Prayerful couple confronts paganism, lostness
SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP) -- Gabriela Alsina didn't know what to expect when she arrived in Southeast Asia, but she did know this, every step of her journey had been wrapped in answered prayer.
When Gabriela and her husband Mario were invited on a trip to Southeast Asia to consider embracing an unreached people group, they felt God wanted them to go.
"Lord, we want to go," they prayed, "but we don't know how we are going to do it."
"We began to see God provide," her husband said. "We had already decided to come, even though we didn't have the resources. When we saw how God was providing, it was a confirmation for us. And we had the church join us in fasting and prayer, and the Lord took care of everything, everything, everything."
With resources provided, the two came to Southeast Asia alongside a team of Hispanic pastors as part of the International Mission Board's Embrace initiative. Through Embrace, churches make a long-term commitment to engage a people group that has no known church-planting strategy among them and that is less than 2 percent evangelical.
What Gabriela Alsina discovered during her trip surprised her.
"We arrived a day or two after a feast for their gods," Alsina said. "There were many little houses ... with offerings on top of them for their gods. It was so shocking to me and I said, 'Lord, how can I deal with all this paganism?' It came as a shock to realize that in this country many people are living like this -- lost."
As she walked around the area, Alsina was struck by how people so openly made offerings to idols.
"I was like, 'What can I do?'" she said. "I can't do anything other than pray and share."
The team went to a small village several hours from the main city they had flown into. They were there to follow up on previous visits, to train and baptize people who had previously professed faith.
As the pastors taught, Alsina sat among the women. They clung to her, and she tightly held their hands. Gabriela's heart, she said, was burdened by what she saw.
"I could see sadness in their eyes," she said. "I could see anguish in their eyes.... They grabbed my hand, like asking for help. And it's like [Peter] said, 'I have nothing to give you, but what I have I give you.' And I could only pray for them."
Going from person to person in the small room, Alsina spoke to each woman. "What is your need?" she asked.
"My eyes," one woman said.
"Can I pray for you?" Alsina asked.
"Yes, I want you to pray for me," the woman replied. The others heard and began to share their needs.
"My eyes also hurt, and I can't hear very well," one said. Another spoke up, asking for prayer for her high blood pressure.
Alsina stood, her diminutive figure not much taller than the women seated around her. Her voice rose higher than the sound of even the children playing outside, bringing their requests before God.
"When I prayed for one," Alsina said, "the rest started raising their hands so that I could pray for them. I could feel the Holy Spirit working in them."
Her voice broke with emotion as she continued to pray for the women.
"The Holy Spirit is working," she said. "We have planted the seed, and we know that the seed will not come without a fruit. I just pray those hearts are good soil and can bear the fruit the Lord wants."
When the team left the small village, Alsina left a piece of her heart behind. "[God] has shown me there are women in need," she said, "women who need Christ, women who need my prayers, women who need someone on their side because no one is praying for them."
Alsina doesn't know when God will give her the opportunity to return to see these women again, but she knows what she will do in the meantime: pray.
Ivy O'Neill is a writer with the International Mission Board based in Southeast Asia. For more stories specific to Asia, visit www.asiastories.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).