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


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.


  • 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?


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


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


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.  


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. 


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


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. 


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

(On a mobile device? Turn device sideways to see picture title and description)

Nelly’s Story: The Unexpected Way Jesus Revealed Himself to a North African Woman in Southern Europe

Absentmindedly I stirred my coffee.  My brain was trying to make sense of the story I was hearing.  Two Christian workers who live in southern Europe sat across from my husband and me and told us about Nelly.  My eyes went from theirs to the window.  As a writer, I wondered who would believe this story if I shared it.  I could barely absorb it and the firsthand witnesses were sitting directly across the table from me.

This story has been in the making for about five years now, they said.  They first met Nelly when she came to them and asked them to visit her husband and young son after she died.  Nelly had a brain tumor and she didn’t expect to live much longer.  This couple encouraged her to pray to Jesus and ask Him to intervene.  As a Muslim, Nelly had never prayed to Jesus.  However, by this time, she was unable to fulfill her daily Muslim prayer rituals because of her illness.  So she returned home and gave praying to Jesus a try. 

Nelly Sees

Nelly came back to her Christian friends and reported that as she was sitting and praying on her couch, Jesus appeared on her balcony and entered through her doors and spoke with her.  He spoke to her in her North African dialect and asked her what she wanted.  At this point, my husband and I had mouths hanging open and wanted to clarify, “Wait, wait.  You mean Jesus—like, human Jesus—walked into her apartment from her balcony?”  We had heard stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams.  But, Jesus, on her balcony?  And then in her living room?  Asking her what she wanted? 

“We know.  It sounds crazy.  But it happened many times.  This was just the first one.”

The workers shrugged their shoulders and with palms up said, “We know.  It sounds crazy.  But it happened many times.  This was just the first one.”  Nelly told them that she answered Jesus’ question by telling Him that she had had a headache because there hadn’t been any cigarettes in their home for days.  Nelly reported that after Jesus left, she went to her kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee and there, in the cupboard, was a package of cigarettes.  Nelly ran back to the workers lamenting, “Why did I only ask for cigarettes?”

It took us a minute to absorb this.  A North African Muslim woman asked Jesus—who appeared to her bodily—for cigarettes.  And He gave them to her.  We thought immediately of Christians back in the States who would discount this story because smoking is a sin, right?  I mean, how do you reconcile God giving a gift that is frowned upon in many Christian settings across North America?  As our friends agreed that it was hard to believe, but true, we began to verbally recall the many surprising ways that Jesus reacted in Scripture to those seeking Him.  There was the healing on the Sabbath.  The water to wine.  The forgiveness of the adulteress.  The washing of feet.  Apparently, Jesus—in His mercy—sweetly met Nelly right where she was, as He began the process of revealing more and more of Himself to her.

Nelly Believes

Nelly saw “The Jesus Film” and other Christian movies on Satellite TV.  She is illiterate and was therefore unable to gain knowledge of Jesus through the Bible.  After several personal visits from the Lord, Nelly went to the Christian workers sitting across from us and told them, “Jesus is the Son of God and He’s in my heart.  He will never go away.” 

While these workers rejoiced, they wanted to make sure that Nelly fully understood who Jesus was.  Another Christian worker and friend who spoke the same North African dialect as Nelly, sat down with her to hear more about her encounters with Jesus.  This conversation in Nelly’s first language would allow for deeper communication and understanding.  The Christian workers and Nelly’s friends were all elated when it became evident in that conversation that she really did understand the person of Jesus and had a rich faith and relationship with Him.

The workers told us that in the months that followed, Nelly reported that Jesus often visited her.  She said that she was not sleeping or dreaming, but that Jesus was there physically and spoke to her, encouraged her, consoled her.  She said that once Jesus entered through the balcony door, spoke with her, and left through the front door.  Her husband heard the door open and shut and asked who was there. 

The whole thing was so wild and unfathomable to us.  We simply could not imagine what it was like to have Jesus enter through your balcony doors nearly every day. 

At one point, Nelly was concerned because Jesus hadn’t been to see her for several days.  The workers had the pleasure of telling her that she was the recipient of an unusual gift and that most Christians never saw Jesus face-to-face, let alone many times over!  At this point in the story, my husband and I had to pause and take a deep breath.  The whole thing was so wild and unfathomable to us.  We simply could not imagine what it was like to have Jesus enter through your balcony doors nearly every day. 

They went on.  According to Nelly, one day Jesus laid His hand on her face, where she had been suffering paralysis from the brain tumor.  He massaged her cheek and told her that very afternoon she would go to the doctor and everything would be fine.  Indeed, her paralysis disappeared and a scan revealed no tumor.  Jesus had miraculously healed her. 

