Things Unseen : Portraying the Real Lives of Christ-Followers


“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:18

What are we living for?   

As believers, our focus should remain on God; we aren’t living for this world but for Him. To live a life truly dependent on Him and choosing to serve Him in all that we do sounds great, but how might that look?  

Alex and Miriam Reimer have first-hand experience with depending on God for their needs. Having left the comforts of their North American homes several years ago, Canadian Alex, and his American wife, Miriam, served in Germany then Northern Ireland—where they met, married, and ultimately served as missionaries. As they anticipated returning to North America, they felt compelled to expose what God can do through us when we set our eyes solely on Him.  

Alex and Miriam Reimer

While serving overseas with Greater Europe Mission, Alex’s ministry was in filmmaking. Working with Soul Catalyst, he found that creating videos was an excellent way to share the Good News with others.  

“As artists, we speak different languages and can say different things, things we may not otherwise be able to put into words,” he starts. “This kind of started a hunger in me to portray the missionary experience [in a different way].”  

With a return to Canada already on their horizon, the Reimers began their last assignment as missionaries in Europe. They left their home in Northern Ireland, bought a camper van, and set out on a journey through Europe to film several GEM missionaries live their day-to-day lives.  

“The goal of this project is to show what it’s really like to be a missionary on the field,” Alex remarks.  

Believers are used to hearing the powerful stories of how God has moved, and although you will see some of those moments, Alex emphasizes how this documentary highlights the other side of it. “You’ll see how these stories come out of long hours of faithfulness and weeks of just getting out of bed and doing the things needed to be done.”  

Alex and Miriam spent two weeks with each missionary unit—Crystal and Matteo Scamporlino, Jill Corley, and Julie and Jivko Binev—capturing each day on video. “Every person we’ve been with has been such an amazing encouragement and picture of Jesus; they’re all great,” they reveal.  

To ensure this documentary remained authentic, the Reimers didn’t go with an agenda.  

Alex Reimer walking with Jill Corley

“We just wanted to be present with these people and see what God was doing; then we would build the story from there.” Knowing that God works through the mundane, the Reimers ultimately wanted to see God in action while they were there.  

“I learned a lot, as we went about, of how God works in the margins of things—that’s where the interesting stories are,” Alex starts. “In Bulgaria, we went to [and filmed] every scheduled thing the Binevs did but realized that the interesting things actually happened in the setup before and the takedown after…so much of what God does is actually outside of the plans that we have.”  

The Reimers’ project confirms that as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, He will continue to show up, even when we aren’t expecting Him to.  

“[A common factor we see is] how these missionaries take steps of faith and trust God with the end results,” Alex explains. “It’s not so much worrying about success, but just getting out there to do it!”  

Julie Binev, one of the filmed missionaries, hopes this film will put a spark in its audience. “We pray the viewers recognize how God can use everyday people who simply say ‘yes’ to His call to make disciples.”  

Watching Julie’s prayers over a school in Bulgaria get answered, witnessing Jill Corley bring hope to other widows in Romania, and hearing the Scamporlinos’ testimony of a healed boy’s family coming to church in Italy, we can see plenty of examples of God’s faithfulness shown through those who focus their eyes on Him.  

“I think the story that came out of this [documentary] was just being faithful with what’s in front of you and being full of faith that God will work through it, leaving the results up to Him,” Alex concludes. “You do your work and God will do His work. I think all the missionaries that we connected with exemplified that, and that was really cool and encouraging to see.”  

If you, too, would like to see what the life of a missionary in Europe looks like, or simply want to see how bold Christians are living out their faith, you can save the date to watch Things Unseen when it’s released—July 12—at gemission.org/things-unseen/

The Importance of Cities and Why We Should Serve in Them


What do you think of when you hear the words populated, busy, and trafficHow about nightlife, museums, and restaurants? Do you think of a place where you might live? A place where you might want to live? With God calling us to be ‘fishers of men’, would it be beneficial to seek out a place encapsulating the words mentioned above?   

With over half of the world’s population living in cities, it’s no wonder long-time church planter and GEM worker Stephen Beck encourages Christian believers to fulfill the great commission within them.   

“Cities are where decisions of the future of the world are being made,” Stephen starts.  

