Excerpt from Chapter 7: A Trip To Madara

On their “preparation day” the missionaries organized a trip to Madara. It is a village located approximately 100 kilometers east of Varna and is known for the Madara Horseback Rider. The group consisted of 16 elders and sisters from Varna, Shumen and Dobrich, all of them Americans, who had only heard of the Rider but today they were also going to see it. It was a warm June day. Everything around them was green and beautiful. Through the bus windows they could see the hilly Danube plain in its complete beauty. They felt as if at any moment Khan Asparuh’s cavalry would appear behind a hill.

The bus made a last groan and stopped at the foot of the tall rocky mountain. Everyone got off and started preparing. The air smelled like summer. Suddenly one sister looked up in amazement, pointed and said: “Look, look up!”

Everyone looked in the direction she was pointing at. It became quiet. It was an incredible breath-taking and mythical view. High up, where the human foot couldn’t step, was an ancient carved in stone figure of a true-to-size horseman. The warrior was holding a spear with which he was piercing a lion at the base of the horse. Behind the warrior was a running dog. The composition was surrounded by ancient writing in a circle. Silent in their thoughts, everyone started climbing up the specially constructed for tourists stairs in order to get a bit closer to the phenomena.

Elder Nelson felt a strange sensation. Something shook him inside and he shivered. He felt as if he had seen this place before – this ancient carving. He felt he knew the face of the rider, oh heavens, he even heard the rider calling him in an unknown language by name. “What is happening to me?” thought the Bulgarian American. He sat for a moment on the ground and tried to take control of the feelings that took over him. He was taught to go somewhere alone and pray if he feels unknown and strange thoughts coming to him. He went to a lane on the right, separated from the group and paced quickly until arrived upon a green glade. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay alone for long! Two sisters and elder Nebeker caught up to him.

“Elder Nelson, please help!” said his companion. “The sisters have a stomach disorder and they want us to give them a blessing! Come on, elder!”

Elder Nelson never refused such help. He was known for his healing skills among the missionaries and members of the Church and was much sought after for them. He had explained countless times that these skills come from Heavenly father but that made people admire him even more. Here, indeed in Bulgaria, he had developed these skills and he never forgot that.

The sisters sat on a stone. The elders laid their hands on the head of one of them and elder Nelson started a special prayer. He finished with “Amen!” They repeated the same with the other sister. They finished, the sisters thanked them and went back. Elder Nebeker shortly went after them.

Elder Nelson didn’t stay alone for long again. Suddenly, from the nearby bushes, an aging man emerged, and began approaching with a slight cough, while folding a colorful blanket. It was obvious he was getting up from an afternoon nap and meant no harm. His eyes were wide open.

“I apologize if we woke you up,” quickly and politely said elder Nelson. The man stopped but kept on staring at him with an open mouth. That was a bit over the usual courtesy.

“What is it, sir? Why are you staring at me like that?” asked even more politely elder Nelson.

“Oh, nothing, I apologize. I must still be dreaming!” said the man while brushing his trousers. He was not Bulgarian. The elder could tell right away from his clothing and his accent. “I had heard of how Bulgarians heal through the laying on of hands and prayer! If I am not dreaming this must be some miracle, praise Allah!” he added.