Mariette Oosterhoff, marketing and communications director for TWR’s Latin America and Caribbean Region, blogs this month from the TWR Europe and CAMENA National Partners Conference 2019, held in Central Europe.
What a blessing it is to start our meetings worshipping God and reading from the Bible. This week the worship team is a mix of national partners, led by Ted Siemens. The countries of Italy, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland and the United States are represented on the stage.
Kenneth Hjortland, one of the singers with a great voice, tells me, “We come together from different cultures but have one thing in common, and that is the love for God and the desire to worship him in music.”
Vincent Collet of TWR’s national partner in France, reads from 1 Corinthians 3:5-9, in which Paul calls both those who plant the gospel seed and those who water are “God’s fellow workers.” Although we have a part to play, God is the only one who can grow the hearers’ faith. And this should keep us laborers in the fields humble.
Since 2018, Collet and his wife have served at PHARE FM in Portes du Dauphiné, France. Ministering in a land described as the fourth most atheistic country in the world – following China, Japan and the Czech Republic – is hard, Collet said, often with little or no response.
The session continued with TWR President Lauren Libby discussing the mission of TWR, which is new and helpful information for the 26 people attending the partners conference for the first time. Libby also shared that last year a national government expressed interest in buying airtime on one of TWR’s powerful AM radio stations for political reasons. Lauren sought counsel on the matter from a trusted friend, and this is the advice he received: “Let politicians worry about their problems, and you worry about the kingdom of God.”
I am thankful that TWR has a president who is wise enough to seek counsel with God first and with wise friends second.
Taking a group photo of all of the participants is a standing event at every National Partners Conference. This time, I was struck by the fact that at the very moment most of us were trying to squeeze together to fit into one picture, a smaller group of people had gathered to the side. Seeing these individuals made me realize that they are the “unseen heroes” in God’s kingdom: “unseen” in that they work underground because it is too dangerous for them to be known as pastors and evangelists where they serve, heroic in that they risk their lives — leading bible studies after 11 p.m. (because that’s the time that the police go to bed), crossing borders with forbidden Bibles — all for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Zaina is one of those unseen heroes that is not in the group picture. She leads the follow-up department for Christian Media somewhere in the Middle East. The team answers the questions of at least 1,000 people a month, people reacting to the radio programs that are being broadcast every evening or messaging online through their Facebook and YouTube channels.
These responses come from countries like Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan. “Lately,” Zaina says, “More and more people from Yemen are contacting us. Many women in Yemen are illiterate, so they call us. They are scared and say, ‘Please pray for me, I am tired and hungry.’ We talk about Jesus as fast as we can, before they hang up. Many people are coming to Christ in Yemen at this moment. Many of our Arab listeners live in fear. We tell them, ‘Try Jesus, he will never let you down.’ And several say, ‘Yes, I want to try this.’ And when they come to Jesus, you sense the tone of their voice or messages change. They use different words, like ‘Lord’ and ‘Jesus.’ You sense the inner change. They become strong and can face tomorrow!”
Zaina asks us to pray for more workers. She says, “We need more workers because there is a great harvest.”
Thank you, Jesus, for this!
* Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa