The True Tales of Two Nigerian Women Caught in the Migration Crisis: Is God Calling You to Go?

What is it that would cause two young Nigerian women to set out—to leave family, home, country, friends, and way of life—and head north, to Europe? Why, at the dawn of adulthood, at the moment that they should be settling down, marrying, forging a living, starting a family, would two vulnerable women leave all they know to embark on a journey of only unknowns? 


For Phoebe it was the economic promise made in an advertisement for a domestic helper. But it culminated in forced prostitution. For Bea it was a run for her life. But the first run morphed into a second and a third and she has since disappeared.

These are the true tales of two different women from Nigeria who each gave themselves over to the European migrant crises in hopes of finding better lives.

Phoebe’s Story

Phoebe answered an advertisement for a family seeking domestic help in southern Europe. Once she arrived, she was greeted, whisked away, and her passport taken from her. She was taken to a brothel and forced to give herself away for the financial gain of her traffickers. She was threatened, beaten, intimidated and told that if she tried to contact the authorities her mother back in Nigeria would be murdered. Her traffickers were her fellow countrymen—a ring setup in Nigeria and carried out in Europe, preying on the desires of young women in pursuit of a better life.

One day while Phoebe was lingering outside the brothel, Christian missionaries approached her. Well-aware of the ways of local violent trafficking rings—they suspected Phoebe was being held captive. They shared the gospel of grace with her, the story of eternal freedom. Promising protection, they invited her to walk away from the brothel. And just like Peter, she fixed her eyes on Jesus, and walked out in faith (Matthew 14:22-33).

The missionaries had connections with safe houses across the region. They were able to send Phoebe across the country, into hiding in a new city. She’s there now, still protected, and has received legal documentation. She’s learning to be a cook, finally arriving at the livelihood she set out for.

Phoebe’s parents, though, have not heard from her since she set out from home. She cannot contact them. Through the experience and expertise of the anti-trafficking workers, Phoebe knows that her traffickers are closely monitoring her parents, ready to hurt them if they suspect they have knowledge of her whereabouts. To keep herself and her parents alive, Phoebe must pursue her new life, her new identity, in secret and alone, completely disconnected from her loved ones.

Bea’s Story

Bea watched animist Muslim relatives murder her father for his Christian faith. They turned on her mother and then came after Bea. She fled, went to her boyfriend, and they immediately set out for the safety promised in southern Europe. When they reached Libya on the migration route out of Africa, they were captured and imprisoned by a rogue, opportunist militia.

Pregnant, starving, and dying of thirst, Bea was separated from her boyfriend in the Libyan compound. She passed out and was taken for dead. She was buried in a shallow grave with her fellow prisoners who had indeed succumbed to their conditions. A Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) who noticed her barely living body while passing by the mass grave, dug her out and took her to safety. She was put on a boat and crossed the sea to southern Europe (recent statistics say that one in five migrants who fled Libya by boat drowned or disappeared during the migrant crisis).

Bea’s harrowing tale did not relent once she reached the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Instead, she had to keep moving, pushing ever upward and onward into Europe and out of the grasp of immigration law enforcement. Bea walked—still pregnant and malnourished and very much alone—through the mountains of southern Europe, crossing national borders in hopes of finding a friendly country in which to declare her need for asylum.

She again passed out, this time on a mountainside, too weak and dehydrated to continue. Another Good Samaritan found her body and rescued her from the elements. She awoke in a hospital, registered with the government, and returned to the same hospital to give birth to her baby. Miraculously, she was reunited with her boyfriend and they were married.

With a new husband and new baby and new peace and safety, Bea settled into life in her new home country. She met the same group of Christian missionaries who found Phoebe. The missionaries helped her to begin learning her new language, to navigate her new government, and to get the help she needed in her new community.

But when Bea returned to the appropriate immigration office to apply for legal residency, her request was denied. They did not believe her story. Incredulous, they were sure Bea was a prostitute—like Phoebe was—but protecting her captors. They believed that if they could only get Bea to tell the truth about her alleged trafficking ring, they would be able to punish the right people.

Bea pled with the authorities to believe her harrowing tale. To them, it was too good to be true. When pressed and asked how it could possibly be true, Bea told them, “I’m a Christian. It’s a miracle.” Ultimately, they refused to believe her and denied her residency.

And so, preferring her illegal status and safety in Europe to imminent death at the hands of her family in Nigeria, she disappeared. The missionaries who initially helped her, hear from her every few months, when she calls to check-in or to ask for help with something. But the reality is, Bea can’t tell them much. She doesn’t want to be discovered. She’s now on her own, even separated from her husband.

What Can Be Done?

What can you and I do for Phoebe and Bea? How can we, who live an ocean away, help these two women and the thousands of other vulnerable migrants who are like them?

Pray: Right away we can pray for their protection, supernatural wisdom, sensitivity to the Lord’s leading as they seek housing and a living, a community of Christians who will encourage them, and resources from God’s hand to nourish them.

Give: We can also give to organizations who are serving refugees in a holistic way—missionaries and Christian ministries that are proclaiming Christ, seeking to alleviate suffering, and equipping refugees with skills and tools needed in their new lives. Because the European migration crisis is over and we no longer see their faces on the evening news, they are easily forgotten. May they not be out of sight and out of mind. Their plight today is no less perilous than it was in 2014 and 2015.

Go: And finally, we can go. But not just anyone. The missionaries who are already serving people like Phoebe and Bea say they need more Christian teammates who are trained in trauma, who can work in emotionally difficult settings, and who can take a long view with an eye on holistic healing for refugee communities. They don’t need well-intentioned, short-term workers who want to pass out water in the refugee camps—in fact, they say, those opportunities no longer exist. They need men and women who are willing to be trained and to persevere for the long-haul to bring healing from the inside-out in the lives of refugees in Jesus’s name.

Join Pioneers in Europe and pray to the Lord of the harvest (Matthew 9:38) that he will send the right people to the right places for the good of the refugees and for his own glory.

Photo Credit: Operation TritonIrish Naval Service personnel from the LÉ Eithne rescuing migrants, 15 June 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_migrant_crisis

In Post-Christian France the Worship Void Has Not Remained Empty

When a society rejects God, they will worship something else. Or, as apologist Alister McGrath puts it, they will transcendentalize an alternative. The absence of Christianity in France does not mean the absence of worship. 

