The smell of unwashed bodies in too-close quarters filled the room. Elena* lay with her child pressed close to her, trying to surrender to the sleep she so desperately needed. She swallowed the lump in her throat, barely keeping her head above the despair that threatened to drown her. She was in a foreign country, sharing a one-room apartment with five other families, and uncertain if her husband was going to return to her. Her thoughts fixed on her urgent need to find employment and a new place to live.
It was in this condition that Elena connected with the GROW center from the Philemon Project, an early childhood development and adult mentoring program in the Middle East. Elena had no one else to turn to, but in her time of need, the group of women who ran the GROW center came alongside her in support and love.
Over the next several months, while her child was safely cared for and fed each day at the GROW center, Elena was able to find a stable job and safe housing for her and her child. Her husband did return, and they established a new life as a family. She felt that the women from the Philemon Project were the only ones to help when she had no other options. Because of the Christ-like love of these women and their faithful prayers, Elena also decided to follow Jesus.
This was just one story shared at the annual gathering of U.S. World Outreach workers in early February. The gathering was a time for fellowship, worship, and sharing the stories of what God is doing around the world.
As I sat there listening to this story, I couldn’t help but think about the practical love the women from the GROW center showed Elena and the eternal impact it will have. Elena had tangible and urgent needs, and the GROW center stood in the gap as she found her footing in a new environment.
The mission and work of the GROW center and the Philemon Project align with World Outreach’s five Strategic Priorities:
- Least Access Peoples
- Partnership & Sending
- Word & Deed
- Church Engagement
Read more about these here.
Elena’s story is a beautiful example of the Word & Deed priority. The church is called to a holistic approach to making disciples – we cannot be effective in ministry without caring for the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of those we serve. The gospel is proclaimed by words and lived out through actions.
Those running the GROW center know this. They are not simply providing daycare, they are teaching and nurturing these children, and by extension, these families. Their care is life changing for the entire family, and this is just as important in reaching people for Jesus as teaching His word.
Loving your neighbor does not require special training or education – it requires a servant’s attitude and an infectious love for Jesus. How can you carry out the Great Commission in Word & Deed as you go about your day-to-day?
*names changed for privacy and security purposes