Editor’s Note: Christians around the World is an ongoing series in which we see every church in every nation pursuing the same mission: making disciples and planting churches among unreached peoples and places. You can view part one here.
My husband has been planting house churches and discipling Christian men in South Asia for over a decade. As I went with him in this work, I saw firsthand the struggles of women living in rural villages. In 2015, I went through a training like my husband and started discipling the women in our churches, training them to disciple others. We also do health and hygiene lessons in the groups. The hope they now have in Christ empowers them to face the challenges of their difficult circumstances. I keep a generational map of the women leaders I’ve discipled and those who have discipled me. It has grown to over seventy-five people in just four years.
I was born and raised as a Muslim. In 2009, I started a business to promote education in my country to help children who couldn’t afford it. However, there was so much corruption and cheating that my business started to go down, and I had to close it. The way people lived made me wonder, “If Islam is a religion of love, why is there so much hate, fighting, and persecution on others, especially those who change religion to Christianity.”
This led me to search for answers and study the Bible online. I discovered that Christianity has true love and the Bible speaks the truth. Later, I decided to follow Jesus with my life. With newfound faith, I had to leave my country. All my friends and family would persecute me greatly if they found out about my conversion.
I have recently been accepted to a Bible college in North America and started class in January 2019. I’m excited to learn more about the Bible and a chance to grow in faith. My hope is to return to my home country some day and be able to share God’s love with my family and friends.
In May 2016, I started to cough uncontrollably. A visit to the doctor revealed that I had lung cancer. I immediately started chemotherapy that took a heavy toll on my body. At the same time, my husband’s business started to go down, as well as our relationship. Things could not have been worse as I hit the bottom in my life.
I didn’t want to believe in a foreign god and do away with our traditions and ancestor worship. Despite my stubbornness, Christians prayed for me and visited me. My husband, who had already become a Christian, bought me a bag with Joshua 1:9 written on it. This verse gave me peace and strength, and I decided to put my trust in Christ.
After my spiritual transformation, I began to notice physical changes as well. The chemo was much more tolerable, and I was able to take strong medicines that I wasn’t able to before. God gives me strength each day to endure side effects from all intensive medical treatments.
I live each day grateful for God’s sufficient grace in my life. I visit other cancer patients often and share my testimony and how God changed my life. There’s no hope and peace in their eyes without Jesus in their hearts. Three of the ten patients I shared with have now accepted Jesus and are attending church.
I grew up as an atheist believing religion is for the weak. I had a strong personality and was proud of what I had accomplished in my life. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I had to work extra hard and prove I was just as capable, if not better, to handle the demands of upholding the law. I had a good government job as a high-ranking police officer. One of my tasks was to confiscate Bibles and burn them. My opinion of Christians was that they are weak and a menace to society, so my heart was hard towards them.
But then one day my husband fell ill, and we found out that he had a blood cancer. The Christians I despised came and kindly shared with our family. My husband accepted Christ three months before passing away. He needed Christ, but not me—I don’t need a crutch, I thought. Christians continued to come and share with me and my daughter. Finally, my daughter and I decided to believe in Christ. After coming to faith, I realized how weak, limited, and incompetent I was. Going forward, I knew I could live only through Christ who strengthens me.
My colleagues noticed how my life has changed and how much happier of a person I’ve become. I’ve shared with many at my work, and a couple of them came to faith. I want my gifts to be used by God, and I pray that there will be true freedom of religion in my country.
I have been a drug addict for over twenty years. I’ve tried to stop many times and even went to a government-sponsored rehab center, but each time I failed. Over the years, many Christians witnessed and prayed for me. When I was coughing up blood for a long time, a Christian friend told me I needed to stop drugs and trust in God. I prayed every night but didn’t know how to pray. I told God, “I don’t want to live anymore. I’d rather die.” My friend did not give up on me. She took me into her place for a year and a half and helped me recover from drugs. We read the Bible and transcribed the Scripture every morning. In the afternoons she taught me how to do cross stitch. She stayed with me 24/7.