 

The Current (non)Religious Picture in France 

 

How The French Painted their Nonreligious Picture

The nonreligious commitment of the French people is not a new development, nor was it birthed from a void. The secular national identity was decidedly embraced in the French Revolution (May 5, 1789 – Nov 9, 1799). As the populace threw off the constraints of traditional religion—Papal Supremacy and oppression by the church and the state—they enthroned reason as ultimate. 

Laïcité is perhaps now the god of France. It means secularism and is enshrined in the French constitution. Article 1 declares that France is a secular republic. Laïcité washes over all facets of French life and religion is largely taboo. Religion is neither respected nor spoken of in polite company. Indeed, courts across the country regularly penalize the religious for bringing their beliefs into the public square. 

 

The Rise of the Occult

While the Revolution did away with religion and reason triumphed, the occult was quickly on its heals. Like McGrath said, people will worship something

Numbers are hard to come by, but both the French and foreigners residing there will tell you that the occult is present. Psychics are easy to find—a simple Yelp search in Paris provides hundreds of options. Clairvoyants, tarot card readers, palm readers, and mediums practice across the country. 

Because astrology is viewed to be couched in science and not religion, the occult is not taboo. The void left by traditional religion has been filled to overflowing with superstition and New Age spirituality. Even paganism, with roots in ancient Celtic cultures who inhabited the same geography as modern-day France, is acceptable. 

Missionaries throughout France report encounters with seekers who have either left the occult or are still engaged in practices of the occult. There is indeed a spiritual battle being waged for souls in France. The country stands witness to the truth that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Join the spiritual battle for France through prayer: make supplication for all the saints… that words may be given to [them] in opening [their] mouth[s] boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-19). 

 

A Cup of Tea, Under a Bridge, In Jesus' Name

How does the banished son of a North African become a beloved child of God in Southern Europe? Well, over tea, served under a bridge, of course. 

John’s story is the same as millions of other migrants to hit the shores of Europe in the last three years—until it diverges where he met Christ. Today he’s on the north shores of the Mediterranean, living in his pastor’s spare bedroom, serving his church, and patiently navigating the paperwork to become a legal immigrant. 

 

The Back Story

When John’s father kicked him out of their house in North Africa, he joined the infamous European migration crises and made his way to Turkey by patching together a dangerous route—sometimes on foot, sometimes over water, sometimes at the mercy of human smugglers—always very dangerous for a young man, barely 20. 

John first settled in Turkey and learned the language. He attained legal residency and a girlfriend. He even picked up English. When his girlfriend broke up with him one year in, he set out—further on and further up into Europe—in search of the good life that he couldn’t have in North Africa and hadn’t yet found in Turkey. 

Like all migrants, John waited in the camps. He had to find a way across from Turkey to Greece. But like most migrants who make it to Turkey, he was kept there. The European Union is reluctant to bloat itself further with newcomers. 

Like others, John searched for a way to be ferried across the Aegean Sea. He had to consider the financial cost, the reliability of whoever promised him passage, the safety and reliability of the craft. He tried for a whole year to gain passage. 

At one point, John attempted passage by clinging to the underbelly of a large truck heading north and west. He was discovered and badly beaten. Those back injuries persist even now, a constant reminder of how far he’s come. 

 

The Lord Establishes Our Steps

A non-practicing Muslim, John was depressed and wondered why Allah would make him wait on his new life. He watched as others on the trail successfully gained passage to Greece, while he grew in despair. He says he kept asking Allah, “Why are you keeping me from going? Why are others making it while my plans keep falling through? Why won’t you let me go?” He even promised Allah that he would follow Islam more carefully if only he could move on to Greece. 

Finally, John’s day to cross the sea arrived. He was welcomed on the other side by Christian missionaries who staffed the migration reception on the shore. He made his home in the camps and heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

But John wasn’t interested in the Christian story. He waved away the missionaries’ efforts at spiritual conversations. He continued in his pursuit of a better life. 

Unlike in Turkey, John was able to leave Greece in just five weeks. He felt his fate had been reversed. But the quick timing haunted him. He wondered why Allah required him to languish in Turkey but readily blessed him in Greece. He had a sense that the timing of his journey was divine, but he couldn’t make out why. 

Unbeknownst to even himself, John was living out the proverbial truth, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The timing would lead to a divine encounter under a bridge. 

 

Tea Under a Bridge

Alone, penniless, and homeless, John followed the path of other migrants and eventually found himself under a highway overpass with men mostly from Sudan, but also Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Iran, Mali, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. It’s estimated that between 200 and 300 men lived under and around that bridge when John arrived—right at the height of a bottleneck on the migration path west further into Europe. 

The bottleneck was caused by stricter border controls. By the time John arrived, the average stay under the bridge was one to three months. Legally crossing the border to the west was almost impossible. Migrants were risking illegal paths along mountain cliffs or through motorway tunnels, often suffering death and injury. 

Right around John’s arrival, missionaries and pastors from surrounding communities started visiting the men under the bridge on Thursday evenings. They brought pots of tea, snacks, and friendship. John immediately felt a connection to two of the visitors—they were like a mother and a father figure to him. 

As these two missionaries began to share the love of Christ with John, he didn’t rebuff them like he did the missionaries in Greece. Perhaps he was more travel weary now, less confident. Whatever the case, he couldn’t deny his awareness that his long wait in Turkey and his speed in Greece timed his arrival under the bridge to perfectly coincide with the efforts of these new, kind, and Christian friends. 

 

“What are you going to do with what we’ve talked about?"

Lee, the missionary who became a father figure to John says that one night after several Thursdays of talking with John about Jesus, he asked him, “What are you going to do with what we’ve talked about? You have to decide if you’re going to walk with God.” 

John recounts that after almost two years of feeling alone on the migration, that night he felt the hand of God reach in and grab his heart. He was crying and didn’t know why. 

In John’s distress, Lee embraced him saying, “God wants to take you into his arms. He wants to hold you.” John grew solemn and walked away alone. He needed time to think over the truths Lee had told him. 

John was experiencing what Paul told the men of Athens, 2,000 years prior. God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:26-28). 

In the following weeks, John began to spiritually awaken—he began to seek God and find him, as Paul said. Rather than receiving tea and snacks, he started to serve them. He became an encourager to the migrating men in his midst. He hungered for time with the missionaries.

