Esther,* from South East Asia, described herself as “a very simple, normal girl” who has “no honour without Jesus.” She described her current standpoint of being of immense worth and value because of her faith in a God who has saved and transformed her life.
“When I see that Jesus is King and God, [I recognise that] He is the first disciple,” she said. “He is the great example of power, yet He doesn't say: ‘because I am King you must serve Me.’ Instead, He turns it round through discipleship: wanting to serve others. If He can do that, so can I. His humility is very powerful.”
Esther did not always see life so clearly. She grew up in a Christian family in a country where to be a follower of Jesus meant being forced to leave their village of birth to live in areas with few amenities and limited possibilities of escaping the poverty cycle. The decision to follow Jesus brought down persecution and negative discrimination on the entire family––no light matter.
Life in the villages is particularly limiting for girls, many of whom are married by the age of 14 and not offered the opportunity for further education to break out of the poverty cycle. Yet Esther yearned for more of life.
“I wanted to study,” Esther reflected, “But I didn’t know how that would help me achieve a ‘good life.’” Serving God was not at the top of Esther’s priority list then. She continued: “I travelled to the city to go to High School, thinking I would stay with my cousin. She would give me a base for a few months whilst I learnt my way around and found a job to keep me as I studied. It was the first time I had left home and everything familiar to me.”
But God was faithful in taking care and protecting Esther from harm. Through her cousin, Esther met other followers of Jesus and was offered a housekeeping job. She not only cleaned their office premises but attended gatherings where God was at the heart of every encounter. “I began to understand more and more [about God and His Son], and the team were like family to me,” Esther remembered.
“The leader saw potential in me and helped me grow spiritually,” Esther continued. “He even came to see me in the dormitory where I and others from my village were living to encourage us. He recognised that the area was not a safe one for us girls and found us a house to move into that was safe. Nowadays, the team has a house for girls (and a house for boys), where they can come when they move to the city and be safe and cared for, as well as grow spiritually.” Esther sees how this care for her has translated into her caring for others’ needs, even as a young believer.
“Before, I didn't have the heart to serve [others], but the team experience showed me I could,” continues Esther. “There is a family dynamic in the team. Although we all have our own fathers and mums, we have the same unique Heavenly Father: God. We live very closely connected to one another. The younger ones call us ‘mum’: we are open to teaching them, and taking care of them but tell them the truth [counter-culturally; we are not normally so direct]. Our family status enables us [to do so]. We all help each other to grow up with God too. We teach them to see the value of what we have—it's not just money and education—Jesus gives us value in ourselves. Whatever God provides for them, belongs to God, big or little.”
As Esther learnt more about Jesus’ transforming power through love, and His desire to give her value and significance, she was challenged to step out further in her faith. She returned to her village on a two-week outreach to encourage the youth to trust God more for their spiritual lives. The experience changed her way of thinking.
Ready to serve
“The team had suggested I serve on board Logos Hope for two years,” she says. “But I had no English [the lingua franca (common language) for staff onboard]! What I did [already] have was ‘an arrangement with God’ that if He called me, I would say yes – so I did. Without a second thought.”
The experience was profoundly life-changing for Esther. “On board we learnt thousands of things, [both spiritually and practically], and my spiritual understanding grew. One thing that really changed me was my attitude to work. As the second cook, I must be responsible, on time, a good example and help all the crew. I was leading others. I have to not just do my job, but take care of others. People should come before work. If people are well, the work will be done well. Taking time to serve the people is really important to build community”.
Esther’s experience made her willing to do anything God asked in future to serve people.
“When I read the Bible, I see Jesus came to this earth to die for me, so He values me. I need to value salvation above all things. I know Jesus gives me value; His gift is very expensive, and the heavenly value is greater than what I have. I need to be an example of integrity in what I say and do; others do notice. Discipleship training in my nation is needed. I share with my home groups, and in different churches, encouraging young people to have a heart to serve and share [God]. One young girl in my home church thanked me for coming and making a difference by what I shared.”
Esther has also seen life changes in others: “One young woman whose uncle was a follower of Jesus, had no personal faith. As she came to work with us [in the team café], she would get angry quickly. As we explained how Jesus wants us to live with people, she changed. These days she leads the Sunday Service and prays. She is learning more and more about the Bible, even answering the children’s questions [through her own relationship with Jesus]. She cares that she represents Him well; even her village people notice how much she has changed. Discipleship can help [even] teens.”
Esther, a young twenty-six-year-old woman from South East Asia, is helping—simply but powerfully—transform lives and communities for God.