In Global Stories

I recently got to go to another city for my first silent retreat. My kind friends were out of town and let me use their house by the water, with a view of snowy mountains from one window and the Black Sea straight out the other. It was very refreshing and a great reset for my soul. It always amazes me how just simply sitting still and being silent opens up your heart to hear God so clearly.

One thing I realized while I was there was how much I miss free writing. I wrote a few things there and am thinking of restarting a blog on scripture meditations and things God is speaking to me. I will send the link once it’s up and running if you’d like to take a read.

Trip to the East

2 months ago I went with a few friends on my first trip to the east of the country—the least unreached and “hardest soil.” There are old churches everywhere in what used to be some of the first settlements of Christians in the area, some dating back to 300 AD. We got to attend service at the first Protestant church here (now the only one in the province). Unfortunately, there are extremely few believers in the area now, with some provinces not even having a single church at all.

There is such diversity in the East—we visited three different cities, and in each city they spoke different languages! Each was like a completely different world to itself with different dress, foods, customs, and people groups.

My calling here began with God speaking to me through the call of Abraham (in the Bible) to leave my comfort and security, follow His leading, and become a blessing. It was very special to visit this place—the most religiously devout city I have seen here.

There are 2 million people in the city (almost the size of Vancouver) and not a single church (although I learned afterward there is a house gathering of a handful of believers).

There is fierce persecution of anyone who makes themself known as a believer, which is why most who have found Jesus left the area.

Thinking back on the city, I can’t help but remember the deep sadness and darkness in the eyes of the people we encountered everywhere.

Despite the efforts to stimulate the economy, education is still minimal in the area and poverty is still widespread. I felt God’s heart of love for them and His desire to reach out to them.

What’s God Been Saying?

I have been asking God what He wants for me in this new year. In some ways, I feel like my language is progressing, but at the same time, it seems very hard to find new local friends. I was growing a bit frustrated with this—I felt like a fish dying of thirst—every time I step out my door I am faced with hundreds, and sometimes thousands of people all around me. The fact is almost all of them are lost. Statistics say one in three people in here are battling depression. Yet, how can I reach them? I’ve been learning that especially in the city, culturally a lot of people have quite small circles of friends reaching back to their high school circles, and are generally reluctant to become friends with strangers unless introduced through an existing friend.

On retreat, God spoke to me and asked me to focus on the people whom He has placed around me and to love them well with the love of Christ. Maybe there aren’t many. Maybe they aren’t the demographic I thought I was looking for, but there is a reason He has called me here for this time at this time, knowing full well my abilities and limitations to reach out.

Yesterday God encouraged me as I met with my first local friend I made when I first arrived. He has become quite religious after doing his military service and now prays 5 times a day. Although we have talked about God before, yesterday was the first time (maybe partly due to my language getting a bit better) we had an in-depth conversation about our respective faiths. It was super cool, although we reached points of difference because our relationship was tight already, we were able to push past it and I could tell he was really listening and not just brushing aside what I was saying. I also learned more about his perspective of sin, true repentance, and following God. Continuing to pray for S.

REFLECTION QUESTION: Who Has God placed around you in your life currently to show His love to?

Prayer Points

Pray for the East of this country—for a revelation of God’s love for them and a turning of hearts to the Messiah

I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.

Isaiah 65:1

Though originally written for the Israelites, I could feel the desire of God’s heart to make Himself known in this area as well despite their active resistance..

Continue praying for my language, for divine appointments, to make more and deeper connections with local friends, and for my visa situation (things keep changing all the time and my renewal is up in May).

Personal Update: I got a new consulting client (remotely in Canada)! I haven’t had one since I arrived, but I felt like God told me it was time to take on a new one that just connected with me. I start tomorrow at 8hrs/week. This will help supplement my income in the face of rapid inflation and give me a bit to save for the future, as well as keep my work experience up to date.

This was part of my original plan, but I’m also glad God gave me this buffer season to get used to life here before restarting with work. I’m so grateful for all of you who are supporting me and will continue to use your support for ministry work!

I deeply appreciate your prayers and encouragementZulfe