 

Further On and Further Up

Just as he was learning more about Jesus, John found a way across the next border. He took his chance to move on. In his journey, God led John to an Arabic Christian—a new friend who was able to explain the gospel to him in his mother tongue and with the help of a shared cultural background. John’s eyes were opening more and more with each step of his migration. 

His journey led him to a community from which one of the missionaries he met under the bridge had come. Susan, the woman who had been a mother figure to him, was there. She and her church welcomed John with open arms. 

Like a grandson, John was invited to Susan’s mother’s home. Though an atheist, she had an old wall hanging in her home that proclaimed Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved.” John says seeing that stopped him cold in his tracks. 

It was following that encounter with the word of God that Susan and her pastor witnessed John in the fight of his life. Though he had migrated more than 5,000 miles through Northern Africa and across the Mediterranean Sea, though he had been hungry and hurt and all alone for nearly two years, this—this—was the real fight, “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). 

With Susan and the pastor by his side, John wrestled for hours with the truths he had learned. Finally, by God’s grace and through prayer and a move of the Holy Spirit, John believed. 

John began his new life in Christ as he began his new life in Europe. He lives in the spare bedroom of not just Susan’s pastor, but now his own pastor too. He is serving the church and growing in his knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Church members are helping him navigate the path to legal status in their country. 

John wants to get a job and move on. Though it’s no longer just Europe that John has set his sights on. Now he wants to go further on and further up in the Kingdom.

Proclaiming Christ Where Pilgrims Seek Healing From Mary

Every year, 6 million people make a pilgrimage to a rural town in southwestern France. Up to 25,000 people visit daily during peak season. Those with both obvious and hidden illness come from all over the world in hopes of healing in the Pyrenees.

Lourdes is home to a cave with a natural spring of what’s believed to be healing waters. The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to a young girl in the cave in 1858. Today, 160 years later, 350,000 people bathe in the waters every year, 7,000 people have asked the Catholic Church to confirm their healings as a miracle, and 69 miraculous healings have been authenticated by the church. 

 

When the Virgin Mary Visited Lourdes

A young girl of 14, named Bernadette, claimed that on February 11, 1858 a small woman wearing a white robe and blue sash with a rosary in hand and yellow roses on her feet appeared to her. The apparition asked Bernadette to pray the rosary with her. 

Bernadette said the apparition was the Virgin Mary and she appeared to her 17 more times that year. She once asked for a chapel to be built at the place of her appearances and another time told Bernadette to dig a hole in that exact place and to drink and wash in the spring that came up. Locals say a few days after Bernadette dug the spring a woman immersed her injured arm in the water and was miraculously healed. 

After an investigation was conducted by the church into Bernadette’s story, it was determined to be true and she was canonized as a saint in 1933. The Pope officially venerated Lourdes in 1870 and called for a cathedral to be built there. Now multiple cathedrals and chapels cover the grounds near the grotto.

 

Visiting Lourdes Today

Masses of hopeful people come from all walks of life to visit the grotto. Buddhists and Hindus, Catholics and superstitious are there. The wealthy and poor are there. Young and old. Black and white. Western and eastern. They all walk together—unified in their hope and expectation of healing. They fly, drive, and walk far for their chance to be miraculously restored.

Everyday, the diverse throngs of pilgrims wind their way up the narrow streets of Lourdes to get to the shrine. Merchants sell all manner of souvenirs and knick knacks. Everything from mugs, to night lights, to snow globes don images of Mary appearing to Bernadette in the Lourdes Grotto. 

Travelers can purchase empty water vessels ranging in size from pocket jars all the way up to five-gallon vats to take up to the spring. The holy water runs through a system of pipes and out the side of the mountain where people can collect it from dozens of faucets, wash in it, or take it back home with them to a loved one in need.

Also for sale in every shop are candles—from small votives up to massive 5 foot pillars. Pilgrims carry them to the grotto and light them nearby, as a symbol of their prayers for the sick. Thousands of candles bear witness to sickness all over the globe. The larger ones hold the names of loved ones who’ve been prayed for there. 

There’s a bathhouse next to the grotto. A waiting room outside hosts the infirm: children on stretchers, elderly in wheelchairs, men and women with walkers. They eagerly await their once-in-a-lifetime chance to be immersed in the healing waters of Our Lady of Lourdes. 

 

Planting a Church Among a Desensitized People

For followers of Jesus Christ, the atmosphere in Lourdes is dark and discouraging. Christians know that it is “the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). The determination and expectation of 6 million pilgrims a year feels overwhelming.

The one and only Pioneers missionary there says, “In my town Mary takes Jesus’ place on the cross. People come from far and wide to bring honor to her, to ask her for healing, to pray to her. This is all the locals of this rural town in the mountains know: not Jesus, just millions of Catholic pilgrims from the whole world with their Mary statues, rosaries, and holy water. What should church look like for people who have been completely desensitized to the Gospel?” 

Even now, that question is being answered. A house church gathers every other weekend in Lourdes. A small, but faithful, group meets in the home of the missionary there to worship, hear the Word of God proclaimed, and pray for one another. There is hope. 

Sights are set on a building for sale in the center of town. An empty cafe sits just meters from where trains from all over Europe stop for pilgrims to disembark. The few Christians in Lourdes dream of buying it, renovating it, and bringing life to Lourdes. 

The cafe would shine the true Light and welcome visitors to ponder Him who really heals. It would be a place where what has been used for harm is redeemed—a place where those who expect to meet Mary, instead have an encounter Jesus Christ who is, in fact, alive. A place where those who seek the healing of a physical infirmity, would instead receive restoration for their souls. 

Pray with Pioneers that this cafe would be given into the hands of the church, if that is God’s will. Pray that it would be a place where those who seek temporary healing, actually receive eternal healing. A place to meet and believe in the Son so they may “not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). A place where those who want healed bodies actually get healed souls.

Voices from the Field: Book 2 : Conversations with Our Global Family

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Voices from the Field presents a unique opportunity to encounter real people and hear authentic Christian perspectives from around the world. The world has never seemed closer. We feel we can watch history unfold before our very eyes on our constantly connected devices. We have access to more information than ever before, but this flood of data has not produced genuine connection nor understanding. Genuine conversations require safe places for us and to share and humility to listen. The contributors to this volume have felt safe to share and your are invited to listen to voices from around the world. Voices that confront our practices and prejudices while inviting our partnership. To engage in missions today is to embrace the task of life-long learning. This book is a rich resource for those who would join in the global task of building God's Kingdom, presenting not just more information but new lenses through which to see ourselves and our shared world.

