. Secondly, a smooth transition to the time zone with little jet lag. We hit the ground running and will be very busy. Thirdly, that the orphanages and facilities we visit will be open to what we have to share and accept the donations and actually use them with all children in their care. Lastly, that we will help empower the parents who are raising their children without supports.

Thank you for your prayers and support and following our journey. Keep following along and see what happens.