How Greater Europe Mission Came To Be

What do you know about Greater Europe Mission (GEM)…like, really know? Do you know why Europe is its focus? Do you know who began GEM or how it began? Many of us know about GEM in its current state; we know it is a mission organization that is passionate about spreading the Gospel across Europe and making disciples who go on to make disciples. For the sake of honouring its history and understanding its commission, let’s dive back to GEM’s origin and discover how it became the organization it is today.

In 1944, a 26-year-old US Navy Chaplain was sent to southern France to bring spiritual hope to men in battle. Knowing the importance of ministering to men within the heat of battle, he became the first chaplain to willingly set foot in the normally off-limit combat zones. However, this role was cut short when he rode over a land mine as he was motorcycling along a beach to reach the troops. Miraculously, he survived and went on to spend the next few months recovering in a French field hospital where he got to know some of the Frenchmen in the area.

Originally sent to provide spiritual assistance to his fellow Americans, Bob Evans instead realized that it was the local people in France that needed him more.

His short time spent in France was enlightening, and God impressed upon Evans a desire and a love for Europe and its people. He returned to America and went on to have a successful evangelistic ministry alongside the likes of Torrey Johnson and Billy Graham through the newly-established Youth for Christ, but he couldn’t shake his zeal for Europe.

The large-scale evangelism work he had done alongside his colleagues had roused the public into wanting to see more of these rallies where thousands of people would come to Christ. Evans realized that if this were to happen, the European church would need to be prepared to receive these new believers; but with only a small percentage of Europeans being reached, who would train them? With the encouragement and support from his friends and family, Evans, along with his wife, Jeanette, and daughter, Alyce, boarded a ship to France to start their own, new ministry.

In 1949, Evans began pouring his energy into the ongoing training of European believers, starting with the opening of a Bible school in Chotou, France, called the European Bible Institute, which was dedicated to training lay leaders in the fundamentals of the Bible. Soon opportunities opened for missionary work in many other European countries, giving rise to the establishment of Greater Europe Mission in 1952. Filled with qualified North Americans to help—not manage—the theologically inclined Europeans, these schools were the ideal place for Europeans to train for disciple-making.

In the 30 years Evans served as its director, GEM established 22 Bible Institutes across Europe—many of which are still in operation today.

Although it’s been about 75 years since Bob Evans established Greater Europe Mission, the organization flourishes on. With over 340 missionaries currently serving across Europe and North America, and partnerships with scores of ministries across Europe: from Bible-seminaries to 1000-year-old churches, from Christian camps to coffee shops, the peoples of Europe are being impacted with the authentic and relevant Word of the Gospel.

Is God calling you to be a part of this legacy? There is still so much need for the Gospel to be shared across Europe and for European believers to be encouraged and trained in the ways of disciple-making. Contact us today to find out how you can get involved!

How GEM Kids Navigate the Challenges of Missionary Life

You may have heard that life on the mission field isn’t always easy for a missionary, but have you considered its impact on their children? Do they experience the same highs and lows their parents do? Do they naturally follow in their parents’ footsteps, or have entirely different hopes for their future? When God calls believers to serve in missions, He doesn’t forget about their children! Though it isn’t always easy, it’s an invitation for these youth to grow closer to Him – often with some help from others.

Understanding the impact missionary work can have on children of missionaries, particularly with feelings of displacement, and desiring to provide support and tools to missionary families, Greater Europe Mission created a ministry catered to missionary children – GEM-K.

GEM-K is a ministry within GEM’s Wellness Department that reaches to the teenaged children of GEM missionaries. “It had its start at [GEM’s] Annual Conference,” Kristiana, head of the GEM-K department, explains. “It was a place for the teenagers to go and was basically a youth camp for that one week of the year.” Eventually, it became a much more in-depth ministry for connecting teenagers to each other so that their relationships could strengthen, and they would feel less alone. “It became not just a program, but a community, an ongoing relational ministry, and a type of pastoral care for teenagers who are often misunderstood both in their host and sending countries,” Kristiana shares.

With devoted and passionate staff – many of whom were previously in the GEM-K program themselves – these teenagers never have to feel alone. Kristiana says, “Our staff is trained to not just understand but really speak into their lives as a source of spiritual input and guidance that’s safe for them.”