Buy Now:

I Am An Alien - A Missionary Perspective

"Rachel, you've been here almost two years now. How can you still be struggling with that? Aren’t you past that by now?"

Several weeks ago I was hit with waves, one after another, of homesickness, discouragement, frustration over my language ability, and more. It was a perfect storm of circumstances and I started reacting emotionally to things that don’t usually get to me:

  • Tears sprang to my eyes during a scene in a movie where best friends were reunited.
  • I realized that my second Thanksgiving and Christmas away from family were my new normal.
  • I was out with friends and felt excluded from the group as they all sang French songs from their childhood.
  • Another time, my friends cracked rapid-fire jokes with their cool slang and witty expressions, while I wanted to scream Hey, I have jokes too! I'm a funny person...just...uh…not in your language.
  • I was in a deep conversation with several people and by the time I fully formulated my own super profound contribution, they already moved on to the next topic.
  • I was in a weird funk and needed to verbally process all my emotions, but found it too difficult to do in French. 

Finally, one weekend it all came to a head. I called a friend back in the US and let it all out. It's hard to feel like I should already be past these barriers. It's hard to realize that no matter how much progress I make, this will never be my culture or language. It's hard to feel like I can't even show my true personality to these people—I'm just a shadow of myself. It's hard to still feel like a child in this culture when I know that in my culture I am intelligent, capable, witty, deep, outgoing, sociable.

But I am no longer in my culture. 

In French, to say that you are a foreigner, to say that you are not French, you say you are an étranger, which is similar to the adjective for "strange" (étrange). In the Bible, we children of God are often described as aliens and strangers, and I have never understood that more than since living in another country. 

Living in our home culture makes it easy to forget that we are called to live as foreigners in this world. Because we feel at home, we are comfortable in our environment, and we know how to navigate everything pretty well, it's hard to remember that this world is not, in fact, our home. 

Yet for me, this experience of longing for my culture where I belong has deepened my understanding of my true home—with Christ in heaven. I must ask myself, Do I long for that as much as I long to talk to my best friend in English and laugh ‘til my sides hurtDo I long for that as much as I long to get lost in a great book in my mother tongueDo I long for that as much as I long to have deep spiritual conversations and be able to explain my ideas with precision? 

In coming to France I had to willingly give up my rights: my rights of being seen as competent, intelligent, humorous, clever (I am those things, right? Please don't tell me if I'm not). Not an easy thing.

Yet giving up these rights allows me to grasp just a tiny bit more the humility that Christ exhibited in giving up his rights in heaven to become a man (Philippians 2:5-8). He was the ultimate missionary, leaving his homeland where he was rightfully acknowledged as who He isfully recognized and worshiped as God, to become like us. He had his ultimate goal in mind, and—from his view—what He did on the cross was worth giving up his rights. 

And that is why it's worth it for me too, I tell myself. 

Yes, it's hard and extremely uncomfortable and humbling. But I believe that the message of the cross is that important. I endure to spread the most important message: Christ came to save people from all over the world.

And on top of that privilege, I get the joy of experiencing more of Christ, in sharing in his sufferings, in knowing Him more deeply.

So yes, being an alien is worth it.

Advice for Young People Who Want to Be Missionaries

(this article was originally published by Jen Oshman)

“I want to tell you something. The other night when I was doing homework in my room, I felt like God was calling me into missions. I think he wants me to be a missionary when I’m an adult.” 

A young man in our youth group shared those words with me a couple weeks ago. He’s only in middle school, but his heart has already been prompted by the Spirit to at least consider what a life in missions might look like. 

“Do you have any advice for me?” he asked. 

What a thrill! What a privilege to plant seeds for missions into this boy’s heart. I prayed for him and about his question for a couple weeks. I wrote his mom an email last night with some ideas. I thought I’d share them here with you, that the Lord may use them in the life of another who may be feeling prompted towards a future on the mission field. 

 

1. Immerse Yourself in the Bible

The best way to prepare for a life in ministry is to know and love the Word of God. Being young does not preclude you from being able to study the Bible! You can dive in at any age or stage of life. I would strongly encourage all Christians—but especially those who feel called to teach or lead in some way—to be fiercely committed to a local church and possibly a youth group, or a small group, or a discipleship relationship, or all of the above. You can’t overdo it on studying scripture and no matter how old or how smart you are, the Word of God will never be fully known to you. I encouraged my young friend to get a good study Bible so that he can overcome hurdles when he comes to them. One thought is checking out the CSB Apologetics Study Bible for Students. 

 
 

 

2. Familiarize Yourself with the World

Displaying a world map in your home does wonders for simply reminding you that life is bigger than your own hometown. Maps are somehow inherently attractive—wherever one is displayed people linger over them and examine far away places. Our family had one on our dining room table, under a plastic mat, for years. It kept us at the table well beyond meal time. 

In addition to the map, I encourage teens to get a subscription to World Teen Magazine. It is age-appropriate and will broaden your horizons in geography, history, sociology, and current events. Also, making a daily habit to check on the Joshua Project website will increase both your knowledge of and burden for people around the world. The site features a different unreached people group each day. 

 

3. Read Missionary Biographies

Reading missionary biographies will enlighten and motivate any Christian to consider going to the mission field. There’s just something about reading what another person was willing to do for the name of Jesus that spurs us on to good works ourselves. They’re an invaluable resource for anyone considering missions! There are many great series written for kids. We own  many of the Christian Heroes: Then and Now and they were perfect for my kids when they were in elementary school. 

Other missionary biographies that I have enjoyed are Reckless Abandon, The Story of John G. Paton: Or Thirty Years Among South Sea Cannibals, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, and Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, among many others. 

 

4. Be In Ministry Now

As my husband and I were preparing for the mission field, our missions pastor gave us good advice: dive headfirst into as much ministry as we could while missions was still a ways off. He new we needed to excel at serving and that would require practice. He also knew that it would benefit us to get to know many people in the church, to experience a variety of relationships and needs and learn how to elevate others above ourselves. We washed dishes after church dinners, served coffee, taught classes, you name it. I’ve heard many wise men and women in full-time missions say, “If you’re not willing to be a missionary right where you are, don’t fly around the world to give it a try.” 

