Jackie, Ashleigh, Danielle and me enjoying some quality time together. Oh how I miss you guys already.
Someone got this pic during worship time of us.
Isabelle's first trip to the beach. Pretty cool that its in Greece.
Isabelle, Eleanor and John
Picking grapes at our landlords vineyard.
Eleanor ate so many grapes her whole mouth was purple. We thought for sure she was going to be sick, but she never did.
The last month has been a whirlwind. Exactly one month ago today our wonderful friends Kevin and Danielle Foster arrived along with their two kids to spend time with us for a couple weeks. They hung out with us at our new home in Velingrad and got to experience a little bit of our daily lives. Then we all came to Sofia to prepare for NMSI's triennial retreat which was hosted in Bulgaria and Greece this year. We spent two weeks worshipping, attending workshops, praying, and fellowshipping with over 200 missionaries serving around the world. It was an incredible blessing. We got to catch up with so many friends who we love and miss. Now we are back in Sofia getting some stuff done (like doctor's appointments, team meetings, etc.) before heading back to Velingrad to begin really diving into relationship building and surveying the region for what things are really needed and how we can best make God's love known. Despite all three of us having a cold during the retreat, we are feeling mentally refreshed from the retreat. Isabelle changed so much in the last month. She is 5 mos. today. She now chews on her feet, laughs out loud all the time, rolls over every time I lay her down, reaches for everything, and watches everyone just taking it all in. She makes us laugh and smile all the time these days, even though getting her to nap is twice as hard now that she rolls over and is curious about everything going on around her. She's beautiful and such a happy baby.
Well we are finally here living in Velingrad. We are going on three weeks in our new home and already we have met so many new people and learned so much. Our apartment is the first floor of a three story home and the owners live above us with a guest house on the third floor. They have truly made us feel like part of the family -- loving on Isabelle, inviting us to meals and letting us be part of their birthday celebrations. They also have already taught us so many new words and helped us find our way around Velingrad. We've also met with one of the Pastors and his family in the area as well as with a girl named April who has been serving here for three years with the Peace corp. During the coming months we plan to find all the local churches and pastors as well as any active NGOs. The more we interact with people the more we see the spiritual realities around us. This city is surrounded by Roma villages and Turkic Muslim villages. And the people are very much divided. Being from a generation in the states that considers discrimination of another race as something unacceptable and of the past, it has been eye opening and at times shocking to hear how these different people groups living in the same region interact with one another. Some believers are worshiping among the Bulgarians and the Roma, but unity is something far from being accomplished. Also the number of Muslim people in this area becomes more and more of a burden on our hearts everyday. Right now we are realizing more and more how far we have to go with language, but I think moving at a much faster pace as we feel more of a longing to truly communicate love and truth to those around us. Enjoy the pictures. Isabelle is growing like crazy and starting to giggle and smile all the time.
Isabelle rolled over for the first time yesterday. It came out of nowhere. Everything changes now, right? So in this video she had a little bit of a bonk and we were great parents and cheered her on. Don't worry she was happy afterwards. Watch and enjoy.
Wow! Isabelle is growing growing. She now weighs over 8 1/2 pounds. She's starting to really pay attention now when you talk to her and occasionally she smiles back. Also she has started scooting all around in her bed. I will lay her one direction and when I come back in when she wakes up her head is facing the side of the crib instead of the top. Some days though she really doesn't like to sleep during the day, but it has been getting better. She was averaging a 5 to 6 hour stretch of sleep in the night but she hasn't made it past 3 1/2 in about 4 or 5 nights. I think she is in a growth spurt. Gabe and I are adjusting more and more to parenthood. We bought a team van two weeks ago which has made things much easier for us. Now we are able to go places with Isabelle and I can get out of the house more. Plus it has been great for all kinds of ministry stuff already like driving the interns, airport pickups, trips to Velingrad, etc. Enjoy the pics of our little princess.
She's staring at herself in the mirror here. We love her new play mat. And she seems more interested in it everyday.
I love this picture. She's so much more alert these days.
We are Gabriel and Melissa Hillman ministering in Bulgaria with New Mission Systems International. We are currently living in Velingrad improving our language skills and assessing the needs of the surrounding communities. We plan to minister to the Roma (Gypsies) and Turkic Muslims of southern Bulgaria by sharing Christ's love and meeting relevant needs of the community.