WEEK OF PRAYER: Missionary helps European students connect to God
EDITOR'S NOTE: IMB missionary Martha Moore and the Connexxion student ministry she initiated in Europe are featured in the Dec. 1-8 Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention. This year's theme is "Totally His heart, hands, voice" from Matthew 22:36-39. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches support nearly 5,000 international missionaries in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at imb.org/offering, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year's goal is $175 million.
BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany (BP) -- Martha Moore doesn't waste time dreaming small. The Southern Baptist missionary has learned to look to God for something miraculous.
She expects that to happen tonight when her apartment in Germany will be filled with students -- some excited to be with other believers, some still wondering if the Christianity they are hearing about can be trusted. Moore fills her table with a traditional German abendbrot -- a meal of bread, sausage and cheese. She knows there won't be much left over.As students escaping a cold drizzle fill her apartment, she's quick to make newcomers feel welcome in seemingly effortless German.
Moore cut her teeth doing student ministry in the university hubs of Vancouver, Canada, and Los Angeles after graduating from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
When she began her missionary work in 1998, someone asked why she had come to Jena, Germany, to which she responded that was going to help people explore who God is.
"Good luck!" came the reply. "Do you know where you are? You're in East Germany. Nobody cares about God here. You don't have a chance."
Not one to back down from a challenge, that's all Moore needed to hear.
Seeking out the few Christians she could find, she started building relationships among college students in Jena, a city of 110,000 people. Fellowship dinners led to discussions about the Bible. Laying out tables full of sandwiches and gummy bears (a variety of the popular candy made in Germany), Moore opened her apartment to anyone who would attend. Sometimes she invited people to meet her at cafés to discuss their spiritual questions.
Even before she had an established campus ministry, she could see her prayers being answered.
"I trust God and pray that He will put people in my path that are seeking and that want to know Him," Moore says.
Within two years of beginning her ministry in Germany, the students who had been meeting faithfully in two small group studies became known as Connexxion.
It is exactly what Martha dreamed about -- a reproducible evangelistic campus ministry staffed and led by local believers. Today, it has spread to two other German campuses and one in Seville, Spain.
As Moore moves through her apartment in Braunschweig, Germany, she lights several candles in her windowsill and adjusts a Christmas light strand that stays lit year-round. Behind her, the windows reveal the grayness of the day.
"We don't see a whole lot of sun here. It can be very depressing," she says.
She uses the candles and decorative lights to help counteract the darkness and lift her spirits, but some days she grabs her journal and a fresh cup of tea and confesses her struggles to God.
It takes a lot to break Moore's enthusiasm, but on those emotionally dark days, she says that God has led her to pray to be the mist that rains down His love in Germany, where only about 3 percent of the population are evangelical Christian.
She remembers one particularly challenging time in her ministry when she had trained several leaders, only to have them move away. Feeling weary, she confessed to God that she had lost her emotional energy. In time and with the prayers of her faithful family and friends, God renewed her spirits.
Moore is grateful for the prayers of congregations, like her home churches of Christ Fellowship in Tampa, Fla., and Seabreeze Church in Huntington Beach, Calif. She also appreciates the generosity of Southern Baptists in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Cooperative Program, which support her and nearly 5,000 other Southern Baptist missionaries around the world.
Most U.S. churches don't realize the spiritual lostness of Europe, Moore said, because many Europeans perceivably have access to the Gospel. But what's worse in Moore's mind than not having access to the truth of God's Word is having it and not caring. Evangelicals, Moore explains, are typically viewed as a cult in Western Europe.
Some cling to the atheist teaching of past communism. Others are content with a nominal relationship to the state church.
The majority of students Moore meets follow the postmodern view that belief in any absolute truth is ignorant. Biblical teachings seem antiquated and constricting of their personal freedoms. Families discourage involvement in groups that teach a change of lifestyle or need for repentance.
Moore remembers, for example, the time she spent toward leading to faith a young woman she met when she first moved to Jena. But when the woman's parents discovered her Bible, they tore it up.
With only a few exceptions, the 30-plus students active in Connexxion in Braunschweig are the only Christians in their families. Those who choose to actively follow Christ are routinely ridiculed as religious fanatics.
While the spiritual ground of Germany seems hardened to the Gospel, Moore remains strong in her belief that God will continue to do a great work in people's hearts.
Henning, for instance, was raised to hate God but now follows Christ with passion as an active leader in Connexxion. The only religion Birthe knew was paying a yearly tax to the state Protestant church. Now she trains others to share their faith in Christ. Nikola stands strong in her faith, though her family will not support it. Anja was so afraid in her first Bible study that she never spoke. Today she leads the Braunschweig Connexxion team.
The list of students transformed by God's grace is lengthy, and Moore expects it to continue to grow amid the challenge of reaching a community that most think won't turn to God.
For more about the Connexxion ministry, visit Connexxion Europe.
Marie Curtis writes for the International Mission Board from Richmond, Va. See a related video here.