 

5. Support Missionaries and Seek Out Mentors

Supporting missionaries, even as a young person, is an effective way to increase your affection for missions. By providing financial support (yes, even as a young person—and it needs to be your own hard-earned cash) and prayer support to a missionary or two or three, you will become invested in God’s work through them. You’ll feel the thrill of investing in eternity and you’ll become more aware of the highs, lows, joys, and sorrows felt by those on the mission field. 

As you receive prayer letters and emails from missionaries overseas, you’ll be mentored, in a way. You’ll get a glimpse of their life and have a small taste of what your life might be like if you were to walk in their shoes. Some missionaries may even be willing to mentor you from afar—meaning they may correspond with you by email or snail mail or even Skype with you at times. When we served overseas it was normal for us to engage in conversations with young supporters about our average day, our needs, our victories. Many missionaries are happy to share! 

 

6. Go On Short-Term Mission Trips 

One sure way to have your eyes opened and heart burdened is to travel to a potential future mission field and serve there with local national believers or long-term missionaries already there. I strongly caution all short-termers to read and embrace the wisdom of When Helping Hurts. But if you can find a team from your local church that is going overseas to connect with long-term, indigenous gospel work in a meaningful way, go for it! 

As young people graduate from high school and even college, I think taking a whole summer or year is a beneficial way to both expose yourself to future callings, as well as to bless those on the field. I think Pioneers’ Edge and Venture programs are two excellent options. 

 
 

 

7. Pray

You’re never too young to pray for various people groups around the world, for the gospel to go out to all the nations, and for God to grow you into the adult he wants to use for his glory. Talk to the Lord regularly about all of these things! David Platt says, “God has ordained our prayer as a means to accomplish His purpose in the world.” Don’t miss this vital practice for your good and God’s glory. 

 

And lastly, few postscript book ideas: 

Witness to a savior, may France seek The Savior

As Holy Week commenced last week, the nation of France mourned the loss of a savior. The world knows now that Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame died at the hands of a jihadist in Trebes, France, when he exchanged his life for that of a female hostage. 

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

The jihadist in Trebes had already killed two hostages and was threatening the life of a third, when Beltrame entered the grocery store, unarmed, and exchanged his life for hers. About two hours later, Beltrame was shot and stabbed. He died in the hospital, following unsuccessful treatment to save his life. 

Beltrame’s mother and brother both said they were not surprised by his actions—their beloved son and brother was known for his service to others. “He has always been like this,” his mother said in an interview with the French radio network RTL.

Jesus said, "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 

On Saturday before Palm Sunday, Gérard Collomb, France’s Interior Minister said on Twitter, “France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.” 

As France rightly honors this fallen savior, may the nation be drawn to the Savior. May God himself be exalted in this man’s life and death. 

The Evangelical population in France is a mere 1.08%. Further, 29% of the population calls themselves atheists and 63% say they are non-religious

Pray with Pioneers in Europe for France. Pray that as they laud Beltrame’s gift of earthly salvation for one woman, they would seek eternal salvation available to all. Pray for our workers across the nation—for faithfulness and fruit from their labors. 

Pray that the eyes of the hearts of many in France would be opened to the truth that without Christ, they too are held hostage and are in great need of a Savior who willingly exchanged his life for theirs. 

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

 

Photo credit: standard.co.uk 

May the Light of Life Reign Over the Darkness in Europe

Winters are rough in the Czech Republic. The combination of its northern position on the globe and its cloudy climate make for very dark days. For weeks the sun rises around nine in the morning and sets by three in the afternoon. Thick fog hangs like a cloak on everyone’s shoulders.

There are, though, many sweet traditions that bring light to the middle of winter. During December especially the windows of homes and apartments are brightly lit with candles. Town squares are adorned with strings of lights and towering Christmas trees topped by shining stars. Every square has its own Christmas market, including booths of hot chocolate and warm wine, candles, cookies, ornaments, and local handicrafts. Christmas trees remain standing through January, extending the festive feel well after the holiday. All the traditions bring a cheery glow to what otherwise feels like a damp and dark time. 

Christ followers living through European winters can’t help but sense the similarities between the dark physical climate and the dark spiritual climate there. Europe, as a whole, has an average Christian population of only 2.7% (many countries, like the Czech Republic, number even less than 0.5% Evangelical Christian). While the landscape is dotted with churches and cathedrals and crosses, very few believe. In reality, it’s a post-Christian continent with an overwhelming disregard for any religion at all. 

But just as the Christmas lights pierce the darkness, so do the Christians in each country. Local believers are a city on a hill, a bright light that inevitably causes others to see their good works and—hopefully, by God’s grace—ultimately give glory to the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).  Indeed, as John says, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5), so too European Christians are not overcome, though they are vastly outnumbered. 

History too bears witness to the link between the spiritual light and physical light of Christmastime in Europe. It is said that during the 1600s Christians burned candles in their windows, in clear view of those outside, so that other Christians would know their brothers and sisters were within. The candle was an invitation to Christ followers to come in and join their spiritual family, to break bread and worship together.

It’s poignant that during their physically darkest days each year, European Christians celebrate the birth of “the true light, which gives light to everyone…coming into the world” (John 1:9). In a very real sense, Christ followers on that continent are “the people dwelling in darkness [who] have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). 

Across Europe Christmas markets and candle-lit windows are pushing back the darkness of the season. So too European Christians and foreign missionaries move amongst the people shining the light of Christ, saying with their lives, “this is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). 

Pray that the multitudes across Europe who are now in darkness would be drawn to Jesus, who is the light of the world. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). May it be so from Ireland to Sweden, from Portugal to Ukraine, from Spain to Estonia, from the Netherlands to Moldova.

Hungary - Hopeful Shoebox Blessings

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Article by a Pioneers Field Worker - Hungary

On a cold December evening, people unknown to us started coming in the building. Fear, mixed with hope and confusion, in their eyes.

This was months after arriving in Hungary, yet I didn't need to know the language to understand that lack of hope. Families coming in—all looking longingly at the Christmas tree and boxes under it.  Nearly all did a self-correction and you could nearly hear them thinking, "What am I doing thinking that we might be getting something like that? Who am I? Maybe someday I can provide one for my child..."