Nelly said that Jesus told her to believe in Him.  He appeared to her at the hospital when she underwent a surgery for another health problem too.  Nelly said, “Jesus is in my life now and He will never leave.”

Over the years, Nelly’s daughter, son-in-law, and children moved from North Africa into their apartment.  A year after Nelly’s conversion her husband began to believe in the Lord Jesus.  Other family members became curious too.  Roughly five years after Nelly first believed, a local church held an event in Arabic.  Her family attended and heard several testimonies from Muslim-background believers.  They said their hearts really began to open to Jesus when they heard the Arabic worship music.  They purchased a worship CD and returned to their apartment. 

Nelly Perseveres 

Here’s where the Christian workers’ story began to turn from one of joy and awe to one of deep concern.  Nelly reported that one recent Sunday morning, her husband and son-in-law played the Arabic Christian CD and danced in their kitchen and celebrated the good news proclaimed in the lyrics.  The women who were in the living room—separated by gender as is their custom as North Africans—asked the men to turn up the music so that they could worship too.  Someone began banging on their front door and a voice boomed, “Are you a Christian?  This is a Muslim building!”  Muslim men from the building waited on the street and confronted and beat Nelly’s husband and son-in-law as soon as they saw them later that day.

The story darkened as we learned that Nelly’s family is forced by the threat of physical harm to hide in their apartment.

The story darkened as we learned that Nelly’s family is forced by the threat of physical harm to hide in their apartment.  They must be very careful as they move around the neighborhood, because their Muslim neighbors now know they believe in Jesus.  The local police are reluctant to help because they know that if they intervene Nelly and her family are likely to suffer increased attacks as retribution from the community.  They are seeking shelter elsewhere, but don't feel hopeful.  They are in very real danger. 

But, as Nelly said to these workers, “I have great faith because I know that Jesus is alive.”

My husband and I sat at the table dumbfounded.  The Christian workers gave us a minute, as they gathered some food from the buffet.  As they sat back down and we absorbed the immensity of the story—the joy and the sorrow—we were all deeply moved.  Nelly and her family are clearly precious to these workers.  They and other Christian workers in their neighborhood have been invested in Nelly’s story for over five years.  Christians in the community have provided food, money, tutoring, and support in any way they can.  They rejoice in what Jesus has done and they are praying fervently for Nelly and her family. 

As I ask God to protect Nelly, His servant, I also ask Him for faith like hers, because I know too that Jesus is alive.  And now I know it in a new, profound way, thanks to my North African sister who lives in southern Europe.  May Jesus, in His sovereignty and mercy, draw many more North Africans to Himself—whether it is through the gift of cigarettes or the gift of healing or the gift of persecution. 

And may we in the west stay on our knees for our Muslim-background siblings in Christ and the workers laboring for their sake in His name. 

87 Villages.  7 Valleys.  1 Church Plant.

This is complicated terrain.  From 420m to 3298m altitude, this region in the mountains has no evangelical church.  I'm not in the Himalayas or some obscure country in Africa.  This is Europe.  And yet it seems almost surreal to think that there are places in Europe where there is limited access to the Gospel.


These 87 villages and 7 valleys have never been considered reached. Not ever.  Rife with sorcery and occultism and with local traditions & beliefs that run deeper than Catholicism ever will, the Pyrenees mountains in France remains a dark place in desperate need of the Light of the Gospel.  

But how does one reach 87 villages and 7 valleys?  "Les Cairns".  Our loving Father gave our team this powerful image as we founded our church here 6 months ago.  A "cairn" is a small pile of stones gathered on the side of a path, to show hikers where to go.  And so we, the church, are called to be gatherings of Living Stones who show that Jesus is the Way.

Each valley needs a cairn, a gathering of believers that live out the Gospel together in their local community.  And then, once a month all the cairns ("Les Cairns"), join together in celebration.

Right now we are one cairn.  But our prayer is that every valley would have a cairn and every village a Gospel witness.

"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few."  Matthew 9:37.

Trusting the Lord to Open Hearts in Madrid

“I love God and I love the people.  So what can I do?” 

I marveled at Sarah’s faithfulness.  She has been a Pioneer in Madrid for five years and served in North Africa for 20 years prior to that.  When I asked her about the spiritual fruit of her labors, she only had a few converts to report for her decades of work.  When I asked her if she gets discouraged she said, “Yes, sometimes.  It’s lonely work, but God called me to it.  And He has to provide the fruit.” 

After leaving North Africa during a recent expulsion of Christian missionaries, she arrived in Spain in the midst of their Great Recession.  She immediately saw the needs of the North African immigrants and refugees and she moved in amongst them to provide relief and to shine the light of Christ.  While she baptized seven women in her bathtub in North Africa, she has yet to see someone come to Christ in Madrid.