“They’re places of productivity and creativity; where universities and businesses are; where the poor look for work and survival; they’re gathering places of special interest groups,” says Stephen. “The city is a magnet that draws all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds to itself. If we’re going to think missions, we need to understand that the world is moving into cities.”  

Take Brussels, for instance. The capital city of Belgium is home to over 185 nationalities. Like a growing number of other cities in Europe, Brussels has attracted a melting pot of cultures. The nations of the world have been flocking to the cities, bringing a diversity of religions and beliefs with them.     

“If winning the nations is the goal, into the cities we should go.”  

Stephen Beck

We can see God’s heart for cities through Nineveh, one of the more famous of pagan biblical cities. Jonah, horrified at the thought of being sent there, offers us something to consider—how much do we relate with him? How often do we feel superior to those living sinfully in the cities around us? How often do we choose to, instead of leading them to Christ, avoid or ignore their behavior altogether?  

Is God still concerned for the Ninevehs of today?   

“We need to replace our indifference with zeal, and our dislike for the city with compassion,” Stephen offers. “In Matthew 9:38, Jesus went through the city and saw many who were confused and lost. Today, many people in cities don’t know who Jesus is—they’re still confused and lost.” We need to participate in God’s mission for the people.   

With years of church planting involvement in Canada, Germany, and now the US, Stephen’s seasoned experience sheds light on the ways God can move when we’re obedient, especially regarding planting churches within cities.  

“Church planting is a mission strategy for people who don’t know Jesus,” he states. With the presence of spiritual warfare evident in both urban and rural areas, it’s important to have these ‘beacons of light’ for non-believers to find the Truth.  

“Church plants should be Gospel-centered, where there are no expectations for non-Christians to instantly fit into a church code of behavior, but have an open-arms approach, being patient as new Christians go on their journey,” Stephen says. “As we plant churches, we need to include all nations and languages; multiculturalism is the way to go, because nations are gathering in cities.”  

As we make our way into the cities, we need to be patient and prayerful. We live in a world where many believe they don’t need God. Men and women try to prove they can make it on their own and can decide what is true. When they discover that they themselves can’t fulfill what their souls are aching for, we need to be ready to offer true fulfillment.  

“If we’re going to reach the nations, we need to reach our nation. To reach our nation, we need to reach the cities. We need to be concerned, have compassion for the people in our cities. We need to be fishers of men—it is our purpose. We need to be proactive missionaries with hearts burning for the people where we live,” Stephen concludes.  

Cities—with all they offer and contain—offer such rich opportunities for Christians to make an impact. Will you choose to be part of the movement, going after the people in the places where they gather?  

Pray with me.  

Lord, give us a heart for the people—a heart that longs to see them set free, even if it means stepping out of our comfort zones and into the busyness of the city to find them. We pray for you to instill in us a heart for Your mission, that all may hear Your name and be set free.   

Amen  

To hear Stephen’s sermon in its entirety, click here

Why Should We Care about Missions?

 Do you remember your first exposure to missions? If you grew up in a Christian church, perhaps the idea was first planted in Vacation Bible School. There we would be regaled of the Apostle Paul’s adventures in prison, earthquakes, and on rough seas. We would hear fantastic stories of people suddenly understanding foreign languages, and tragic tales of young men martyred by villagers. For a young child, foreign missions was understood as a global adventure to be taken on by only the most spiritually mature among us. 

Even as adults, these ideas still linger. We’re taught about great spiritual needs in church, we hear from missionaries in Sunday school, we may even host a missionary family for a night or two. But the concept remains slightly out of reach. Missions is something other Christians do, right? “Good for them,” we are tempted to think, “but it’s not really for me.” 

We think missions is for you: for you to pray about, participate in, and support. But why?

Why should you care about missions? 

Because God cares 

If we claim to love God, we should love the things He loves, and the things that matter to Him should matter to us.  

We know that He loves His children—we’re the reason He sent His only Son as a sacrifice to save us (John 3:16) and an example for us to follow (John 20:21). He wants His children—from every people group and nation—to experience His glory. Acts 13:47 says that He has made us a light for the gentiles, that we may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.  

God longs to redeem and restore us (1 Peter 5:10). He doesn’t want any of His family to miss this gift, which is why, like Jesus, we need to go into the world to ensure no one misses out!  