Some came in with coats on or heavy sweaters. Some came in with many layers of shirts. Children's eyes would glance again to the tree, to the presents, to parents, then to the floor. The church was filling up. It was apparent that people wore their ‘best’ to this event.

 The 'service' started. Songs were sung and a brief sermon was given.    

One particular family, seated on the side, caught my eye. Glancing at the tree and gifts, then looking at each other as though, "That will never happen to us!" The girl with them would look at the tree and the gifts, but you could tell she was trying really hard not to get her hopes up.

Then the names were being called out—each family was on high alert. I glanced over at the family I had been watching. They looked, then looked down. The girl's first glance was filled with hope, then the realization that younger kids were getting some of these boxes. It looked like she was thinking, "Oh, that will never happen to me. There are lots of people here in the room and lots of kids.” 

Other families whose wee ones did receive a shoebox (many from local donors, often wrapped) would gasp with delight. Sometimes you could hear a bit of the paper being torn, however, most were just savored (they received one of those boxes!) or set aside by the parents to avoid temptation.

All of a sudden the family on the side sat up as though they got a brief jolt—her name was called! Could it really be? "OH, HURRY! They may change their minds! Go get your box!"

She tried to look as calm and collected as befitting her age, but the edges of a smile couldn't be denied. As she sat down, they were touching the box and the paper and ribbon as though they couldn't believe it was real. The parents glanced at each other in awe. They watched their daughter gently stroke and touch each and every part of that box. Hope did not die! She really received a box!! This box had her name on it!

A look around the room revealed many smiles—a rarity in Hungary. There were bits of giggles too

Later, the people started walking out of the church, placing the treasures on the family bicycle to be pushed home. Hope walked out the door with them as well.

Pray for the Crisis in Catalunya, Spain

 Pro-unity demonstrators wave Spanish and Catalan flags during a protest in Barcelona. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Pro-unity demonstrators wave Spanish and Catalan flags during a protest in Barcelona. REUTERS/Albert Gea

By a Pioneers in Europe Field Worker

Catalunya, one of Spain's 17 Autonomous Communities (as they are called - each community has certain authority to govern within their region under the Spain constitution) is seeking independence from Spain to become a Republic, and have recently officially declared it! This has driven the government to disband the Catalunyan government and begin the process of installing their own (under article 155 of the constitution).

Sadly, this has had some negative impact on unity between Evangelical believers and churches, so we invite you to join us in prayer for Spain and the churches and ministries involved.

PRAYER:

  • Please pray for the Spanish government to make decisions with proper respect for their authority and responsibility, and that this situation would bring an awareness to them of their impotence and need for a sovereign God.
     
  • Please pray that God would allow this disruption at a national level to ONLY reach a point that unsettles people to consider where their trust, security and ultimately their identity lies. Please pray that local Evangelical churches would answer that clearly by proclaiming the true gospel and the impact it has on their lives and this situation. 
     
  • Please pray for unity between Evangelical Christians and Churches who have been publicly divided on this issue in recent months, that they will have, and display, a God-rendered unity that will serve as an example to Catalunya and to the rest of Spain. 

Why would anyone attend Messy Church?

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One Pioneer family in the UK has been hosting Messy Church every second Sunday of the month.  The service is indeed messy—it includes crafts, conversation, and food and attracts families from the neighborhood who do not otherwise attend church.  At Easter four Muslim families attend Messy Church, along with several other local families.  The Pioneers are baffled as to why the Muslim families attend, but they are praising God. 

Pray that the Pioneers would have wisdom and boldness to help illuminate the differences between Islam and Christianity, as they see a trend in the community to minimize religious differences.  Please pray that Jesus would shine brightly through this Pioneers family!

Ministering to Muslims in Manchester

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Pioneers in Manchester recently reported that when their team began prioritizing prayer about two years ago, ministry really began to open up to them.  They confessed that prayer seemed to unlock an openness in hearts of the Muslims in their midst.  A primary way that Pioneers are reaching out to Muslim-Background immigrants is through both food and a book stall at a local market.  The food and Christian books draw an interest from Pakistanis, Saudis, Iranians, Jordanians, and Kurds.  The Pioneers in Manchester have been thrilled to see roughly 50 Muslim-Background believers attending Discovery Bible Studies each week.  Please pray for ministry in Manchester, as in northern Manchester alone 10 mosques exist and an 11th is under construction. 

Making the Most of the Opportunities that Already Exist

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Recently when Pioneers in the UK gathered to share their stories, they all agreed that they want to make more of the opportunities that already exist in their midst.  For example, rather than waiting for a new opportunity to arise to share the Gospel with someone, one Pioneer suggested: “Gossip Jesus right where you are!”  Heads shook around the room as each Pioneer chimed in with the opportunities that they have, but for which they need boldness.  

  • Pray for a Pioneer who senses that God wants her to share Christ with a friend on the sidelines of regular rugby games. 
  • Pray for a Pioneer who is distributing Bibles on a university campus.
  • Pray for a Pioneer who takes long runs through Pakistani neighborhoods—he stops frequently to chat with young men, asking about their lives, praying with them, and sharing the Gospel when he can.  Though these conversations are brief, they are an important step in seed planting. 
  • Pray that God would open the eyes of every Pioneer to share Christ when possible and pray that God would open the hearts of all those who hear! 

 

Working in Ireland Requires a Long Obedience in the Same Direction

Recently a Pioneer in Ireland likened missions there to the formation of peat fuel.  The Irish landscape is dotted with peat bogs, which provide fuel for the nation’s power stations and domestic heating.  Using carbon dating, scientists say that peat fuel takes millions of years to form—Pioneers there say that the production of spiritual fruit also requires many, many years of loving ministry in the same context.  The Pioneer said, “Ministry is slow here.  You may need to do the same thing for years without seeing any fruit.”  Pray for the Pioneers in Ireland as they persist in a long obedience in the same direction, in hopes of the development of spiritual fruit one day.  

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In two different cities in Ireland, God is using the friendships of the Pioneers’ children to set the stage for sharing Christ.  In one city, a son’s friend invited the Pioneer and her son to his home for a playdate.  The friend’s mom is a committed Muslim, but eager to discuss religion.  Pray that her eyes might be opened to the truth about Jesus.  The Pioneer asks for prayer, especially for boldness.  

