American college sweethearts Clara* and Evan* knew they wanted to serve God full-time overseas.
Raised by parents who loved Jesus, Clara said she knew from age 12, “that in my heart God was calling me to tell people about Jesus, and not just people in America, but people in the ends of the earth.” Evan had a similar conviction.
The question was: where did God want the couple to go?
She had taken missions trips to Mexico and Brazil. He’d spent a summer in South America. Early in their marriage, they travelled together to Zimbabwe.
Eventually, they moved overseas as full-time workers with OM. “We loved the work,” Clara said.
Still, after finishing their initial two-year term, they spent the third year there praying about what was next. On the way back from a vision trip to Turkey, they had a layover in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At the time, the city was booming with construction. “It seemed like the majority of the world’s tower cranes were in Dubai,” Clara described.
Though they lived off financial support while serving with OM, Evan and Clara had left lucrative jobs at home. Their time in Dubai opened their eyes to new possibilities for marketplace positions. Excited about serving in the Muslim world using their professions, Evan and Clara were stunned when, instead, they felt the Lord telling them to go back to their previous positions in the USA. “God had definitely done just a huge work in so many different ways in our hearts, and we had seen and experienced so much of God in a new and amazing way,” Clara shared. “But all that to say, we went back to our former jobs.”
Several years later, Evan began sending his CV to companies in the Arabian Peninsula (AP), recognizing a massive opportunity to live, work and raise his young family in a region where there are few known followers of Jesus. The positions he applied for—and the job he received—required extensive experience in his field, which he would not have had if the couple had not returned to the USA. “For us, it was a really cool way to see God’s hand in that,” Clara affirmed. “We could look back now and say that He needed us to be there in order to prepare us for this season.”
The first to share Jesus
Finally, the family landed in the AP, ready to share God’s love with people who had never heard about Jesus. For Evan, that meant long hours working hard and talking to co-workers about his faith. For Clara, now a stay-at-home-mom, it meant engaging with people through everyday encounters. “I think a lot of times it’s hard for people to understand how easy ministry is to do in the Middle East,” she said. “There are a lot of security issues, and you have to be careful, …but at the end of the day, we are sharing God’s truth with whomever He puts in our path. …Their faith is a part of their life through and through, so it makes it easy to start those conversations.”
God also orchestrated divine encounters for their family, like when they met a local family while travelling. “My kids started playing with their kids,” Clara remembered. The children started sharing snacks and toys, so Evan and Clara began chatting with the parents. When they found out that the family lived less than an hour away from them, they invited them to dinner at their house.
In fact, those initial connections sparked a deep friendship. “They are not believers, but they are probably our closest local friends,” Clara said. “We would have them over to our house, then they would have us to their house, and we did a lot of stuff together and had a lot of opportunities to share truth with them and have good deep theological conversations.”
At one point the husband shared that he had watched a Christian film about Jesus several times when it aired in Gulf cinemas. “I have all these questions,” he said, “but I wanted to ask a Christian. I didn’t want to ask a Muslim these questions.”
“He had been waiting 11 years to ask these questions about Jesus to a true believer,” Clara emphasized. “That’s what makes this whole marketplace initiative so important and so paramount because literally there are people in America doing the thing they’re doing, whatever job they do—they’re a doctor, they’re a lawyer, they’re a teacher—and they could be doing the exact same things in a place where people have never heard the truth of Christ literally never, not even once.”
Clara has also sought out ways to creatively connect with local women.
She baked treats for their next-door neighbors right after they moved into the neighborhood. In hindsight, “we broke all the [cultural] rules. You’re not supposed to go over [without an invitation]; you’re not supposed to go inside when they invite you,” she laughed. “Yet that became a beautiful friendship between our families. We shared Iftars (meal used to break the fast) during Ramadan… She showed me how to make different Arab dishes, and I showed her how to make a pecan pie.”
Another time, Clara decided to bring local women together by introducing them to one of her personal hobbies. She invited other intentional workers and their local friends to spend an evening at her home. Beyond learning a new skill, Clara and the other workers prayed that the local women would experience God’s love through the event.
“John 13:35 says they will know you are my disciples by the love you have for one another,” Clara paraphrased. “What better way to share that love than for me and my girlfriends to get together with the local ladies and share God’s love in a tangible way.”
One of the local participants loved the experience so much that she asked Clara if she’d share that same hobby at her house for the woman’s sisters and cousins—Clara ended up doing this multiple times. “God was already at work in this young woman’s heart,” she explained. Samira* had lived with a Christian family while studying abroad, and other workers had continued to share God’s love with her.
About a year and a half after the initial event, Samira and her sister decided to follow Jesus. “I had a tiny, tiny part of that—almost nothing—but …it is [through] us sharing God’s love and being in relationship with these women that He is at work, and how thrilling to know that she is now part of God’s family,” Clara said.
Pray for workers in the Arabian Peninsula to first and foremost prioritize their own relationships with God, spend time in the Word and pray consistently. Pray for good transitions for those new to the region. Pray for physical and spiritual protection for those serving in the region and pray for them to have strength and endurance when encountering cultural challenges so they can continue looking for ways the Holy Spirit wants them to engage.
*name changed for security
Credit: Nicole James