In fact, because of this ministry, these teenagers have an amazing opportunity to grow even deeper in their walk with Christ. “It’s a space that allows their faith to become theirs and not [just] their parents’. And because there’s already an understanding [of the Gospel], GEM-K has this chance to go deeper, and ask harder questions, and push into things that maybe weren’t getting discussed in other places,” Kristiana says.

One previous GEM-Ker, Dave, can attest to the importance of this ministry: “He told us a story about how he was very disconnected and far from God, and very angry and unsure, when he was at a GEM-K [retreat] as a teenager,” Kristiana remembers. “During one of the worship sessions, he walked out of the room. One of our leaders followed and found him, and they ended up talking for a long time. Dave told us that if it wasn’t for that conversation, he probably wouldn’t be a Christian today, and it changed his life.”

The importance and impact of these one-on-one talks have been noted and are now an integral part of each GEM-K retreat. “The goal is that every teenager has a space to talk about whatever – we let them guide the conversation,” Kristiana says. “We’ve had teenagers tell us really serious things and sometimes really hard things; there’s been a lot of crying, but sometimes it’s just really relaxed and fun. Ultimately, it’s a way that we ensure that there’s never a teenager that gets forgotten or dropped through the cracks.”

“For me,” Bryce, a GEM-K alumni, shares, “GEM-K was a space to be with other teenagers who have experienced the same challenges of cross-cultural living, as well as be poured into and deeply cared for by the staff of GEM-K. It created a unique environment to feel truly known and understood. The Lord used my time at GEM-K to greatly impact who I am today in wonderful ways. Much of my faith has grown because of the leader’s hard work to care for me and teach me who the Lord is.”

With GEM-K prioritizing safety, authenticity, and hope, this ministry has played, and continues to play, an important role in the lives of the kids of GEM’s missionaries. If this ministry excites you, and you have a passion to disciple youth and walk alongside them as they navigate their unconventional lives, especially at their annual retreats, contact us! GEM-K is always looking for help from responsible believers.

*Some names have been changed for privacy.

The Appointee’s Journey To Becoming A Full-time Missionary

What does it take to become a full-time missionary? What does the preparation process look like? Is it difficult? It can be hard to fully comprehend the complexities of this journey; an appointee commonly goes through a whirlwind of experiences, including a wide range of emotions and a furthering of their dependency on God. Willing to share their own personal journeys of becoming full-time missionaries, are GEM Canada’s Katarina Colegrove, now in her first year overseas, and Joel Kennedy, a current appointee.

Appointed to serve with Greater Europe Mission in 2018, Katarina Colegrove and her family spent five years support raising, planning, and preparing for their move to Germany, where they now reside. “Support raising was different [and harder] than I had expected… but this process has shaped us,” Katarina explains. “We wouldn’t have been [spiritually] ready to be immediately sent to Germany. It helped us to be more faithful over a period of time.”

Much of the time between getting appointed and arriving in the serving country is spent contacting and meeting with churches, friends, family, and even strangers. It’s a time of sharing one’s vision and extending an invitation to support one’s cause financially and prayerfully. “Remaining excited all the time was more difficult than I had thought. When you’re on your 100th appointment and you’ve said your thing 100 times, remembering that the other person doesn’t know your whole story is so important,” Katarina says.

Joel Kennedy and his family of four have recently been appointed with GEM and are now eager to make disciples in France. Although they knew in their hearts, for the past 14 years, that God wanted them in France, they’ve just recently felt God’s go-ahead to pursue it, and are now raising support to make it happen. “There’s been a lot of things that God has had to teach us,” Joel reflects. “A lot of things that we didn’t know that we needed to know, including the idea of surrendering to and worshipping God through the process.”

An important distinction all appointees need to discern is when God wants them to begin ministry. He knows what growth or equipping they may need before becoming a missionary. For those who are in the midst of support-raising: “Try to remember that putting in more hours of time and work does not necessarily mean you will be supported faster,” Katarina remarks. “Yes, you have to put in the effort, but it’s when God wants you to be there, and that’s how it’s going to be.”

