For the past 18 years, Julieta and her husband have been sharing the love of Christ throughout Central and Western Asia. “We’ve done it in so many different and creative ways,” she shared. From singing and playing folk songs to chatting with neighbours to teaching English, what’s important to Julieta is that everything is done intentionally and with prayer.
She keeps her eyes open looking for people of peace –– somebody God is already at work in and whom she can come alongside and help go deeper in their faith. When she finds such a person, she points them towards Scripture, asks if they would like to know more and, if so, if anyone else in their community would like to join. “We always try to do it in community because they are communal people,” explained Julieta about the people groups she’s lived amongst.
“We’ve experienced so many crazy things,” she continued. “We meet somebody, and then a friend, and then the friend invites us to go to the whole family, and suddenly we are all sitting in the house of a stranger in a village reading the Bible together.”
Julieta’s favourite part of spreading the good news is seeing “how God can change different situations through prayer. And also, just how special it is to be walking with somebody and getting deeper into a relationship that you are not alone in; you are carrying each other, you are walking alongside, it is special,” she emphasised. “That’s what the Lord sent us to do. To make disciples… It’s so exciting when I see somebody grab the vision of what a real disciple of Jesus is.”
Jamila* is a friend that Julieta has been journeying with over the last year and a half. Originally from Syria, Jamila was introduced to Jesus at a young age by a friend when her family lived in Europe. Years later, when her country was at war, Jamila began questioning her family’s Islamic faith, and kept remembering the words of her friend: “God loves you.”
Seeking the truth, Jamila read Scripture and connected with Christian groups online. One by one, her questions were answered until only one remained: had Jesus really died for her sins? One night she dreamt of Jesus on the cross, and when she awoke, she no longer had any doubts and gave her life to Christ though she knew no believers near her.
After she moved to the country where Julieta lives, Jamila started to attend a gathering of Jesus followers. God, she prayed, I feel really weak, please send somebody that will help me grow in my faith. Finished praying, she turned around and saw Julieta smiling at her. Since then, Julieta has been encouraging and mentoring Jamila. Married with a daughter, Jamila was terrified of her family’s reactions if they discovered her beliefs, yet slowly she shared with them as the Lord led. Jamila’s family tried to manipulate her to return to their Islamic beliefs but “God is giving her strength though it’s not been easy,” Julieta explained.
Now, Jamila asks Julieta for advice on how to pray with her daughter and read the Bible with her. “[Jamila] wants to grow,” said Julieta. “It’s been such a beautiful journey walking with her.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new opportunities for Julieta and her family to be a light in their community. With restrictions in place limiting activities and movement, people have more time to talk and are “responding in openness” to learning about Christ via media ministries, she said. Her family has also spent more time outside with neighbours, sharing with them “in a closer way” and seeing God answer prayers, such as healing a neighbour boy who was experiencing unhealthy fear and anxiety because of the new coronavirus, Julieta shared.
Julieta has also been encouraged by her continued visits with Jamila, who is sharing her faith with others through social media during this time.
“We only knew about receiving missionaries,” shared Julieta about her church in South America growing up. “We didn’t have that vision of going.”
Born with a heart condition, Julieta grew up with her parents telling her: “Your life is in God’s hands.” “I had a physical issue that held me back, but God allowed me to live fully and do things I thought impossible in my situation,” said Julieta. “I grew up with deep faith in Him.”
After seeing a nine-year-old commit her life to Christ at a youth camp when she was a teen, Julieta felt the urge to share what God had done for her and realised it was her purpose in life to share the good news with others. Together with her sister, she went door to door in her city inviting children and their families to an evangelistic programme in a park.
While attending Bible School in the USA, Julieta met missionaries serving in the Muslim world and felt her whole focus in life shift to preparing to go herself. A year later when she returned to her home country an opportunity presented itself to teach music and English at an international school in Central Asia and serve alongside a church planting team.
Many people were not supportive of Julieta moving abroad. Did she not care for her own country? What about the people in her city that still needed to hear the good news? Plus, Julieta would be moving far away to a country they knew little—or nothing—about.
Yet within a month, Julieta was on her way across the Atlantic as the first missionary sent out by her church.
In Central Asia, “God provided somebody that had the same heart [to reach out to the Muslim world],” and Julieta married her husband. Today, they and their two children are living intentionally for Christ in Western Asia.
Published: Monday, 10 August 2020
Credit: Rebecca Rempel