Nik and Alex: a Paul and Timothy story
by Laurie Lind, Entrust staff writer
Brimming with zeal for the God he recently came to know, a young man attends a Christian finance conference. He walks into the auditorium and takes the first open seat he sees, finding himself next to a man about his father’s age. The older man greets the younger man.
Before the conference ends, the older and younger man are fast friends. Over the next few years, they will find themselves ministering together around their country and abroad, the younger man considering the older his spiritual father and mentor.
The young man is Alex Tsvetkov. The older man is Nikolay “Nik” Nedelchev.
Nik came to faith in Christ during Bulgaria’s communist regime. As a young believer, he received theological and ministry training from Entrust staff, men who traveled into Bulgaria on a periodic basis to equip leaders in secret. Nik devoured the training. He translated and illegally distributed the written training materials across Bulgaria.
When Bulgaria’s threats against Christians eased, Nik took his work public. He founded the biblical academy LOGOS—which later became the Evangelical Theological Institute. He traveled the country, teaching and training pastors.
Then came that fateful day in 2007 at the conference, when he happened to find a passionate new Christian named Alex sitting beside him.
Alex was a finance student at the university. In his eagerness to live out his faith in every sphere of life, Alex attended this national conference to learn what the Bible has to say about finance.
“I was sitting with Nik for a few days during this conference when we established a deeper relationship. We became friends. It was so inspiring being next to him I can say I stuck with his spiritual mentorship and spiritual fatherhood since then.”
Over the course of several years, Nik taught Alex what he’d learned from Entrust trainings—concepts from Walking with Christ, The Life of Christ, Romans and Galatians, Evangelism and Discipleship. Nik began to take Alex with him as he traveled Bulgaria, teaching these and other courses. Gradually, he encouraged Alex to teach portions of the courses. Eventually, he had Alex take the lead teaching role while he sat in. Finally, Nik sent Alex out on his own to continue to teach and train others in Bulgaria.
Nik and Alex followed this Paul/Timothy teaching pattern for more than 10 years, not only in Bulgaria, but also in neighboring Serbia and the Middle East. They have traveled together to other countries as well—Northern Macedonia, Czech Republic and Poland.
Some of their most concentrated effort has been in Serbia. “We dedicated our spiritual friendship in service to our brothers and sisters in Serbia,” Alex says. The men and women he and Nik taught were young, primarily 20 to 35 years old, involved in local churches as new believers and eager to learn.
“We know they are active ministers of the Lord. Some of them were deacons, no matter their young age. The church in Serbia—the hunger is huge for prepared people to minister,” Alex says, describing them as “filled with fire from the Lord to share their faith and help others.”
Some of those students even became pastors. The current pastor of one the churches hosting the trainings started out as one of the students. His wife was the translator. “Now they’re leading the whole church with young people [to whom] now they’re teaching these principles.”
Although Alex and Nik cannot be on-site with their protégés in Serbia, they trust God to continue his work in each person’s life. “Our hope is that we gave something good and biblically true to them,” Alex says, adding that he trusts the Serbs have understood the Christlike attitudes and character qualities necessary for good church leadership.
While he loves and prays for those Timothys he has trained in Serbia, Alex also continues to disciple additional young people at St. Trivelius Bible Institute and is now working toward establishing an international youth training center in Sofia.
What were some ways that God used Nik Nedelchev to impact Alex Tsvetkov?
First, Alex says, is Nik’s “gift of encouraging others.”
A close second would be Nik’s desire to train the next generation. Alex says he’s learned from Nik to “invest in young people and train them to see how God is working in their lives and also to see how they [can] train others and invest in other young people.”
Thirdly, Alex says, is Nik’s “endless optimism and motivation.” He calls Nik a bridge-builder. “He can bring different people together. This is incredibly inspiring. It was something that, during the first year we were ministering together, I decided I want to have in my life. To help people become closer, to work together, to bring unity among people, in order to see the body of Christ on earth functioning better, benefitting others and proactively working for his glory.”
Alex explains that Nik never spelled these things out to him. He simply lived them. “It was always the example. No matter which point in the work we were in, he was the same everywhere, helping others, communicating, interested in peoples’ lives and remembering who they are. He remembers a lot of data about people everywhere in the world. He really cares about people.”
“One of the greatest examples I have from Nik,” Alex says is that “he is a very active Christian. He is not so much into words and talking, but he is a man of action, which I admire.”
Nik to Alex. Alex to young people in Bulgaria, Serbia and other countries. Those young people, in turn, to those in their spheres of influence. Then these new disciples to their parts of the world. It is, once again, 2 Timothy 2:2 being lived out. Who knows where it will end?
And an excellent challenge to each of us. Who is our Paul? Who is our Timothy? Good questions to ponder in prayer.
An example in real time
I interviewed Alex Tsvetkov via Zoom in April 2022. Mid-way through our conversation, our connection was interrupted. I waited, hoping the issue would resolve. Eventually it did. Alex came back, full of apologies.
He had paused the call on his end to take a phone call. Here, in his own words, is why he had to take that call.
“Unfortunately, I lost a friend of mine, young age. He was 42. And he died recently so his mother [was] calling. I provide according to the example in the Bible when Jesus said, ‘Mother this is your son, son this is your mother.’ I am trying to, at least with God’s help, give her comfort in this hard time. Now she has this need to be in touch with me and this is how she is overcoming the lack of her son. They were very close. We were friends. He was one of my students in the Bible Institute. He was also part of [the] Entrust course I was leading.”
As the one conducting the interview and as one who has followed Christ for many more years than Alex, I found myself convicted and inspired. The younger is teaching the older. Alex is a role model to me.