Because salvation is only available through Jesus Christ 

The Word is clear that Jesus is our only hope for salvation (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). If this is the case, then everyone needs to know. Unfortunately, there are still people in this world that haven’t even heard the name ‘Jesus’, never mind choose to follow Him.  

According to The Joshua Project, out of the earth’s 17,400 people groups, over 7,000 have never heard the Gospel. This means about 40% of the world’s people groups haven’t had a chance to hear about the redemptive power of God. It wouldn’t be fair to let those who do not yet know Jesus to pass away before knowing this life-saving truth. And as God’s children, it is our duty to tell them. 


“No one has the right to hear the Gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” 

Oswald J. Smith

Because all people should have access to a local church 

The community created through the local church is so important. Time and time again, Scripture reminds us of God’s intention for us not to be alone (Hebrews 10:24-25, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, and Matthew 18:20, to name just a few). Local churches allow believers, both new and old, to meet and encourage one another in their faith, to build one another up and sharpen each other’s “swords”. We are simply stronger with others. It’s God’s plan and intention for us. 

The best thing we can do to build up the global Church is to build and support these local churches. Though planting a church isn’t always easy, the resulting light that is brought to the dark areas of our communities make it all worthwhile! 

Because it’s instrumental in multiplying disciples 

Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” This isn’t simply an option, but a command for all who believe. Jesus continues: “…and surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Though the task may seem daunting, we aren’t alone—Jesus is with us. As we obey, He will lead and guide us in the process.  

One of the wonderful aspects of making disciples is that the weight of the task doesn’t fall on any one person’s shoulders alone. As we make disciples, these disciples then go on to make more disciples. This beautiful cycle can only begin when someone first brings the Gospel to where it isn’t yet known… could that be you? 


“…And you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”  

Acts 1:8

Because the need is so great! 

Have you read Luke 10:2? “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

How about this verse: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” Matthew 7:13-14. 

If you were to do a quick online search as to how many Christians there are in this world, you may disagree with the above verses, thinking: “There’s plenty of believers; I’m not really needed to do missions.” The reality, however, is that these numbers often represent people who have no relationship with Jesus. Many, in fact, simply identify as “Christian” because of their traditions and upbringing but haven’t actually dedicated their lives to God.  

For example, in France, it appears 61% of the population is Christian, but in reality, only 1% are Evangelical. Italy, a country that is known for its Christian roots, claims more than 80% of its population is Christian, yet Evangelicals make up a mere 1.1%. Looks–and terminology–can be deceiving. There truly is a great need for Jesus to be shared with the nations! 


“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”  

Romans 10:14-15

We all have a role to play in getting the Gospel to where it has not yet been heard, understood, or experienced. Whether sending people, prayer, money, or resources for others to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, we must all play our part. As long as there are unbelievers among us—and as long as we are still on this earth—our job is not yet done.

Why not start where you are, and knock on a neighbor’s door? Perhaps the Gospel hasn’t yet been heard there. 

Cross-posted from gemission.org : Five Reasons to Care About Missions.

Is Christ the Focus of Easter in Poland?

In this life, there should be nothing more important to us than being a part of God’s family and bringing Him glory. But how can we—mere, sinful humans—possibly be worthy of His acceptance?   

This is what Easter is all about. We pause to remember the undeserved kindness God has shown us with His unthinkable sacrifice of love—sending His own son to make a way for us. Because of this offering, we are free from the bondage of sin and have a hope for a future in the family of our Creator.   

In a country like Poland, where only 0.3% of its population follow Jesus, does the true message of sacrifice and salvation still shine through?    

Since its Christianization in the Middle Ages, Easter has been widely celebrated in this central European country. And despite being surrounded by seven countries, Poland holds its own when it comes to Easter traditions. This colourful holiday, filled with brightly painted eggs, vibrant woven branches, and flavourful dishes, makes for an occasion worth looking forward to.   

Poland’s traditions begin on Palm Sunday, when pussy willows or ‘palms’ made of dried, sometimes colourful, woven branches—symbolizing reviving life and Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem—fill the Catholic churches.   

These vibrant palms, though originally meant for holy blessings in the church, have become something of a friendly competition outside of the church. Since 1958, contests for the longest palm have taken place, with many reaching 10 meters or more.  