Raising financial support isn’t the only item on an appointee’s agenda. There are books to be read, resources to be accessed, and leaders to meet with – all for the sake of ensuring appointees are well equipped for the road ahead. Events like Mission Prep are important for further preparing the person for the massive life change they’re embarking on.

“[Mission Prep] was two-weeks of training,” Katarina explains. “At the time, I don’t think I realized how helpful it was. [Now that we’re in Germany], it’s really nice to be able to go back [to what we had learned] when feeling confused, or [when] there’s a lot of things happening.” “We were stretched and challenged in many meaningful ways… it was truly vital in the process of preparing our family for our future on the field,” Joel added.

Whether a person is an appointee for only a few months before reaching missionary status, or a few years, it’s a busy and productive time! Between raising financial and prayer support, taking any necessary classes, and meeting all other requirements for moving into a new land, it’s an exciting, and often exhausting time. If you know an appointee, we encourage you to reach out and offer your support. A word of encouragement goes a long way and knowing they are being prayed for is often the fuel they need to continue in their journey! If you do not know an appointee, but are looking to offer your support, please contact our office today and we’ll connect you with someone! You can email or call our toll-free number: (866) 241-3579

The Spiritual Impact of Music in Discipleship and Evangelism

What would happen if something as universally beloved as music was used as a means of both stirring up believers and reaching the lost? Music inspires emotion and provokes thought. It reaches down into a person’s soul, uncovering joys and sorrows. Churchgoers are well aware of the role music plays in worship and drawing nearer to God, but can music also be a means to draw in the lost?

Richard Mauney, a GEM worker in Romania, states: “A healthy worship life of the church will fuel the other aspects of the total church ministry – discipleship, spiritual growth of members, evangelism, missions, social ministries, and fellowship. Attention given to congregational worship can both reflect as well as produce a proper balance in the overall ministry of the church.”

It’s important to note that although music is certainly an expression of worship, it would be wrong to claim that it’s the only form of worship. In fact, our entire lives should be an act of worship! Within a church setting, music is one form of worship that brings praise and glory before God, and the music team’s role is to help lead others into His presence. As we enter into God’s presence, we’ll often receive a boldness in serving Him, which is evident in how we live.

With a passion for music, Germany’s Zachary McKay has used it as an outlet for ministry in his church, and more recently his home, for the last fifteen years. Music is universally familiar and appealing, so it can sometimes become a ministry unexpectedly. “On three separate occasions, my neighbours had told me that my singing was really good – I suppose [my apartment] walls were either thinner than I figured, or I was a bit louder than I thought,” Zachary jokes. After explaining to them that he plays music at his church, his neighbours expressed that they’d never heard church music played like that.

People often create certain expectations of what different genres of music should sound like – especially ‘church’ music. “I think singing more contemporary worship music or a different style than people are used to, creates interest that creates curiosity, and then ultimately leads to people asking questions to learn more about it – not just to enjoy the art, but to get to the heart of it,” Zachary explains.

Aside from these meaningful encounters with his neighbours, Zachary also makes a point to meet regularly with others who are passionate about music for a time of encouragement and training. “We’re creating a space for developing relationships because of the natural camaraderie in the arts and in music,” Zachary says. Between coaching those who come wanting to improve their skills, or those who just need a safe place to do what they love, these jam sessions become a great opportunity to reach others.

“There isn’t necessarily that understanding of being in a holy space,” Zachary says about these jam sessions, “or the song may not be recognizably about Jesus. That, to me, is a fun space to enter, because although nonbelievers may not recognize the subject matter of the music at first, they recognize the emotion behind it.” 

Richard Mauney’s idea that all aspects of ministry are impacted by healthy worship within the church is evident in the unique ways people are choosing to serve missionally. “Evangelism or discipleship doesn’t conform to a strict kind of model,” Zachary explains. “Music can be a form of discipleship and evangelism… I can name four people who came to faith explicitly because of exposure to Christian music, and three of them are now pastors! So, in regard to music and art as mission, if the Holy Spirit is in it, then lives are going to be transformed.”