Sarah attends a local Spanish church, but is the only one in her community with a vision for sharing Christ with the local Arabs.  She has had teammates at times, but is currently serving alone, as she often has over the years.  Because she is fluent in Arabic and knows North Africa well, she has had no trouble forming friendships amongst the women.  They are drawn to her kindness, generosity, and cultural familiarity—things not readily extended to them by the Spanish community.  

North African Arabs are kept an arm’s length away from Spanish society.  Because they are not integrated into the local culture, their identities as North African Arabs grows stronger as they reside in Europe.  As they draw into themselves, they form neighborhood enclaves where they have their own shops, their own butchers, their own mosque.  Those who were nominal Muslims back in Africa grow stronger in their religious identity when they get to Spain.  ISIS finds fertile ground from which to recruit, as young men especially feel rejected and then themselves reject Spanish culture. 

Sarah knows the Arab ladies love to gather for parties, so she hosts them often.  She serves tea, provides food, and makes space for moments of levity and enjoyment.  She is diligent in sharing Christ’s love and says that the women are usually very open to conversations about God and the Bible.  Next week she’ll be hosting about 50 ladies for tea and to watch a movie about Christianity.  The film was made by Arabs for Arabs and explains the Gospel message.  Sarah regularly reaches out to the immigrant children, as well, hosting holiday parties and events for the kids. 

While Sarah has had much success forming friendships and even sharing Christ and praying with and studying the Bible with Arabs in Madrid, she has yet to see one surrender to the Lord.  She says that they stick around for awhile, but then she suspects they are persuaded away by the Muslim community.  “It’s a close community,” she says, “they all see where each other goes and what they are doing.” 

Sarah dreams of opening a community center for the Arab immigrants—a place they can go to learn to sew, to learn to read, where kids can get help with homework, where newcomers can gather for refreshment and to hear about the love of Christ.  Pray that God would provide humble and hardworking teammates for this work in Madrid—teammates who, like Sarah, love God and love the people. 

Three Ways to Pray for Manchester Today

Pioneers in Europe has several teammates ministering in Manchester—not far from the arena where 22 died Monday night, the victims of a terrorist attack carried out as fans were exiting an Ariana Grande concert.  The attack, which claimed the lives of many young people, has put Manchester’s population on high alert.  

One of our teammates lamented this morning, it seems that Manchester and urban centers all over the United Kingdom and Europe “are attracting the attention of the enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy…[But we need Christians to] join us in prayer, bringing Kingdom awareness so that we don’t cede territory to the domain of darkness.”  Please join the teams in Manchester in pushing back the darkness by praying for these specific needs: 

  1. While it’s clear that the bomber was an extremist, Manchester does have a high Muslim population—about 16% of the greater city is Muslim and there are 62 mosques in the urban area.  Pray that Muslims in Manchester would grow discontent with Islam, that they would question their religion, and seek the Truth.  
  2. Pray for our teammates in Manchester, some of whom are from Arab backgrounds themselves.  They have deep relationships in the community and have seen much spiritual fruit in the last couple years.  Pray our members would be seen as sources of comfort and truth. 
  3. Our teams in Manchester report that they have been receiving interest in Christianity from Pakistanis, Saudis, Iranians, Jordanians, and Kurds.  They have been thrilled to see roughly 50 Muslim-Background believers attending Discovery Bible Studies each week.

These are tense days for Manchester residents—whether they are British, Arab, missionaries, Muslims, or Christians.  Please join our teams across Europe as we pray that what the enemy intends for harm, would be used of God “to accomplish…the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

Before the Throne - A Missionary's Journey

When Jordan flew to the Balkan Peninsula two years ago to plant churches among the Roma people group, he had no idea he would one day be sitting here, in a crowded café, sipping espresso and telling his story against the backdrop of bad American pop music. He also had no idea he would be saying things like, “I really did block out a lot of the difficulty that was waiting for me when I got here,” or “I feel like I got here and just was embarrassingly humbled. Embarrassingly.” But he is saying these things, because that is exactly what happened.

“I romanticized it entirely,” he confesses, imagining that working with the poor meant “getting dirty, and just meeting all their needs, and being this hero and, um, doing it all in the name of Jesus.”

Jordan’s journey overseas began with a simple statement uttered by one of his trusted mentors: “You know, I see you as more of a missions guy.” A month and a half later, he found himself walking on Pioneers’ campus in Florida, feeling more and more confident that these were “his people” and that God was calling him to spread the Gospel among the unreached – he just didn’t know where yet. After meeting with several potential teams, he heard of the opportunity to work with the poor and marginalized in Eastern Europe, and it caught his attention. “I romanticized it entirely,” he confesses, imagining that working with the poor meant “getting dirty, and just meeting all their needs, and being this hero and, um, doing it all in the name of Jesus.” To Jordan, nothing could’ve sounded more appealing.