Easter eggs are another fun Polish tradition carried forward through the generations. According to archaeologists, Poland’s tradition of decorating eggs—pisanki—dates back to the 10th century. Though much time has passed since these findings were intricately painted, the same attention to detail lives on today.    

Whether decorated with wax, dye, paint, or even materials glued on, pisanki are beautiful; but the question remains to be asked: Why decorate eggs? Traditionally, these colourful eggs represent beauty, fertility, rebirth, and life. On Easter Sunday morning, pisanki are exchanged amongst family and friends to wish them prosperity and good health. Before being given as gifts, these eggs are first included in Easter baskets brought to the Catholic church on Saturday evening to be blessed—a practice dating back to the 7th century.  

These baskets, thoughtfully decorated with linen, ribbons, and sprigs of boxwood, are then filled with pisanki and samples of Polish foods. Each item is symbolic, including sausage (generosity and mercy), ham (abundance), salt (uphold justice while chasing prosperity), maslo or butter (goodwill in starting a new year/life), horseradish (Jesus’ passion), cake and bread (Christ as the Bread of life), a real or plastic lamb (Jesus and His self-sacrifice), and completed with a white candle (Christ as the Light of the world).  

One of Poland’s most quirky traditions, though, takes place on Easter Monday. The centuries-old tradition, Śmigus-Dyngus, can be a lot of fun—if you’re okay getting wet! Originally, this day would bring an opportunity for boys to pour water on girls. Today, water is thrown with buckets or shot through water-guns, with no preference to the targeted gender. Even strangers aren’t guaranteed to stay dry on this day.  

Though Poland has some deep-rooted, unique, and enjoyable traditions, not all point to our Saviour. The Catholic church has upheld some thoughtful symbolic practices to keep the focus on Christ, but not everyone attends these services.   

Let’s pray that as Poles prepare for and carry out their Easter traditions, they begin to question why the practices are done, and that the underlying symbolisms further stir their curiosity into discovering this holiday’s true life-changing meaning.  

  

Stories from Our Missionaries : God’s Call to Europe

How do you know what God is calling you to do?    

In a world of seemingly endless possibilities, it may feel overwhelming to find the answer. Perhaps you know you’re meant to serve missionally––but do you know how?   

Thankfully, as we spend time with God, He speaks to us. He tells us, often uniquely, what is best for us, directing our path. Greater Europe Mission’s global workers are no exception. God called each to serve in a continent that is hungry for truth, but lacking in true Gospel teachings.  

These GEM workers shared with us the unique ways God called them to serve in Europe.   

***  

DP Strellman found God directing him to great need and historic opportunity in Russia.  

In 1990, I was between jobs and spoke fluent Spanish. I thought perhaps God could use my business skills in some way in Latin America, so I loaded a backpack and travelled for four months in Mexico, Ecuador, and Chile. At the end of the trip, I realized that God had plenty of workers there. I wasn’t really needed.


When the Berlin wall fell in 1989, many countries were opened to the Gospel for the first time in years. In 1992, I headed to Moscow, not knowing a word of Russian. I served in a new bilingual church and helped in the Moscow Billy Graham crusade where 100,000 came to hear the Gospel. I ended up serving Russian evangelists for 12 years during the most open years of its history, which led to another 18 years serving in Eastern Europe where the need is still great. I am so glad I didn’t limit myself to Latin America!  

***  

Allison De La Torre’s sister lived in Europe for over 15 years and married a German, so the continent already had a big place in Allison’s heart.  

In November 2022, God clearly spoke to me that He was calling me overseas for His mission. As I pursued different options, I learned about GEM, and I had both peace and major excitement. The kind of work I’ll get to do with GEM aligns with multiple dreams of mine…God has clearly written this as the next step in my “career” journey.  

Allison’s heart goes out to those who intentionally or unintentionally keep Jesus at a far distance. She hopes as she moves from missionary appointee to cross-cultural worker, she’ll see a revival like that of the Acts Church 2000 years ago.   

***  

Dave Zehr’s obedience to God’s calling led to a successful church plant in Austria.  

When I completed my junior year at Taylor University in 1952, the quartet I was singing with was asked to go to Germany to help Youth for Christ with tent campaigns for the summer. We saw approximately 1,000 decide for Christ that summer, but then learned from some of the young people that they had no local gospel preaching church in their area. At that moment, a seed was planted in my heart.  