To those who would love to get started in this type of ministry, Zachary suggests diving right in! “Just immerse yourself in it and trust that God is there and in it with you. If it’s something you really want to do, your actions [should] reflect that, but it’s really about surrounding yourself with people in an environment that will nurture that desire.” Are you someone who enjoys worshipping through music? Have you considered using your gifts to break barriers with the unsaved or uplift local Christians? If so, would you consider stepping out of your comfort zone and playing your music for God where others can join in? Perhaps some may experience new life as they meet the transforming God behind your lyrics!

The Accessibility and Importance of Refugee Ministries

Imagine, for a moment, being torn from your home, all you know and love, and sent to a new, unknown location. Sure, you could have stayed, but doing so may have brought more devastation. Now you cling desperately to the hope that you’ve made the right decision. You don’t know if you’ll see your home, your family, again. In fact, you have no idea what your future holds.

One of the most accessible ways of serving in Europe is with refugees. Over the years, millions of people have been displaced due to war, famine, or dreadful living conditions. These people long for refuge and new life in Europe. As God’s hands and feet, we have the opportunity and privilege of showing our neighbours God’s love in practical ways.

There’s an unfortunate stigma surrounding refugees, though, with society often viewing them as a problem. “Because refugees often arrive lacking basic necessities, many assume they are uneducated people who are accustomed to sleeping on the street and begging for food… this is rarely the case!” Rachel Carlson, a global worker who serves refugees in Greece, says. “Most refugees have left living standards on par with most of us —highly educated with businesses, cars, cell phones, and kids in school before suddenly losing their entire network of life, relationships, and stability.”

“He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners…”

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NLT)

Working with an integration and refugee program offered by a Greek Church, Rachel shows love to foreigners by helping them become more self-sufficient while living in Europe. “Many of the refugee ministries in Athens are day-centers, which can serve possibly hundreds of refugees daily with food, language classes, laundry rooms, etc. My primary ministry is a bit different,” she explains. “Our center is a place where families live and go through a holistic integration program, focusing on about 15 families at a time, who are with us for 1.5 years on average.”

Sacrificing their time and energy in serving the newly arrived families, Christian workers often get the unique privilege of building relationships and trust among the refugees. This opens windows of opportunity for sharing the Gospel. “While refugees are at different points on their physical journey, so it is with their spiritual journey,” Rachel says. “We can help them take the next step toward Christ. [In fact], we have seen refugees come to faith and be baptized!”

Though every salvation is celebratory, the seeds that have been planted can also bring much inspiration. “One Syrian family with two small children was with us for about a year,” Rachel starts. “They were not believers but were part of our church integration program. The father showed up on a Sunday morning as their family was preparing to leave. He told our pastor, ‘We’re really grateful for the help and love you have shown to us Muslims. I didn’t become a Christian here, but you know something? I will never teach my children to hate Christians the way I was raised to as a little boy.’”

Though many missionaries move to Europe expecting to share the Good News with local Europeans doors for new ways of serving have been opened, and people groups from outside the continent are now experiencing God’s love through His faithful workers. May we show God’s love to all who are in need and uplift these workers in prayer who are not only making Kingdom impact among the European people, but also among those from surrounding continents!

Pastoral and Professional Support for Missionaries

God’s calling will often draw people out of their comfort zones. When it sends them into entirely new and foreign lands, life can take on a whole new set of challenges. Though God equips those He calls and blesses those who are obedient, serving far from home in a different culture with an unfamiliar language – often in a spiritually dark climate – is not always easy.

“Even with pre-field training and letting people know how difficult it can be, it always seems to catch people by surprise,” Spiritual Life team director, Jonathan Bourbeau, says. “It takes leaving something behind and going into something new; there’s a dying and a coming alive, but that process is stressful and not easy.”

The goal for workers of Greater Europe Mission is to reach and disciple others, but when locals aren’t receptive to the Gospel and the workers aren’t seeing the results they’ve been praying for, burnout becomes a real possibility. “Burnout happens a lot. It happened to myself and my wife,” Jonathan remembers. “We weren’t sure what to do. Then, a colleague was very gracious to have [qualified] people walk alongside us.”

