“Thank you for talking to me.” Those words, spoken by a man experiencing homelessness touched Plamen’s heart in a way he finds difficult to explain.”
From Bulgaria to Nashville
Growing up in Bulgaria, homelessness was a foreign concept for Plamen, until 1989. “The government took care of everyone. After the fall of communism, people started losing their jobs. That’s when we started seeing people living on the streets or in abandoned buildings.”
Plamen was 13 when he was allowed to attend church for the first time. “I was raised with communist ideals. We worshiped idols. We had institutions built just to prove there was no God. But the first time I heard the pastor teach, I was impressed. He was talking about something he knew so well—that I knew nothing about. It bothered me so much. I wanted to know more about it.”
His passion to know more, not just about his faith in God, but in science, would bring him all the way from Bulgaria to Nashville. “I came to Nashville in 2002 to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University,” said Plamen. “After graduating, I did postdoctoral studies at Vanderbilt University where I studied DNA damage caused by environmental carcinogens. Today, I work as a Drug Discovery Scientist II and am researching drugs that target cancer cells. Some people think science and faith can’t co-exist. But I know differently. I enjoy bringing the two together and showing people more about what God has made. In fact, He has made everything.”
Meeting at the Mission
“I first learned of Nashville Rescue Mission through the associate pastor of my church. He invited me to join him on the 4th Monday night of each month to preach at the Mission’s nightly chapel service.”
It was in 2007 Plamen met a homeless man whose comment, ‘Thank you for talking to me,’ would change his perspective. “We picked men up on Sunday mornings and took them back to our church, where we served them breakfast, followed by Sunday school, and a church service. I struck up a conversation with a man who had recently had brain surgery. We talked about the weather, what I did for a living, and lots of different things. As I started to leave, he stopped me and said, ‘Thank you for talking to me. Thank you for having an intellectual conversation with me.’ He explained that people avoided him and didn’t talk to him. They thought he was irrational. He appreciated being treated like a regular person. It was a very touching moment for me.”
Two years ago, Plamen and his family moved to Mt. Juliet, where they started attending a new church, The Turning Point with J. Kurtis Burton as Senior Pastor. “I started bringing a group from church to do dinner prep or serve breakfast. After that, it grew, and now we bring a group of six to ten people to serve twice a month.”
From Teaching to Serving
After teaching in the chapel for those 12 years, Plamen remembers the first time he volunteered in the kitchen. “Some of the men were saying, ‘Why are you here? You’re a preacher. You shouldn’t be here. You’re supposed to teach.’ I told them, ‘Why not? It doesn’t make sense to have one without the other. We are called to do both—teach and serve.’”
“Serving at the Mission has been a great thing for our church and for me,” said Plamen. “A lot of people were excited to volunteer. So many in our church want to serve and touch people. I love going to Nashville Rescue Mission, and the church loves it as well. Helping others makes life fulfilling.”
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