When Maria* began to feel God nudging her to share Christ with Persians, she didn’t know exactly what a Persian was. (There’s no Persian language and no Persia on the map.) But within a week Maria met a girl from Iran. When Maria asked what language she spoke, the girl said “Persian,” so Maria invited the young lady to study the Bible.
Maria didn’t set out to start a new Persian church. She was just obeying God. But that Bible study has now grown to over 100 people — a mixture of former Muslims from Iran and Afghanistan, former Buddhists from Vietnam and former atheists from Austria.
“The girl started coming to her Bible study and bringing friends. She got saved and started sharing her faith with others, and it was just spontaneous,” said.
“Maria’s always had the desire to serve the Lord,” said Roger Hartsill*, an IMB worker who is helping Maria. “[She] decided to do something in her home … and we’ve pitched in to help her,” said Diana Hartsill*, Roger’s wife. “It’s been exciting just to see what God is doing through her there.”
From opera singer to church planter
Maria came to Vienna from Brazil more than a decade ago. She had completed a seminary degree as well as a music degree in Brazil and was offered a scholarship to study opera in Vienna. After finishing her studies, Maria settled in Vienna, married an Austrian and embarked on a career, but her lifelong call to missions never dissipated.
In 2014, she started a Bible study in her home. By the end of that year, two Iranians, two Vietnamese and one Austrian had become Christians and been baptized. Twelve new converts, most of whom were Iranian immigrants, were added to their number by spring of 2015. The Bible study became a church.
Maria has now quit her job to be a missionary full-time. Her husband works to support the family.
As the work began to reach mostly Muslim men, Roger Hartsill recounted that Maria wisely sought out male pastors, including himself, “as the body has been in transition from an outreach group in her home, to a house church, and then to a recognized church within the Austrian Baptist Convention.”
From Latin America to Europe and beyond
Hartsill, who is mentoring Maria from his home in Germany, is in a unique position to help. He and Diana began their ministry with IMB in South America, then moved to Europe for the express purpose of mobilizing South American believers who have emigrated to Europe.
The Hartsills want to help Latinos in Europe spread the Gospel wherever they go. In some cases, Roger and Diana help Latinos find pathways to go beyond Europe to unreached peoples in other parts of the world. But they also see a tremendous opportunity to mobilize Latinos to specifically reach out to other immigrants and refugees in Europe.
“We have discovered that oftentimes a believing immigrant in Europe from elsewhere can more easily connect with the refugee or immigrant than the nationals can,” Hartsill said.
Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press