Scripture is clear on the importance of community and coming alongside each other for encouragement, help, carrying one another’s burdens, sharpening, and building each other up. For the missionary verging on burnout, questioning their call, or distracted with homesickness, help is essential.

GEM has recognized the importance of supporting its missionaries and has set up a resource of pastoral and professional care within the organization for this very purpose. Made up of GEM’s previously existing Member Care and Spiritual Life Team, GEM Wellness offers specialized support to help GEM workers and their families flourish spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. Take for instance the Nichol family, who in a time a need, received the necessary tools and support from GEM Wellness to joyfully and effectively continue God’s work. To listen to their story, click here.

To ensure missionaries are serving in healthy ways, GEM Wellness has developed strategic teams to cater to the whole person:

  • GEM-K team: Its aim is to create a safe space for teenagers to develop into spiritually and emotionally healthy adults who have personally experienced the transforming work of Jesus in their lives.
  • Counselor team: A team of educated and qualified counselors to help missionaries address mental, emotional, and relational trials.
  • Mission Pastors team: A group who proactively engages in caring for and supporting missionaries through calls, visits, and hosting within their own homes.
  • Connecting Hearts team: A women’s ministry that focuses on connecting women to God, themselves, and others through annual retreats that allow women within GEM to meet together, connect, and learn from prayerfully prepared content.
  • Sending Entity Member Care team: This team is responsible for assessing the mental and emotional readiness of individuals and couples wanting to join GEM. They also offer a retreat to care for missionaries after each term of service. 
  • Spiritual Life team: Their mission is to foster a culture that embraces and responds to God’s interactive presence which transforms lives, relationships, and ministries.
  • Healthy Living team: Their goal is to encourage and equip missionaries to live as embodied followers of Jesus by implementing healthy lifestyle habits for the physical body.

Many people turn to counseling at the eleventh hour, after things have gotten so bad that they’re left feeling defeated, but GEM has realized the importance of addressing this issue not just reactively, but also proactively. “Investing in people at the front end is important for their growth and development,” Jonathan insists, “especially for the transformative life that will have an impact.” If we want our missionaries to be effective, it’s vital that they remain healthy through all seasons of life.

GEM doesn’t leave missionaries to do God’s work alone. Available for those anticipating hardships or actively experiencing them, GEM Wellness is passionate about providing proper support for all, knowing that through this, missionaries will be equipped to be impactful and effective in their ministries.

Let’s continue to support our missionaries! Why not reach out to one you know now? It might bring them more encouragement than you realize.

If mission work has been on your heart and you’re looking for an organization that truly cares for you and wants you to thrive on the field, consider connecting with us by clicking here.

Celebrating and Reflecting on Easter in Greece

Adrian couldn’t wait for the end of the week. The excitement of Easter always delighted him, and he relished all its festive celebrations. Painting hard-boiled eggs red on the Thursday before Easter has been one of his favourite memories of the holiday, and this year his friend Andrew would join him and his family. The best part? Breaking the eggs on Sunday! Perhaps this year Adrian will have the strongest egg of all…

This time of the year, children in Greece, like Adrian, are blessed to have two weeks off school to honour this important holiday. In fact, it’s the biggest Christian holiday of the year for the Greeks and is oozing with traditions – some of which start weeks before the holiday is even celebrated.

For instance, the devout Orthodox start their traditions early with forty days of lent – fasting specifically from red meats, meat by-products, and fish with backbones – which begins on Clean Monday, a day where you’ll notice an abundance of airborne kites. Additionally, at this time you may notice some households yielding a seven-legged woman shaped out of salty dough, whose legs are individually broken off in each of the preceding weeks before Easter.

Symbolism is key, and Greece’s unique Easter eggs are a notable example. Dyed typically on Holy Thursday, these hard-boiled eggs are dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ shed on the cross, while the hard shell represents the sealed tomb of Jesus which will be ‘cracked’ open on Easter Sunday.

The delightful aroma of sweet bread began to waft throughout the house as Adrian and Andrew finished cleaning the red dye off their hands. His mom was busy in the kitchen preparing for the weekend, and although she said the bread was to be saved for Sunday, Adrian couldn’t wait to have a taste!

