by Christi | Middle East
Honestly, I never thought I’d end up here. Fifteen years ago when I was looking into colleges, I knew I wanted to live overseas. In fact, I begged God to send me somewhere where I couldn’t work with the church (isn’t that what all pastors kids ask for?). I assumed that meant Africa somewhere. In my naive mind, Africa was the darkest and neediest place on earth. And some parts are, to be sure. I studied education knowing that I’d need some kind of skill or trade for the work God had called me to. All in all, it was a great decision. Every day, I use the skills I learned studying education. But I’m not a teacher, at least not the kind of teacher I thought I would be when I was studying Methods of Teaching Math.
Instead, I am a business owner in the Middle East. I have no background in business. I actually bought Business Plans for Dummies and then wrote my business plan. But the dream for my business started when I was 19 and a student at North Central University. I was spending my fall break on campus so that I could make some extra money working. There was no one else on my floor, so I had a lot of time to pray, think, and write. That week I asked God one question: “What are you asking me to do with my life?” And He put a small thought in my head. Tiny, really. Just this little wisp of an idea that He wanted me to start a place for women. I immediately objected. I’m not the women’s ministry kind of girl. I’m a pioneer who rides camels in the desert. This was not at all what I was expecting. So I dismissed it.
Fast forward several years, and I find myself studying Arabic in a beautiful city in the Middle East. I’m the only Pentecostal missionary in a country of 21 million. All in all, there are a total of 30 people working to share Christ with these lovely people. Over the course of several weeks, I had unbelievable opportunities to share Christ with ladies who had never heard about Him before. These women were seeking the truth. However, each time, something strange happened. The power went out, the mother-in-law came over, the kids’ school happened to be closed that day. So our conversations would be interrupted before they really began and more fear would grip their hearts. Each time I would go back home and pray for God to show me a safe place where I could have these conversations. And God reminded me of the idea He had planted in my heart many years ago.
As I sat on my balcony one evening, watching the sun set over this amazing city, I began to write about a place where women could meet together without worrying if anyone was overhearing the conversation or if someone would drop by. I wrote pages and pages of ideas and thoughts and prayers as I worked through what this place might look like. These thoughts melded together to become a place for women that focuses on building community through social networking and education. A strange idea for the Middle East.
This dream started to become a reality. I talked with a lawyer and worked for months to get the paperwork I needed. I remember the day my lawyer handed me a folder with a very colorful and shiny piece of paper inside saying that I had a registered business in that country.
And then tragedy struck. I was in negotiations with a landlord for a wonderful place when someone turned me in as a missionary. After a thorough search of my home by the internal police, they deemed me a threat and I was forced to leave.
But God can create rainbows out of thunderstorms. And he can grow beautiful flowers in the desert sand.
Now, the dream has morphed and changed and is becoming a reality in our new location in the Middle East. The dream is bigger than I ever thought possible.
And God answered my prayer as a teenager. My husband and I don’t work with a church. We’re working to plant them.