In another city, a Pioneer encountered a spiritual discussion during his son’s swimming lesson.  Another swim mom voiced an interest in reading the Bible—a great surprise and joy for the Pioneer, as such interest is extremely rare in Ireland, which has an Evangelical population of only 1.3%.  Please pray for this swim mom as she begins reading the Bible with this Pioneer’s wife.  Pray that the eyes of her heart may be opened as she reads the truth for the first time.  

Rejoice with the Pioneers in Western Ireland—where there was once one church, there are now six!  There are now local options for the Irish living in serval communities.  Pray for more workers to join this movement and especially for three communities that remain churchless.

Women Reaching Women in England

Women in Pioneers are experiencing great joy as they reach out to newly arrived Muslim women in England.  In one location, Pioneers are finding women, especially from Syria, “desperate for English-speaking friends,” as one worker put it.  Newly settled refugee families are isolated, worried about their new lives in England, and hungry for help.  Pioneers are able to befriend the women, spend time with them in their homes, and provide practical help, as well as the hope of Christ.  Pray for Pioneers in Oxford who are ministering to a community of 60-70 Syrians and expect 7 or 8 more Syrian families to arrive there later this year.  Pray also for more workers to come to the field, as well as for local English churches to catch the vision to serve refugees in their midst. 

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In another location, Pioneers women are rejoicing in growing friendships with women who have immigrated from Pakistan and Libya.  The Pioneers provide “Crafts and Conversations” at a neighborhood community center for the Muslim-Background moms who take their children to school and then find themselves with days wide open.  Friendships are built around the table as the ladies discuss life in their new homes.  A local Imam has discouraged the immigrant moms from gathering with the Pioneers, so please pray for persevering friendships, in spite of the pressure.

In the Shadow of Terror: Six Things to Pray for Spain Today

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In light of the most recent terrorist attack in Barcelona, a Pioneer field worker in Spain is asking for prayer in these areas:

  1. Please pray for a spiritual awakening among the Spanish as they are confronted with the fragility of life that this terrible attack reminds us of. Please pray that the randomness of the victims and the reminder of dangers, attacks, and death might bring people to seek God. Although Barcelona is regarded as an Evangelical hub in Spain, the presence of the gospel is still relatively small. 
     
  2. Please pray that the families of the victims might be supported and comforted by God through his people
     
  3. Please pray against the fear that terrorism brings to the church. Please pray that while the Enemy would like to use this to silence the few believers in this part of the world, that God would both protect them from fear and embolden them in their Gospel proclamation as they too respond to this act of terrorism.
     
  4. Spain is regarded as a higher-risk country than some North African countries but Gospel proclamation is still permitted. Please ask God for our PI people too that we would continue to proclaim the Gospel boldly, with great courage and tact as we engage people on this topic. Please pray that God would protect his message even if his people are in danger. 
     
  5. Earlier this year hundreds of posters plastered the walls of Barcelona encouraging Muslims to marry “Christian” women in order to strengthen Islam in the area. Barcelona has some of the biggest concentrations of nationalities regarded as Islamic in all of Spain. Please pray for partner organisations working with those people and for the few units we have working with Muslim people in other parts of Spain. 
     
  6. Please pray God would send more workers to this harvest field where only around 0.6% of the native population confess Jesus as Lord and growing diaspora populations also bring new cultural and religious influence and challenges to certain areas. 

New Muslim-Background Believer's Conversion Follows Common Pattern

A new Pakistani believer in England is in jail following accusations by his estranged wife.  The Pioneer who shared Christ with him says that the new Christian has followed a very familiar pattern for Muslim-background believers.  This man heard the Gospel first when he was 17, but did not believe until he was 45, and then he immediately faced a significant trial.  The Pioneer says he's seen this pattern over and over: an initial gospel presentation followed by decades of unbelief, then when belief takes root, hardship or persecution immediately follow.  Pioneers in Europe say this cycle is a manifestation of the spiritual battle taking place for the hearts of Muslim-background immigrants across the continent. 

  • Pray for the seeds of the Gospel to take root and for new believers to persevere in the face of trials in their new faith. 
  • Praise God for prison ministry—the Pioneer spends hours each week discipling his friend behind bars.

From Death to Life

Work to Do. 

“God release me from this,” she remembers praying, making sure to follow it up with the hasty but sincere promise, “I’ll do it if you don’t, but I’m asking you to release me.” 

He didn’t, which is why Jenny now finds herself at the helm of a grassroots pro-life ministry in the small Balkan country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It began when Jenny’s husband learned that one of their mutual friends was going to have an abortion. He asked this friend if she would be willing to meet with his wife, and several days later, Jenny wound up sitting across the table from a woman considering abortion, faced with the task of showing her a different, better solution. 

They had an encouraging conversation, and Jenny walked away sure she had made a difference – until she heard that her friend ended up getting an abortion anyway. Jenny could no longer deny it: the disregard for life in the womb ran deep through this tiny country she called home. “The message is not getting out there,” she remembers thinking, “there’s a lot of work to do.” 

Still she resisted, insisting she was there to plant churches, not educate and prevent women from getting abortions. Even more discouraging was her lack of fluency with the local language, an obstacle that had caused her years of frustration since moving to Bosnia-Herzegovina. But since God wasn’t letting it go, she couldn’t either; gathering up her natural spunk and optimism (and reminding herself “he can speak through a donkey”) Jenny hesitantly but obediently started a pro-life project. 

It wasn’t the smoothest of beginnings. “I’ve been learning as I go, you know, and –” she pauses, “I still have much to learn.” She’s learned, for example, that most Bosnian women are taught a fetus is not alive until they can feel it kicking, something that may not happen until as late as 25 weeks. She’s learned the fertility rates of the Balkan region have declined so drastically that some governments now offer financial incentives for women to have more children. And she’s learned that in public hospitals, the doors that lead to abortion procedures and those that open to birthing wings are right across from each other, making the distance between life and death about ten feet.   

Most of all she’s learned she can’t do this alone – and God never meant for her to try. Not only has he been with her every step, but he’s also sent her other people to help. A poised, well-spoken local named Ana has recently joined forces with her in Sarajevo, and two others have started a branch in a nearby city. Though small, this pro-life initiative is gaining traction, and as they do, they are seeing women and children’s lives changed for the better.

Open Doors. 