The often-braided sweet bread, also known as tsoureki, is an important Easter staple that contains the distinctive flavourings of citrus and mahlab. Presented with a dyed-red egg baked onto the top, it’s the perfect way to break the fast that many had been on in preparation for Easter.

Interesting how one can go from hopeful preparation to bittersweet sadness in just a day’s time, Adrian thought. With his family by his side at church, he watched solemnly as the epitaph – a depiction of Christ’s lifeless body in its tomb – was approached and kissed by all congregants. Sadness filled the air on this Friday, and the sound of beautiful, yet mournful chants and hymns filled Adrian’s chest with emotion. 

After a period of waiting, locals meet once again for the liturgy on Saturday evening.

With Christ’s resurrection believed to have happened exactly as Saturday becomes Sunday, midnight, the whole village or city will gather, after a very late church service, to light candles representing the Light of the world coming forth from the tomb. Sorrow turns into joy. Fireworks often light up the sky at midnight, followed by a breaking of the fast with soup made from the organs and intestines of the lamb they will be roasting the next day.

After visiting the church and eating a late bowl of soup, Adrian grabbed his dyed-red egg in preparation for its cracking. He locked eyes with his father, who held up his own red egg, then brought it down upon his dad’s, cracking it open in the process. Smiles wide throughout the room, Adrian and his family, together with countless other families across Greece, called out, “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!”

Whether we celebrate with commemorative traditions or with quiet times of reverent reflection and worship, through the preparations, times of sorrow and of celebration, may we never forget the sacrifice and resulting hope that God has gifted us! 

Happy Easter!

*Thanks to Mark Doebler, currently serving in Greece, for your input!

Encouraging the Faith of Believers in France

France has a concerning shortage of healthy, operating churches. With only about 1% of France’s population truly following Jesus, finding a supportive Christian community can be difficult. What can we, an organization committed to spreading the Gospel and making disciples, do to provide the support that these local believers require?

One of the ways GEM has brought encouragement and support to Christians across France is through a camp called Camp des Cimes – also known as Camp of the Peaks. Located in the southeast part of the country, its mountainous landscape showcases God’s beauty in creation, allowing for a rejuvenating change of scenery for all its visitors.

Offering programs for people of all ages and interests, the main goal of the staff is to create a place where the lost can be saved and the found can be strengthened. This involves refreshing, encouraging, and displaying the Gospel. “People come from very troubled backgrounds to the camp… it really has become a refuge [for campers].” Pamela Konstant says. Having served at Camp of the Peaks for the past few years, she’s realized the importance of its ministry.

“The culture in France isn’t necessarily supportive [for Christians],” Pamela starts, “so when they come to the camp, it’s just totally different than how they’ve felt. They feel accepted and safe to bring up their problems and questions without feeling judged,” Pamela explains. “In many cases, the people who come to the camp will be the only Christian [in their community], and so the opportunity to connect with other believers and be strengthened to go back is a huge blessing.”

In fact, many believers who visit the camp often find themselves returning repeatedly. “It really is because of Camp of the Peaks that I ended up serving in France long-term,” Howard Moore, a now-retired GEMer, recalls. Having raised his three children in France and often visiting the camp, Howard has found that even his children were drawn back to it. “After moving back to Canada, my daughter made the decision to go back to Camp of the Peaks and minister there [as a missionary] long-term, which she did off-and-on for about eight years.”

Much of the appeal can be attributed to the camp’s friendly environment. “One of the camp’s strong points is its amazing atmosphere,” Pamela Konstant explains. “We get people who come time and time again because of the peace they feel.”

Adding to the allure of the camp is its range of activities, which include – but are not limited to – skiing, hiking, pottery, rock climbing, biking, and theater. Behind the fun and leisure, though, hides the beauty of the camp’s true purpose: “[The camp’s] philosophy is to get a good team of believers to work alongside [the campers],” Howard explains. “There’s an emphasis on discipleship work with the youth… developing solid relationships with them and seeking to break through into their thoughts about God.”

“[Seeing campers] come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and then start serving at the camp and serving at the church, and eventually getting married and starting families… the legacy of the camp is just incredible!” Pamela enthuses. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity for [new believers] to see that Christianity – that Jesus – makes a difference in lives, to the point where it’s visible.”

