When we’re asked to share a testimony or a special experience with God, we often think about something extraordinary. We’re used to estimating the level of success in numbers: programs held, events organized, books sold, or people baptized. But have you ever thought about seeds planted and lives changed because God put you in a particular place at a particular time?
My wife, Kseniia, and I served as volunteer missionaries for three years on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. We lived and worked in Paphos, a city on the southwest coast where the apostles Paul and Barnabas preached in biblical times. Paphos has a population of more than one million and only 100 some Adventists. Every soul is precious because it takes a lot of effort and time to reach people.
Two years before we went to Cyprus, a man named Leonidas began attending a home church in Paphos. He liked what he heard and started coming whenever he had time. Later, after he married, his wife Katerina joined him for Sabbath worship.
Unfortunately, Satan doesn’t like it when people come to God, so he created circumstances that discouraged the couple from attending anymore. But the church members didn’t forget them. They prayed earnestly that Leonidas and Katerina would return someday.
Several people had been baptized as the result of the ministry of the home church. It was to disciple these new believers and share God’s love with more people in Paphos that Kseniia and I accepted a call to start and lead an urban center of influence.
One of the first things we decided to do at the center was offer free English classes to help people and make new friends. One day, a man contacted us for information about the classes. It turned out to be Leonidas! He wanted Katerina to attend the lessons.
Leonidas accompanied Katerina on the first day of class, and after the lesson, he asked me a few tricky questions. It was like he was testing me. So you can imagine how surprised I was when he said, “We used to attend an Adventist group. I was told you came here to take care of the church and serve people. I respect the teaching of this church. Can you come to our house to give Katerina and me Bible studies?”
Kseniia and I were thrilled to give Leonidas and Katerina Bible studies, and as we did, the four of us became good friends. Their experience of coming to Jesus is a special story to us because we saw God working in their hearts in a miraculous way. Leonidas was the first to join the meetings, but then God worked through Katerina to help her husband grow in Christ. We know for sure that a heart that was “rocky ground” can become “good soil” (Matthew 13). Nothing is impossible for our almighty God if we let Him use us as His instruments.
The most important lesson we’ve learned working with people is that we never know how far our efforts can reach. Sometimes it’s tempting to feel disappointed because we think we’re not doing a good job sharing Jesus. But we should never feel that what we’re doing is of no value because only God knows people’s hearts. He is always there to strengthen, support, and guide us, putting us in just the right place at just the right time to touch a life for Jesus. The only thing required of us is to work and trust.
It’s been five months since we left Cyprus, but we still keep in touch with the church members, including Katerina and Leonidas. What joy it has brought to our hearts to learn that they are taking the lead in organizing the church plant’s ministries and events!