Four years later, after determining God was leading my wife and me to Germany, we went to a small church in Ohio for some pastoral experience. During that time, we were appointed with GEM and in April of 1962, we headed for Germany, fully supported at $435 per month.  

After leading Dave and his wife to Germany, and then to Austria––where there were no GEM missionaries––He connected them with a zealous, local Christian lady. Together, they started a home Bible study that is now currently one of the largest Evangelical churches in Austria.   

***  

“My life has been made up of God presenting me with opportunities of many types, and serving Him in Europe is no exception,” Fred Naff starts.  

I went to Florence, Italy for my last year of college, studying architecture. While I was there, I met a couple with InterVarsity (IFES) and joined a summer evangelism team in the town of Perugia after my studies were done. I ended up going back to Perugia two years later with InterVarsity to try to reach university students for Christ. While I was there, I met my wife, who is Greek, and I moved to Greece to marry her in 1988. We thought of leaving Greece for the US, but the Lord brought me an opportunity to serve Him as an architect with GEM. So, I started doing that in 1995 and have been doing it ever since with GEM Design Group.  

*** 

Kathy Stalnaker spent 34 years serving in Belgium and the Netherlands, but it all started in the US.  

Not long after we were married, Cecil and I decided to attend the Urbana Missions Conference to see what the Lord would show us. Each evening in their sports arena, we watched a multi-media presentation about a different part of the world. On the evening that they featured Europe, we were both struck by all the cathedrals there that were mostly empty.   

A few years later, at GEM’s candidate school, we learned that there was a need for professors in the French side of the Belgian Bible Institute. We also learned that in the US there was one Christian worker for every several hundred people, while in Belgium there was only one Evangelical worker for every 32,000 people.  

Through these findings, God stirred their hearts to serve, leading the Stalnakers to become full-time missionaries in Belgium and the Netherlands.    

***  

As a new believer at 21, Mo Blackmon barely understood her own faith, let alone missions.  

God brought Debbie Williams (now Deborah Bourbeau) into my life, and we quickly became close friends. Her parents––GEM missionaries in Sweden––invited us and two others to join them in the newly independent country of Latvia where GEM had just been invited to start a new work. This led to a desperate need for understanding if God Himself was calling me to Latvia or if the calling was just for my friends.  

Mo began asking others how they understood their call, looking for her own answer, but to no avail. They each gave her a unique reply, none of which resonated with her.   

At the fall conference of my final year of Bible college, Dr. Helen Roseveare spoke. She said, “I want to talk with you about how to know God’s calling on your life.” I literally sat up straight in my chair, certain that this was God responding to the question of my heart.  

I was not disappointed. She spoke from 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, saying that if you have answered God’s initial call to become a new creation in Christ, then the following Scriptures applied to you as well: God has therefore given you the ministry of reconciliation, He is entrusting to you that message of reconciliation, you are therefore an ambassador for Christ. That was it! I later left the auditorium and walked around the edge of town by the wheatfields in the cool prairie evening, praying, “Okay God, I know you are calling me to Latvia. I’ll go! Where is that again?!”  

We four college grads were invited to Latvia for an initial eight months. At last year’s Annual Conference, three of the four of us celebrated 30 years of God’s faithfulness in His call for us to serve him in Latvia.  

***  

God made the paths clear to these individuals because they were listening.  

Are you listening?    

Is God calling you to serve missionally or perhaps support those who are already serving in obedience? If you’d like to explore the options of serving in Europe, contact info@gemission.ca

Preparing for the 2024 Summer Olympics : Are Christian Workers Ready?

Welcoming a new year often brings renewed anticipation for what’s to come. For the country of France, 2024 brings its own level of anticipation, though much greater in scale and with more required preparation than our own resolutions may require. 

Since 2017, the world has known the 2024 Summer Olympics would be hosted in the vibrant city of Paris. Following the announcement of this honour, Paris, and other cities across France, began the process of preparing for the games.   

“Any major sporting event will inject a certain amount of excitement to the community,” says Tom Hawkins, a Greater Europe Mission worker in Paris.  

Hawkins partners with Go+ France, a Christian association with the goal of uniting around the passion of sport, leisure, and fitness. “In 2016, when the European football championships took place in France, churches and ministries had open doors to planning events that involved the community because of the environment that the sporting event created.”   