If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to serve in a beautiful setting alongside great people, Camp des Cimes may be the place for you! The camp is always looking for help of every kind, from cleaning to construction – even those with artistic abilities willing to lead a workshop are welcome! “If anybody has any skill whatsoever, we need them,” Pamela states.

Is there a role you can play in supporting the ongoing efforts in France? As global workers continue to encourage the faith of attending campers, will you pray with us for more labourers to be sent to help make a greater impact?

The Importance of Prayer Partnership in Missions

Have you ever wondered what it means to be a prayer partner for a missionary or ministry? Perhaps you’ve even wondered if prayer is an effective source of support?

We believe that none of our work will have eternal significance apart from prayer and our ministries are only effective with God’s help. It’s worth saying, however, that prayer doesn’t change things; prayer is calling on the God who changes things! And when we say that it’s God who changes things, we acknowledge two things. First, that our prayers aren’t incantations; prayer isn’t about saying things a particular way to get a particular response. As we pray ‘Thy will be done’ and draw near to the Lord through prayer, our hearts (and prayers) begin to shift and align with the heart and purposes of God. Second, that our Lord Jesus, the one true God, who knows what we need and loves us so much, invites us to call on His name.

Let’s consider what Scripture tells us. 1 John 5:14-15 reveals that we serve a God who not only wants to hear from us, but also respond to us. Romans 8:34, 1 John 2:1, and Hebrews 7:25 all reveal Christ’s role as our advocate, interceding on our behalf while at the right hand of God. Christ Himself demonstrates the value of intercession – and it is only through Him that our prayers can be heard and answered.

“We have the Spirit of the Intercessor, Christ Jesus, alive in our very bones. To not intercede and walk in His Way of Intercession, we are deliberately choosing to walk in our own strength rather than walking by the Spirit,” Leslie Hall says.

We spoke with Luke Baublet and Leslie, GEM workers in Europe, about how they prioritize prayer in their ministries. They understand that going directly to the Father is the most effective way to see meaningful impact within their work.

“Paul writes about bearing one another’s burdens,” Luke starts. “To me, intercession is the spiritual aspect of that.” As disciples sent out into the world to make more disciples, our missionaries meet many people, both believers and unbelievers, all needing prayer. Many European countries are spiritually dark, which can result in exhaustion or discouragement for the Christians within them.

“We get to have the joy and honour and heartache at times of interceding between the need and the fulfilment,” Luke explains. Having steadfast prayer from intercessors and prayer partners helps to shift the spiritual landscape, and really does make a difference!

Take for instance this testimony:

“We started something called 30 days of prayer for Berlin. As we came up with a list of 30 prayer points, one thing that we were all convinced of was the need for more faithful followers of Jesus in Berlin. [Soon after the 30 days], one of our colleagues with a different organization received two inquiries of people interested in serving in Berlin, and another had one inquiry. With GEM, we went from having a few people interested and only one couple raising support, to at least four couples or singles already on the field or raising funds to come and join us! This was an absolute answer to prayer,” Luke recognizes.

As God answers prayers, the resulting testimonies become spiritual weapons and sustenance. “In darker moments when we’re really struggling, we come back to the clear evidence that God is at work… and He is answering prayers,” Luke says.

Unfortunately, even with such evidence of answered prayer, we can still find ourselves stuck, or unmotivated in our prayer lives from time to time. “Have we taken our eyes off Jesus?” Luke challenges. “The answer is almost always ‘yes’.”

How do we then refocus? Leslie encourages: “Allow yourself to be consumed by the Lord, forsaking all things… in order to fully draw near to Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Make space for the Lord with no expectations and allow Him to show up. Growing in prayer is to fall deeper in love.”

The next time someone asks you to be a prayer partner, consider the spiritual importance of this request! Your prayers are effective, making way for God’s work to unfold in the darkest places, and most importantly, your own relationship with God will strengthen as you draw nearer to Him through prayer.

