'Your Daughters Will Prophesy'
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At the age of 13, I attended a youth convention in Brandon, Manitoba, where evangelist Sam Farina was speaking on Acts 2:17: "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”
At that moment, something awakened inside of me. For the first time, I became aware of the possibility that I too could be part of God’s kingdom work. I could feel my heart beating quickly within me and I responded when Rev. Farina gave an altar call to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
Thus began my passion for the lost, and the seeds of my calling to missions started to grow. Looking back, I can see that the Holy Spirit met me through the Word of God and filled me with His power for purposes that He would reveal in the days to come.
Five years later, I decided to pursue nursing so I would have a practical way to share the gospel, meeting both physical and spiritual needs. Later I was working as a registered nurse at a Southern California trauma hospital when I learned that my church would be making a mission trip to Romania.
Up to that point, I was unaware of Europe as a mission field. When communism fell in Eastern Europe, a curtain was suddenly pulled back and the tremendous human needs in this part of the world became evident in 1989. With my background as a nurse, the plight of Romanian children living on the streets and in orphanages struck a chord in my heart. Around that same time, I was receiving a regular newsletter from CompassionLink, the AGWM community health development agency. Articles by its director, Dr. JoAnn Butrin, exposed me both to the possibility of using my medical skills for evangelism, and to the reality that women can serve in positions of leadership within the Assemblies of God.
My story, and the story of many with whom my path has crossed, is that of service to the Lord who elevates and restores dignity to each person.
When I first went out as an AGWM missionary to Romania I had the opportunity to serve in a local maternity hospital in the capital city of Bucharest. On one occasion, I went to open a hospital nursery door and it was locked. I was told that this was the room where they kept babies who were abandoned by their mothers immediately after birth. I learned that every few hours this room was visited by someone who fed and changed the babies and then put them down in a crib, alone in a locked room, until it was time for another feeding.
In 2004, a report came out that over 4,000 newborn babies were abandoned in maternity hospitals in Romania. I was heartbroken for these little ones. Many of them didn’t even have names, just their mothers’ names written on a scrap of paper posted above their beds. Although they were abandoned by their earthly parents, I knew that they hadn’t been forgotten by their Heavenly Father. He intimately knew each child and had a plan for their lives. At that time, not many people were aware of or engaged in helping to solve this problem. Without a doubt, I knew that God had ordained my steps that day in the maternity hospital and that He was asking me to work on behalf of these children.
From this experience I founded Touched Romania and began a network that places abandoned children in loving Romanian families. But then the Lord began to show me that in order to interrupt the cycle of babies being abandoned in Romania, we needed to address the root issues of abandonment.
This gave birth to the opening of Hagar Home maternal center — a residential care and discipleship ministry for Romanian mothers in distress. Its mission is to provide Christ’s hope and healing for women in crisis, so that they can fully experience the life in Christ for which they and their children were created.
Within the Hagar Home ministry, we pray for mothers to model God’s transformative work in their lives, and to one day return to serve those who are in similar situations as they themselves once were.
And we have seen answers to those prayers! One mother, Alina, was seven months pregnant and living in an abandoned building with her four small children. Alina spent part of her childhood in a state-run government orphanage and had married a man who she had known from her childhood. Not long into the marriage, her husband started drinking, gambling, and becoming abusive. To pay for his gambling debts, he began selling everything in the home, including the children’s food. Out of desperation, Alina left with her children and began living in an abandoned building in downtown Bucharest. The building had no heat, electricity, or running water.
One day we received a call from a local pastor within our community, telling us of Alina’s situation. Hagar Home was already full, but after praying together as a team, we felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to make room for her and her children. Soon, the music and laughter of her four girls lit up our home.
Alina grew in her faith and has become a role model to the other mothers. All of her daughters are serving the Lord as well. God miraculously provided them with their own house, and now Alina works at Hagar Home. Alina knows better than anyone else the struggles of these ladies, and her testimony instills in them the courage to trust God with their futures. Her life exemplifies God’s supernatural work in seemingly impossible situations.
The ministry team at Hagar Home is now led by a team of Romanians that God has called and equipped to serve in the ministry. It has been very rewarding to play a small part in encouraging Romanian women’s leadership giftings, so they can confidently step into the plans and purposes that God has for their lives.
STEPPING DEEPER INTO GOD’S PURPOSES
As I reflect on Romania and my ministry beginnings, I am grateful for other female leaders who regularly encouraged me and who served as role models. And, I especially thank God for the men that He placed in significant points in my life. When opportunities came up for leadership, instead of taking them for themselves or offering them to other men, these men suggested my name, giving me an opportunity to grow in leadership.
When God put it on my heart to start the maternal center in Bucharest, these same men believed in me and had the experience to coach me through the process of planting a ministry in a predominantly male-dominated culture. They not only affirmed my leadership, but they also recognized and called out giftings that I was unaware of early in my developmental journey. These men provided a powerful testimony of God’s work being accomplished together, regardless of gender.
In 2013, I was invited by my regional director to be part of AGWM’s Europe regional leadership team, representing and providing leadership for compassion ministries in Europe. I was the youngest and the first female strategic leader on our team at that time. Little did I know that a short time later, in 2015, over 1 million refugees would land on Europe’s shores, and I would provide leadership for AGWM Europe’s refugee relief efforts.
Looking back, we can see that the refugee crisis was one of the greatest evangelism opportunities in Europe’s history. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims that came as destitute refugees found Jesus as Savior and Lord. Some of these same refugees have also received a call to return to their home countries, bringing the Word of God to those we could not have had the ability to reach.
Voula Antouan is a Greek woman who works tirelessly at the “tip of the sword” of the ongoing refugee ministry in Athens, offering Christ’s hope and healing to literally thousands of Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish refugees landing at her ministry doorstep. In her area of ministry, hundreds of former Muslims have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In 2020, it was my honor and joy to be appointed the first female area director for AGWM Europe, leading the newly formed North Atlantic and Canada area. I will continue to be engaged in ministry to the marginalized in Europe as well.
IN TUNE WITH THE SPIRIT
Just as the Holy Spirit worked in my life as a teenager, He continues to work the lives of young people in this generation. Never underestimate what the Holy Spirit does in a young person’s life! And it seems that now, more than ever, women are sensing a call to ministry and stepping out to find their place. Let us not miss the work of the Spirit in their lives.
May the Holy Spirit give us eyes to recognize leadership giftings in His daughters. May He also give us Spirit-led wisdom in knowing how to best guide them as they take their place in His kingdom work during this unprecedented time in history.
This article originally appeared in Vol. 7, Issue 7 of Worldview magazine. Used with permission.