With only about seven months until the games, missionaries and ministers across Paris are again considering how best to utilize the unique opportunity a large influx of people coming to the city brings. It’s not every day the world comes to their doorstep! 

Ministering during the Olympic games extends far past sports ministry or ministering within a church building. Events that will take place amidst the Olympics are being thoughtfully and creatively planned and will be supported by Conseil National des Évangéliques de France (National Council of Evangelicals of France, or CNEF).  

“Under the banner of Ensemble 2024, ministries interested in doing things before, during and after the games are growing in number,” reports Hawkins. “Festivals, art exhibits, events surrounding the 100th anniversary of Eric Liddell’s story,”—the subject of the film, Chariots of Fire—” even a Christian fashion show.”  

Without a doubt, ideas and opportunities to reach people with the Gospel abound during this exciting time. However, this does not come without its challenges.   

“I imagine the biggest question we are all asking is the question of space,” says Doug Irwin, GEM missionary and church planter in the twelfth arrondissement of Paris. “Paris is already generally tight on space. Apartments are small, hotels are limited. I really don’t know where this city plans to host everyone. That can also make ministry hard.”  

In addition to the limited space, the ability to conduct outreach and evangelism efforts during a massive global event may also be limited. Heightened attention around things like protests and demonstrations, and the resulting high level of security is also a concern for missionaries in Paris.   

Despite the challenges that are brought by hosting the Olympics in a city like Paris, missionaries and ministers are hopeful. “The Olympic committee is encouraging every town, village, and city to participate in Terre de Jeux, and almost 4,000 have signed up,” notes Hawkins.  Through this “Land of the Games” program – whose goal is to have the entire country playing a part in the Olympics – local churches throughout the country will have increased opportunities for outreach efforts and hosting events for visitors and locals, alike. 

As GEM workers stationed in France prepare for the fantastic ministry opportunity that awaits them, will you consider joining us in prayer? We pray that God will open doors, give Christian workers creative ideas to participate in and serve the community, and boldness to present the Gospel in a loving way. 

If you would like more information on Ensemble 24 and other Paris ministry opportunities, contact tom.hawkins@gemission.org

beenhere

Originally Written by Emma Turner, GEM missionary in Paris, France.
Revised for GEM Canada by Leanne Monge Barrera

Read original article here: https://gemission.org/paris-2024-olympics-a-nation-in-preparation/ 

Exploring the Christmas Capital of the World : Strasbourg, France

Adorned with fresh snow and charming lights, Strasbourg, France is bustling with Christmas spirit. The ‘Christmas capital of the world’, Strasbourg hosts one of Europe’s longest running Christmas markets since its inaugural start in 1570. This extravagant market, spread through thirteen separate areas within the city center, boasts more than 300 shops for all your Christmas needs!  

Let’s take a walk down the cobbled streets of the Grand Île District and explore why as many as two million tourists visit this beautiful market each year.  

Standing in any of the thirteen marketplaces is a sight to behold. Surrounded by medieval architecture carefully decorated to best showcase elaborate Christmas ornamentations, you can’t help but feel your spirits brighten. All five senses are active as you shiver from the crisp air but are warmed by a cup of mulled cider you purchased at one of the chalets; you smell the comforting smells of cinnamon and spices as you admire the colourful light and decorations. You hear familiar Christmas carols being sung from nearby church buildings.  

The songs are inviting, and you find yourself walking into a nearby church. Though many of the attractions are held outdoors, all denominations open their church’s doors for further celebration. Concerts, singalongs, and presentations are common throughout the month-long Christmas market, serving both the community and those from out-of-town.  

Next, you head to Place Kleber, one of the more popular markets in the city, and notice an enormous, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. This tree stands 30 feet tall––the standard size––and was specifically chosen for the market from the forest of Alsace. You spot a vacant bench to enjoy a purchased bredle (Christmas biscuit) and take a rest as you admire your surroundings. You take the moment to thank God for instances like this, when joy and hope fill the air. Children toddle by, holding their parents’ hands so as not to get lost in the crowds. You see teenagers and seniors alike exploring the shops in search of the perfect purchase. Everyone seems more alive than at any other time of the year.   