A Ukrainian Refugee Christmas Away from Home

Ten months ago, Russia began wreaking havoc in Ukraine, displacing many Ukrainians into surrounding countries and beyond. With emotions running high and uncertainty still in the air, this Christmas season will undoubtedly present its own set of significant and hard challenges and change. Together, let’s meet some of these brave refugees currently in Romania as they reveal how they’ll be embracing this year’s holiday season.

First, let’s meet Holly – a global worker currently serving in Craiova, Romania. She serves specifically in the refugee ministry, translating when needed and visiting regularly with the refugees. Listening to, praying for, and serving the Ukrainian refugees has built trust, making space for them to comfortably and openly share their unique outlooks on Christmas with Holly – and with us!

While it is true that some don’t even know which country they’ll be in come Christmas – never mind what they’ll do to celebrate – there are some, like Olga, Nastya, Marina, Liudmila, and Anna, who are considering their options and still plan to commemorate the holiday.

Olga, from Nikolaev, is presently in Romania with her son. With an aching soul and longing to be back home, she still plans to celebrate. “To keep up the traditions, to remember home and loved ones, we’re going to prepare the twelve dishes: Kutia from wheat, with poppy seeds, nuts, honey, raisins, prunes, and varenyky and cabbage rolls with bacon. It’s all shared with family, but this time it’s just me and my son. Of course, we’ll have a video call with relatives, but we [won’t] show them our table, because in Ukraine they won’t have what we have.”

Nastya, from Mariupol, shares what a typical Christmas once looked like: “We always cooked delicious food and chose which [Christmas] movie to watch. We watched the president’s address and lit sparklers at midnight.” She continues, “We don’t know how it will be this year, but we plan to celebrate… We’ll cook something delicious and maybe we’ll celebrate with the neighbours.”

Liudmila, also from Mariupol, says: “Before the war, I celebrated the New Year with my family at night. We cooked a lot of different foods, of course, watched on TV the congratulations from the president and New Year’s concerts. We gave gifts to relatives.” This year, with her granddaughter and great-grandson, she plans simply to go to church and have a meal at home on January 6th.

“We’ll celebrate with our family, with the children,” Marina, from Nikolaev, starts: “If it’s possible to have a Christmas tree, we’ll put some small presents under it… We’ll cook something tasty, better than our everyday food, and that’s how we’ll celebrate.” Alongside her sister, daughter, and two-year-old grandson, Marina continues: “Home is home. It’s sad, of course. It’s a joyful holiday, and we will have some kind of joy too, but a little bit of sadness also because it isn’t home.” 

“We’re here where it’s calm and quiet, but my heart and soul are still in Ukraine, where there is bombing and destruction, where life is no longer the way it was before. Everything is different now,” Olga somberly confesses. As a new believer, she continues: “I’m thankful to God for everything He does for me, that He holds me, shelters me, and protects me. I’m thankful to God for all the people [who have helped me].”

Anna sums up the hope of Christmas in the midst of conflict: “War, yes, it affects things. I’m not going to celebrate [the same way] this year, but Christmas is a glorious holiday — the star shone; Jesus was born… Of course, it will be different this year, but it’s not about the food or other things. It’s about the heart and what you think about God and how you worship Him.” Anna goes on to say: “I miss my brother, my church, my pastor, the sisters [in Christ] who have stayed even through the bombings… It’s a different place with different people, but the holiday is the same – still the most important thing.”

Those serving in the Romanian church endeavour to bless these displaced individuals this Christmas season. “We’re doing a few Christmas outreach activities with the refugees here in Craiova,” Holly explains. “One is a card making workshop, which will include a message from the Bible. A GEM colleague [will also be] providing Christmas gifts for all the refugee kids we work with. Lastly, we’re planning to hold a Russian language Christmas service for the refugees on January 6 – Orthodox Christmas – that will hopefully include some small gift bags for the attending families.”

Although their hearts are with their homes in Ukraine, it is heartwarming to hear that many still plan to celebrate, and that there are people in position to offer them a little more cheer this holiday season. Please pray that Ukrainian refugees will embrace the hope of Jesus as they mark Christmas this year. May you also experience the hope and joy that Christmas brings and help spread it to those who may need it. Merry Christmas!

*Some names have been changed for privacy.