Prayer, individual work and teamwork with local or U.S. churches are important for effectiveness in the mission to reach souls for Christ. Many are involved in mission work, not by their physical presence on the field, but by prayer that sustains those on the field. Sometimes, a sower becomes discouraged at not seeing fruit or tangible results in their work.
However, with prayer and time, for God nothing is impossible.
IMB missionary Stan Meador knows how valuable this combination is. Two years ago, he asked some churches from the U.S. to support him in prayer for the work he was doing in collaboration with a Brazilian church. The pastor of the church had contacted Stan, requesting help training leaders. One of the initiatives they started was a training in how to lead evangelistic Bible studies.
But soon COVID-19 soon changed their plans.
Despite the restrictions caused by the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, the training of leaders continued virtually through messaging apps. About a dozen people continued the training in this format.
Meador sent the group Bible stories to study and questions to answer about the text. Each person sent their answers back, individually, through the app. He responded with encouraging comments and his own answers.
The first time Marta, a former Catholic, sent Meador her answers, she asked him to correct her mistakes. He couldn’t find any and responded, encouraging her to keep studying. This pattern continued.
Studying the Bible virtually revealed something to Meador that would not have been possible to observe in an in-person study: Marta doubted her ability to understand the Bible.
Her Catholic background taught her that it wasn’t possible for her to understand the Bible on her own; she thought she needed the help of a priest to explain Scripture. Although she had been an evangelical Christian for many years, nobody had ever taught her that it was possible to understand the Bible without the help of a religious professional. Through this experience, her perspective changed. By going through the Bible studies with Meador, Marta was finally understanding that it was possible to study the Bible for herself.
Marta was also learning that the purpose of being a disciple of Christ went beyond the ability to personally understand the Bible with the help of the Spirit of God. Disciples are meant to share what they learn and make more disciples. The question found at the end of each Bible study illustrates this principle well: “With whom can you share this story?”
During COVID lockdowns, the group found unique ways to share the Gospel. Bible study participants, with Meador’s guidance, were able to start their own virtual Bible study groups. And Marta, although she did not form a virtual group, was able to start sharing the Bible stories with her husband, Lucas*, who was Catholic.
Marta had been praying for Lucas and sharing her faith with him for years. The most fruit she’d seen from her labor and prayer was him occasionally attending her Baptist church with her. Still, she never stopped praying for him.
Every night she would go to their room to pray. Sometimes she invited him to join her and, not to hurt her feelings, he accepted her invitation, sitting on the bed while his wife prayed.
As Marta and her husband continued to study the Bible, he began to realize it was possible to understand it. One of those many prayer-filled nights that Marta was in her room, Lucas decided to follow her, this time voluntarily praying on his knees together with her.
Meador and his wife, Wendy, were in the U.S. for a little over a year during this time. When they returned to Brazil, they learned the church they were working with was going to baptize six people. Lucas was one of the six.
“Rejoice with us,” are the words Stan used to conclude this story – a story of victory that inspires us to persist in prayer and in the work God has called us to do. Whether it be working on the mission field or supporting a missionary in prayer for his work, our prayers are heard and answered.
For Meador, it took 13 months to see the result of one more soul transformed, but for Marta, it took far longer than months. It took decades to see the salvation of her husband.
We may not know how long it will take before we gather the fruits of our labor, but we do know that the time to sow and to pray is now. Let us never stop kneeling in prayer, nor stop being faithful where God has placed us, because our labor in the Lord, as the lives of Marta and Stan demonstrate, will never be in vain.
Valeria Roy serves with the IMB in Brazil.