“First, I really like wondered...what can we do here?” A self-professed skeptic, Ana wasn’t sure a pro-life initiative would get off the ground in a country like Bosnia-Herzegovina. “When it comes to those topics,” she pauses, her English clear and advanced, “they're taboo in a society. You will never hear anyone really speak openly publicly about that matter, doctors or anyone. But,” she makes sure to add, “you will hear a lot of women talking about their experiences.” 

And that was the key for every volunteer: whether through conversation or personal experience, they knew abortion was more common than the surrounding culture cared to admit. “Every woman that I met has had an abortion,” says Ashley, a worker from another city, “and that was shocking to me at first.” Like Jenny, she didn’t move to the Balkans to start a pro-life ministry, but she also couldn’t walk away once she discovered the breadth of the issue. Everywhere she turned – her church, the local mosque, even her hair salon – she met women who had either already experienced or were considering abortion. 

Some of these abortions happened as a result of pregnancies out of wedlock, but most of them, Ashley discovered, had a more glaringly simple cause: a lack of birth control. Most women getting abortions were wives and mothers who didn’t have access to birth control and simply didn’t think they could feed one more mouth. Furthermore, they were women whose doctors told them what was growing in their womb was not a child but “just a tissue”, and therefore aborting it was a nonissue. “They are not given information um, about anything,” explains Jenny, “and in fact, the information they do have, the doctor's say it's not a life until you feel movement.” As they learned more about the problem, the women at the pro-life initiative realized if they were to do this well, they needed to start in the realm of education.

They began gathering brochures, books, even maternity calendars and translating them into Bosnian. Anytime they encountered a woman considering abortion, they sat with her and went over the materials, giving her a different perspective than the one she had been brought up in. At the same time, they started setting their sights on a bigger prize: one of the largest government run pharmacy chains. “We weren’t sure if they would take, uh, you know materials,” explains Ana, “because they also sell like, abortion pills.” But they decided to ask them to take the brochures anyway, which eventually led them to the offices of some of the top managers. Instead of turning them away, the people behind the big desks listened to them and immediately said, “Feel free, please...whatever you do, not only this but any kind of, like your future work or, we are willing to help.” Ana was stunned, “God really, he open door.”

“It was God,” confirms Jenny, and all the women nod in agreement. Now, just through simple obedience, their materials would grace the shelves of 40 pharmacies in their cities – and who could tell how many lives that would save? It was a huge win. 

Setbacks.

It isn’t just through brochures that this pro-life initiative speaks to its audience; one of the most powerful tools the women use is Facebook. Social media gives them a unique advantage, because it offers a more discreet way of asking questions for those unwilling to walk into a pregnancy center. 

Like, for example, the girl who posted a question about abortion on her newsfeed, to which a member of the pro-life initiative responded and told her to contact Ana. She did, and in their conversation, Ana learned about the girl’s situation, listened to her fears, and tried to combat all the voices telling her to abort. “I tried to encourage her,” says Ana, “and uh to tell her okay, just wait, you don't need to decide today.” Sensing the girl’s desperation, she tried setting up a meeting, only to be met with excuses. “You only see one thing now,” she remembers texting her, “you see that child is a problem, but...there are people who are willing to help you and take care of you and all that.” For days, Ana didn’t hear back from her, until one day she did. The girl wrote to her and told her she had gotten an abortion. 

Though devastated, Ana was undeterred. She told the girl she would be there for her if she needed someone, that she could contact her anytime, that there was a healing process she could walk her through. “That’s a sad story,” she says at the end, “but we never know what God can do with that.” 

“And,” offers Jenny, “often after someone has an experience of abortion...these are often the strongest advocates for life so, maybe God will use these girls.” They know this kind of turnaround can and does happen, mostly because one of their own has lived it. 

Healing and Hope. 

Through the careful translations of Ana, Sara begins her story with: “I've found out about sanctity of life when I got to know Jesus.” A Croatian woman from a nearby town, Sara grew up Catholic, but she didn’t think much about God until later in life; her “faith” was more of an ethnic identity, rather than a set of beliefs she followed. Now, her Bible sits in her hands full of highlighted passages and notes, and her life speaks loudly of God’s forgiveness and grace – especially when she brings up the two abortions she had as a young mother. “I have four daughters here on this earth,” she says with quiet confidence, “but I know that two girls are waiting for me, Amina and Emira. I've given them names.” 

At first glance, her story seems a common one: mother of four feels like she can’t afford another child, so she chooses abortion. Her husband, a Muslim, doesn’t object, so she goes through with the procedure. Eventually, she blocks the memories of the abortions from her mind and goes on with her life – until she doesn’t. Until someone introduces her to the love of Jesus and over time, he ushers her into a healing process that not only brings back the memories of what happened but also reveals to her the gender of the children who never lived. 

“I cried in the beginning when I was going through all of this,” she reveals, “but when I saw the end, the sadness became to, became joy. Because I was ready to forgive myself, my husband, doctors...and I know where my daughters are.” She has no visible shame as she recounts these things; rather, her words are laced with compassion, both for herself and for those who have gone through similar experiences. 

“Through that healing,” she explains, “I realized I can feel free to speak about my experience and what I have been through.” The first children her testimony saved were her own grandchildren. The next was the daughter of the local Imam and his wife. Preventing women from getting abortions is something she is passionate about, if only because she knows, “If I had someone to support me, then it would have been different.” 

But she is equally passionate about healing, because she knows firsthand how needed it is. To every woman she meets who has experienced abortion, she recommends Save One, the book that walked her through her own healing process. When she talks about the book, “Some women say ‘Oh I don't wanna cry, I don't wanna think about this, but it's...it's no help, like, that doesn't do anything!” As she can attest, the work is hard and painful, but the end result is freedom and grace – and that is worth the tears. 

Perhaps most compelling is Sara’s impassioned belief in the forgiveness and love of self. Since God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, she reasons, “How can I love my neighbor if I don't love myself?” It’s a fair question, one that comes from years of bearing the weight of guilt and shame. “God gave Jesus for me, so he loves me, and [for] me not to love myself...that doesn't work.” 

No, it doesn’t, and it is time for the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to hear this truth. If they knew there was a God who loved them, who valued their life and the lives of the not-yet-born, then their culture of death just might transform into a culture of life. That is the vision and heartbeat of this pro-life initiative, and with God guiding their steps, it’s a vision Jenny, Ana, Ashley, and Sara believe can – and will – come to life.

Photo Essay: Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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