Excited children tottered between table legs and their mothers’ burqas. Countless glasses of chai and Nescafe lined the tabletops. A puppet show in Arabic pierced through microphones to teach a Bible story over the chatter. At our outreach program for Syrian moms and children, Berna was simply one face among 120 other women. She was never very social, and my team and I developed more meaningful relationships with other women, regularly visiting them in their homes.
In our country, we walk alongside refugee families to share truth and pursue sustainable poverty alleviation among communities. Our team in particular focuses on multiplying disciples, indigenous leaders, and churches so that they transform individuals, families, and communities. So far, God has not started a movement in our city, but we labor and pray for it faithfully.
When COVID-19 hit, we had to close our programs. It felt like a hundred steps backward. No more mass outreach, no more home visits. What would we do all day, quarantined at home? How would we see God’s vision for a movement in our city when to visit unbelievers is more likely to spread COVID-19 than a movement of Jesus followers?
Much of those hours cooped up at home left us no excuse but to pray, think, and brainstorm. “God, what are your purposes in this season? How do we obey the Great Commission to GO make disciples, if we can’t GO anywhere? Help us be creative …” One year later we saw the budding fruit of these prayers—through other workers’ efforts!
Another family on the field in their creative prayers felt God calling them to start a culture of video calls while in quarantine. They started from the top of the alphabetical list of women who attended the Syrian outreach program and proceeded to call every random name who was marked as having never been visited. They’d check in with families, showing them love and care, and invite them to virtual Bible studies. Just a handful of names down the list sat Berna. Who knew she was willing to read the Scriptures and was already curious about Christ? The Lord of the harvest knew. I can envision God’s all-knowing smile growing when we pleaded with Him and asked about His purposes in COVID-19.
After months of our worker friends reading the gospels with Berna, our friends decided to repatriate to the States and hand off their relationships. When quarantine restrictions eased, I had the opportunity to finally visit Berna in her home. “I believe Jesus died on the cross and then resurrected for our sins,” she shared while I played with her kids. Our translation partner tapped me incessantly on the shoulder and with wide eyes clarified, “Did you hear that?!” To ensure she understood her own words, we pointed out a place where her book says otherwise. She was taken aback. "That's a contradiction ..." she recognized.
We shared a pictorial gospel tool with her, she repeated it back to us, and said she wants to join Jesus and leave the rest behind. Skeptical that God was actually answering our prayers so effortlessly, I challenged her. "You first have to go and share this with your husband and see what he thinks, then let us know." Despite my doubt, she boldly obeyed Jesus that week! Apparently her husband is very open-minded and doesn't mind that she follows. We were thrilled to see what looked like an empty field so quickly yield a fruitful, reproducing plant. After all, we do pray to the Lord of the harvest.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9:38 ESV)