It was a long way of recovery with many ups and downs and temptations to fall back. When the Scripture finally took hold of my heart, that’s when the desire for drugs went away. I have now been drug-free for ten years.
My friend and I have helped over ten people from drugs. Currently, I am helping a woman who has been an addict for over twenty-four years. I brought her to my place so I can keep an eye on her. We read the Bible together every day and other Christians join us in praise and worship and group study in the evenings. Amazingly, God’s Word is having a grip on her already. I know she has a tough road of recovery ahead as I did, but with God’s grace, we will break through and be set free!
The Great Commission means everything for our church. We believe the main reason our church exists here in Vienna is to make disciples and plant other churches. It’s easy to say and fun to watch, but it takes a lot of patience to accomplish.
The church I pastor, BeOne, is a small church and a young one. In order to take part in the Great Commission, our church needed to overcome two main barriers. The first barrier was to make a community, a family. If you want to make disciples, you need a good environment in which to bring them. The second barrier was language. We are a bunch of Romanians who want to plant an international church. We gave up our language (Romanian) and began to use German and English, which are more common here, in our service and in our small groups.
My prayer is for us to be authentic followers of Christ. It is common sense that only a disciple is able to make other disciples. This is why we chose the name BeOne. This is the short version of Be The One. The change starts with me, not with my fellow Christian. If I want to change the culture, I have to Be The One doing it.
—Cristian Pana, pastor of BeOne International Baptist Church in Vienna, Austria.
When my mother died when I was a child, a part of me died as well. During my preteen years, drugs became my way to escape. Darkness had overtaken me. Even physical light was painful for me to bear. I would hide in the shadows when I went outside. When I began to worship the darkness, my thoughts were dark and deep and all about death. I just wanted to die.
One night I was invited to attend a house church. Despite my hatred toward God for taking away my mother, I decided to attend. I had heard the gospel before, but as I heard the gospel again, it moved me. A few days later, I confessed my sins and completely turned my life around as I admitted that I needed a Savior. As my eyes were opened to the light, I knew the darkness in my life had to go. I felt freedom as I threw out the drugs and all the drug paraphernalia that were a part of my life. It wasn’t long after my transformation that my family and friends stood in the cold, winter night with snow falling around them to witness my baptism. Although it was a dark night, I was filled with joy as I shared my testimony of how a Light had come to shatter the darkness.
—David, Hamburg, Germany
I’m the only believer in my village. “If I’m really the only person in this region who wants to know the truth of God, is there someone else out there who also knows the truth? Where are they? I want to meet them; send them to me,” I prayed. God has given me the answer. These people are being sent to me from all over the world. Christians from the US, Canada, Thailand, and Singapore have visited me. These visits have shown me just how vast and wide the body of Christ is and that I’m not alone.
My hope for my village is, first, to see that I have gotten eternal life. It’s something different that I want others to see and experience. And second, what’s growing in my heart is for everyone in my family and village who has sin in their heart to know the truth. Not just my people group, but other people groups in this area. I’d like for them to know the truth too.
The first Christians from my people were over one hundred years ago. Some from our people group were traveling east and heard a missionary sharing with another people group. Our people believed and brought the gospel back.
I just want more of my people to be able to read and understand the Bible. Even our Christians think that it is an English thing. Foreigners gave our people the gospel and the Bible, so we sometimes feel like we are worshiping someone else’s religion. That’s what all the leaders and Buddhists say, that our people are 100 percent Buddhist. So if you are Christian, they say, you are not one of the people. We really hate that.
So, we’re working on a translation of the Bible in our language. For so long, we’ve only had Bible in the national language, and for us it was foreign. We didn’t understand it very well because we speak a different language than the national language. That is why it has taken so long for people to understand the gospel and change.
Rachel Cohen is a content editor for imb.org. She lives with her husband and daughter in South Asia.