Esther*, a young follower of Jesus, grew up in a Christian village in South East Asia, where believing in Christ meant poverty, disadvantage and persecution. Although geographically beautiful and popular with tourists, the area is increasingly prone to natural disasters, such as flooding, droughts and storms. Climate change has further intensified the need for relief support, which is often withheld from those who profess faith in Jesus. The resulting ‘Christian villages’ are communities of people who have been forced to leave their villages of birth because of their decision to follow Jesus. The villages where they end up are usually very poor with limited access to necessities. It is no light matter to decide to follow Jesus; the cost is extensive for entire families.
For young people, such as Esther, life in the villages is therefore limiting. Many girls are married by the age of 14 and are not offered the opportunity for further education to break out of the poverty cycle. Often the only work available is basic subsistent rice farming, where farmers barely make enough to eat, and both parents must work hard to survive. This leaves children and young people vulnerable to making wrong choices for their futures.
OM teams have long supported the local church to help believers grow in their faith and empower national leaders: local Jesus followers discipling others less spiritually mature. Such local believers are more easily able to travel and visit rural areas where a foreigner would attract too much attention. By focusing on encouraging young adults to go through a discipleship programme with a vision to make good life choices, a new generation of leaders is given a firm foundation for their faith. This also inspires them to go out and reach their own people, as Esther experienced.
Esther left her village to go to the city to study—and find work. She met an OM team leader who saw her fledgling faith, as well as her potential to train others through in-community discipleship at the house where she lived with her cousin. Spiritual mentorship broadened Esther’s knowledge of God and His heart for the world. “I want others to know of God’s love and saving power as I did so that their lives can be changed, too,” she exclaims. The spark has been ignited to share transformation through Jesus!
Esther’s journey of faith led her back to her village on an outreach to share her vibrant belief in a powerful God who saves. It also gave her trust in Jesus to live on board OM’s ship, Logos Hope, a floating community of English-speaking believers, before she was able to communicate effectively in English. Her two-year experience on board was “a huge, significant, spiritual time,” she reflects.
Upon returning home to her native country, Esther was no longer looking for a ‘nice life’. She knew that effective and maturing discipleship was the most effective done in community. She also knew that, as the first believer in Jesus from her village to take such a step of trust in going overseas, other youths were looking to her as a role model.
“I want to help people to find Jesus for themselves and want to follow Him because they see the truth [of the life He offers],” she said. Esther’s heart burns to see other teens following Jesus, not merely contented with the first step of getting saved, but growing into spiritual maturity and affecting others’ lives for eternity.
Supporting a national believer in Jesus at $50 per month would enable one national worker to stay in a team house whilst serving in a leadership role without having to work a full-time job.