To be fair, he is good at those things. Poverty doesn’t scare him, and neither do the sacrifices that keep most of us from moving to the other side of the world to tell people about Jesus. And while it can take missionary recruits years to raise enough funds to get to the field, his natural boldness and singular focus got him there in six months. Everything happened so quickly and easily, what reason did he have to doubt?

He didn’t, not for a long time. Because at first, the flavors were exciting, the language seemed easy to pick up, and the people were kind and receptive; it was every bit the adventure he imagined it would be. However, unlike the short-term mission trips he’d gone on in his twenties, he didn’t have a ticket home when the honeymoon ended. When the food became bland, he woke up in the Balkans. When the language became complex, he woke up in the Balkans. And when he saw the flaws and weaknesses in himself, his teammates, and those he was trying to reach, he woke up in the Balkans. “You feel, or at least I felt,” he says, “lonely and insignificant, and helpless like a little child.”  

Even the ministry became a source of discouragement as, with each passing day, he realized how far they were from their goal of reaching the Roma with the Gospel – much less helping them escape the clutches of poverty. Worse, his team went through an intense time of conflict, resulting in half of them going back to the States and half of them starting over. Months turned into a year, and eventually his disillusionment brought him to a place of bitterness, frustration, and anger. “And then in my case,” he pauses, “loneliness and even bits of depression.” Not quite the wave of self-edifying momentum he rode to the Roma’s front doorstep.

Like many of us do, Jordan responded with heavy doses of self-medication and escapism; food, drink, too much sleep, not enough sleep, too many Skype calls home, not enough Skype calls home, movies, school – he turned to anything and everything but the One who could truly help. Of course, nothing did. “I would look out my window or sit on my balcony and just see this lively neighborhood that just didn't care that I was there,” he says, his voice equal parts amusement and regret, “I had come to save all of them, but they didn't care.” At the end of his first year, “The Lord felt extremely far away, and I felt extremely small.”

And that’s when Jordan saw it. “You've been relying on yourself,” he realized, “and not the God who is big.” On his own, he was never supposed to be significant; it was always supposed to be God.

As it turns out, he was right. He was small – but that wasn’t the problem. When he finally turned to God for help, God didn’t build him up or feed him nice-sounding platitudes about all his hard work and effort. On the contrary, “He affirmed that I was small, but that He was big.” And that’s when Jordan saw it. “You've been relying on yourself,” he realized, “and not the God who is big.” On his own, he was never supposed to be significant; it was always supposed to be God.

Not much changed in his circumstances after that realization, but a lot changed in his mind and heart. “You start understanding,” he explains, “that as you've walked away from situations that you thought impossible or that you didn't have enough energy for or didn't have enough language for...God did.” He still went about his daily tasks, still labored to learn the language (a process that never really got easier), and still worked hard to begin new and impactful ministries. But now, he knew by whose strength he did these things – and it wasn’t his own. The odd thing was, being aware of his weaknesses only made him feel more capable. “The difficulty didn't go away,” he admits, “but the ability to deal with it greatly increased as I sought the Lord through it.” 

He laughs as he thinks back to the moment he begged God to send him somewhere challenging, somewhere he could do great and significant things for the kingdom. While parts of that prayer were well-intentioned, “basically, it was like a bravado thing.” A bravado thing that God answered by putting him in a new place, using difficult situations to reveal the pride and arrogance in his heart, and then disciplining him until those things were gone – or at least, Jordan would tell you, smaller. It wasn’t how he thought God would answer his prayer (and it certainly wasn’t how he wanted him to), but it was how he needed him to answer it.

“You have in your mind how God is going to work, or how he does work, and he always surprises you for the better.”

“You have in your mind how God is going to work, or how he does work, and he always surprises you for the better.” That is a truth Jordan holds to tightly as he looks to an uncertain future, one that may or may not include a return flight to the country he’s finally started feeling comfortable in. Regardless of whether or not he does come back, he is glad to draw from the lessons God taught him here, lessons of humility, remaining faithful in times of difficulty, and drawing from the strength of his Maker rather than his own meager reserves. They are, he suspects, lessons he will continue to learn the rest of his life.

“I know who is in control,” he says in a café in the middle of a crowded, lost, vibrant city in Eastern Europe. “I know who is in power, and I –” he pauses, “I know where I stand before the throne. And it's far down.” It isn’t with pride in himself that he says these words; it’s with pride in the King who does sit on the throne. He is, Jordan would tell you, the only one worth taking pride in anyway.