We thought, “why do we have to leave our professions when we go? We can use our skills there and make it part of our ministry.”
Paola* and her husband Daniel* both wanted to live in a place where they could share God’s love with people who had never experienced it. Eventually, Daniel landed an IT job with a company in the Middle East and the couple, together with their two sons, moved from Latin America.
Throughout their early years as a family, Paola and Daniel prepared their sons for a future overseas. They spoke often of what it could mean for their family to serve amongst people who had never heard of Jesus, far from Latin America.
“We knew if we worked overseas, we could earn money to live and then wouldn’t be a financial burden for our church in Latin America. We thought, ‘why do we have to leave our professions when we go? We can use our skills there and make it part of our ministry,’” Paola explained.
The transition was difficult at first, as Paola struggled to acclimate to a new country, culture, language and ministry––all while helping her sons do the same. “Being a mom is to try to get everyone in a good place spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.”
A purpose for everything
As her sons adjusted, making friends and plugging into their international church’s youth group, and her husband took on new challenges in his job, Paola wondered about her own purpose.
Reading her Bible one day, she came across Ephesians 2:10. “That verse says God created us for good works and that He prepared them in advance.” She began to pray about what God wanted her to do in the Middle East. “I think this time of waiting was also good for me to seek the Lord, to pray and to see that all these answers come from Him,” she shared.
First, she studied Arabic. Her new language skills—even if not perfect—opened doors to relationships and to the culture. Then she started meeting other moms at her children’s school and began visiting local ladies to practice Arabic, learn the culture better and make friends.
Once when Paola was visiting a local friend, the woman told her she loved Spanish, Paola’s native language. That interest drove Paola to take an online course so she could learn how to teach Spanish as a second language. “God used that in an amazing way,” she recalled. “I had many ladies coming, asking me to teach them Spanish, and through that, it was an opportunity to share life, to be friends… and through that friendship, to share about Jesus.”
When a man at their international church asked Paola to start a Spanish-speaking Bible study for his Latino wife, Paola realized God was asking her to invest in the Latino community as well. Now, when she meets Arab women who want to learn Spanish, she connects them to other Latino believers. “I could see how these two things finally came together in the same ministry and how God had a purpose for everything,” she said.
A forever friend
In the Middle East, Paola discovered that the ladies, both expat Latinas and local Arabs, suffered from loneliness. Far away from their families, the ladies from Latin America spent countless hours alone at home. “If they don’t have friends, they are alone the whole week,” she explained. Local ladies, too, looked for ways to fill their empty hours.
From her own experience, Paola recognized an open door to tell them about her friendship with Jesus and the way He had transformed her life, back home in Latin America and in the Middle East. “This is a great opportunity to speak about Jesus, the love of Jesus, the concern He has for ladies and how He can fill their loneliness and their desire to have a purpose in life,” she said.
“I had more and more opportunities to do Bible studies with ladies, even more than the ones I had in my home country because of the need here, so I think all the things—working with kids, with ladies, with teenagers—that I did back in my home country helped me to understand the life of people, and then here I learned more about different cultures, so in all this together, I see how God was shaping me and preparing me to do His work here.”
With the restrictions caused by the coronavirus, Paola moved her Spanish teaching online. Technology allows her to keep in contact with her students during a time of physical distancing. Her women’s Bible studies have adapted as well, and by switching the meetings to a virtual platform, Paola continues to guide Spanish speakers in their discovery of Jesus. She schedules one-on-one discipleship calls and connects informally with believers and non-believers.
*Name changed for security