After a time of reflection, you decide to explore Place Broglie, the home of another large market within Strasbourg: Christkindelsmarik, or the Christ Child Market. Located in front of Hotel de Ville (City Hall), this specific market is what started it all. The sun has long set, and you notice right away an amusing sight: a festive lightshow projected on the City Hall building. With your hands feeling the weight of several gift bags, you again pause to enjoy the moment amidst the growing crowds, then carry on exploring a few more stalls as you end your visit with a warm and delicious, freshly made pretzel.  

It’s been a full, yet slightly overwhelming day, and though your hotel is fully booked and bustling with people of its own, you look forward to finding the solitude of your own quiet room for the remainder of the night. You appreciate the feelings often evoked through the Christmas season and are reminded of the hope and joy brought on by receiving the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ.  

As you experience all the Christmas preparations, markets, and festivities in your own hometown, may you not get lost in the hustle and bustle. Rather, may you be reminded of the reason for celebrating! Whether you are blessed to take part in extravagant markets like the one in Strasbourg, or choose to keep things quiet wherever you are, may you have a very blessed Christmas holiday!  

Inside Look : How GEM Supports Its Female Missionaries

Have you ever fallen victim to the trap of a busy lifestyle? Often, the fruit of this culturally encouraged way of living is stress, exhaustion, and missed opportunities to build relationships. If we are to be effective followers of Jesus, then we need to take care of ourselves, and make time for others. 

Dawn Sanders of GEM noticed the importance of helping women in missions find the rejuvenation and rest they need to continue serving effectively and created a ministry within the organization called Connecting Hearts. 

What began in 2012 is now an ongoing, successful ministry catering to the women of GEM. “The goal is to connect to God, connect to others, and connect to yourself, because if you don’t know yourself at all, then really, how are you connecting to God and how are you connecting to others?” Dawn puts.  

Though Connecting Hearts, under the umbrella of GEM’s wellness department, serves women throughout the year with any needed prayer or counseling, the highlight of this ministry is its annual women’s retreat. 

“Sometimes, [in the business of life], we lose sight of our first love,” Dawn explains. “These retreats are where we can kind of reconnect that relationship and be reminded of who our first love is.” These thoughtfully prepared retreats are filled with a variety of tools and activities; such as times of reflection, journaling, prayer, counseling, teaching, time spent in nature, and physical activity; these retreats are instrumental in reviving a woman’s well-being.  

Though these retreats aren’t intended to ‘fix’ problems that women may have, they create space for the Holy Spirit to move and speak to them where they’re at. “We want it to be a community where they could go deeper and really listen to God and the Holy Spirit, and share on deeper matters of the heart,” Dawn explains. 

“For me,” Emily Nichols begins, “one of the sweetest moments [at my first Connecting Hearts retreat] came when a small group of us walked a prayer labyrinth on the floor. As we slowly walked this labyrinth toward the center, ‘The Heart of God’, I heard Him say, “Panic attacks are not my will for your life.” It was exactly what I needed to hear from the Lord to know the monthly, night-long sessions of anxiety and terrible heartburn were not what the Lord intended for me. He revealed His gentleness and kindness to me in that moment, and I treasure that.” After this experience, Emily has gone on to attend these retreats regularly. 

Leslie Hall, another participant in the retreats admits: “Normally, I’m not a huge fan of ‘women’s retreats’ because nine times out of ten, the content has been disappointing and not applicable, and I just haven’t enjoyed those experiences. Connecting Hearts wasn’t anything like previous women’s retreats I had been on; the content was deep, meaningful, and applicable to anyone in any life stage, and I deeply enjoyed the connectivity with women I’d not normally get a chance to interact with in GEM.” 

Emily agrees: “Perhaps you think women’s retreats are cheesy or not your thing, but I can tell you that the team planning and putting on these retreats want you to connect with the Lord. And I think they do a stunning job of listening to the Lord to provide what women on the field need.”  

It’s wonderful to know there are resources to help strengthen missionaries as they serve the Lord… but they aren’t the only ones in need of refreshment and encouragement. Would you choose to reserve a moment today to actively step away from the hustle and bustle of life, and spend some time in nature, reading the Word, praying, or choosing to be vulnerable with a Christian friend? Every soul needs regular rest and reminders of who our first love is! 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

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.