A New Beginning for once-homeless Maria.

Maria Ralcheva, a woman who was once homeless and who found faith through Street Mercy and saw all her prayers answered.

Four years ago, Maria lost everything in a terrible car accident.

Her husband was killed in the collision, and because Maria was driving the car, her daughter blamed her for his death. She no longer wanted a relationship with Maria, and threw her out the family flat that she’d just inherited.

All at once – in the midst of her grief and distress – Maria found herself homeless. 

"I was devastated,” Maria said. “I’d spent all my life taking care of my daughter and she just threw me away, threw me out of our flat. “I had relatives who I’ve supported in the past – but no one offered me any help.”

Maria, 66, has lived most of her life in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital. She once worked in electrical design, specialising in power stations. In 1990, the year after communism collapsed, she was made redundant, and she and her husband started up a small business that they ran together.

When Maria became homeless, she would sleep on a bench in the park at night, or under the balconies of blocks of flats. During the day she would gather plastic bottles for recycling, receiving a tiny amount of cash for them. Despite being shy and self-conscious, she overcame her shame in digging through rubbish bins to find what she could.

“There's no room for shame when you're hungry", she said.


Her lowest point came when she fell in the snow and broke her leg while gathering plastic bottles. It was the most difficult period of Maria’s life. She was lonely, hungry, unable to move, and utterly desperate. And in the midst of a crisis like this, there continued the everyday emotional and physical sufferings Maria regularly experienced –the humiliation of being viewed as worthless by society; the struggle to preserve any sense of self or dignity. 

What kept her alive was her faith in God, a faith she had found thanks to Street Mercy – a homeless project run by Mission Without Borders (MWB) in Sofia.

At Street Mercy, a Bible reading is shared before the meal is distributed each day to the homeless – and there are Bible studies too, which Maria took part in. As she heard the gospel and found out what Jesus had done for her, she came to understand that God would not leave her despite the difficulties she was going through, and she firmly believed that God had a plan for her. 

 Every day Maria would wait for Street Mercy’s white bus to arrive, not only so she could receive her warm soup and bread, but also because she looked forward to talking to Anna Atanasova, MWB’s Street Mercy coordinator. She knew she could always share her troubles with her and Anna was always ready to hear and to help in any way possible. 

Maria said, “The warm soup saved my life, as well as the warm clothes, the shoes and the medicine when I needed it. 

 “The coat you gave me was like a thick quilt. It preserved my life when the temperature fell below zero during the winter. 

 “But most of all,” she added, “My heart was touched by the care and love you showed me.”

                                                                                        …story continued below

In her prayers, Maria asked God for many things – not only that she would have a roof over her head but also that God would restore her relationships with her daughter and her family.

“I believe that God loves me and I often feel his presence," Maria said.

Although Maria was still sleeping rough, she was allowed to see her two granddaughters, and sometimes came to Street Mercy with them. The second miracle was a job for her – one of the hospitals in Sofia needed a hospital attendant and Maria gladly accepted the job offer. It was a difficult at first as she hadn’t worked for years and she was nervous. However she had support, and now she has a permanent job with a contract and steady salary. 

“The people from the Street Mercy project are like family to me and I feel so happy with them,” Maria said. “But things couldn’t go on this way. I had to preserve my dignity and find a way out of being homeless.”

“I like my job,” she added proudly. “It makes me happy. I got my first salary and I just couldn’t believe that I was holding in my hands more than one lev [about half a Euro]. For me this is a real miracle. I didn’t dare even dream that could happen.”

But that was not all – when God bestows His mercies, He is very generous. God performed one more miracle in answer to Maria’s prayers – He brought change in Maria’s daughter’s heart and she opened her home to her mother. Now they are together as a family once again, sharing everything – both hardships and joy. Maria now lives with restored dignity, and feels contentment and satisfaction that she can provide for her needs. 

With tears in her eyes, Maria said, “God heard my prayers and now my life is different.

I’d like to thank Mission Without Borders for the support, love and care you showed me in the darkest years of my life. I will never forget the loving attitude and kindness I received through the Street Mercy project.”


40,315 meals provided to homeless people. People come not only for the hot soup and bread, but for friendship and to see people who show concern, compassion and sympathy.....they come for acceptance!

Report by MWB Annual Review 2021


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