EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 1-8 with the theme of "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.
SEVILLE, Spain (BP) -- Abraham Rios, age 29, has a full day ahead of him. He has a discipleship meeting to plan, along with an English conversation club and a Bible study. In between these events, he is studying for a final exam to receive an advanced biology degree.
Today, Rios lives with purpose, knowing that God is at work in and around him. But he remembers when life felt empty and confusing, and he's grateful to Christians who pointed him to Jesus.
Rios, who was raised Catholic in tradition only, was a university student in Seville, Spain, when he met these Southern Baptists in 2009.
"At that time, I was looking for something in my life, because I am a curious person that needs to understand the meaning of things. That is why I became a biologist, to understand the world around me," he recalls. "I wanted to know more things that can't be easily explained through formulas or empiricism."
So Rios says it was perfect timing when a group of students from the U.S. asked him to fill out a survey on how he would describe God. They showed him a selection of photographs and asked him to choose which ones represented who God was to him.
Intrigued by the concept, Rios chose the vast landscape of a mountain and a sunset on a beach "because if there was something I sensed about God ... that He was ... something incomprehensible and immense that, at the same time, is beautiful."
One of the volunteers conducting the survey was Katherine Gidley from Big Sandy Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She was part of an International World Changers (IWC) team spending two weeks in Seville to assist a campus ministry called Connexxion started by IMB missionary Martha Moore from Tampa, Fla.
Gidley and the IWC team turned in their survey response cards to Yasmin Vila Limo, a student missionary from Oklahoma serving alongside Moore for a semester in Seville in the IMB's Hands On program for collegians and recent college grads.
Not accustomed to receiving a response to her follow-up inquiries from the surveys, Limo was surprised when Rios wanted to ask her questions about God.
Limo, a Spanish speaker from Peru, was able to answer Abraham's questions directly without need of a translator. Their discussion lasted two hours.
"He said, 'I know there is more to this religion than what I've been taught,'" Limo recalls. She invited him to a Connexxion event.
When Rios met Moore, the missionary recalls thinking: This young man is ready for answers.
"He was a people magnet who would invite other people to our group, even though he was still seeking," Moore says.
Rios began to study Scripture and attend a church plant. Since becoming a believer in Christ, he has been a strong advocate for Connexxion, wanting to point others to Jesus as the Southern Baptist students and missionaries did for him.
Rios has served as a leader on the Seville Connexxion team, working with Limo, who returned to Seville in 2013 as a two-year IMB journeyman missionary. Limo began to lead the Connexxion team in October when Rios moved to Brazil for an internship in biology and for opportunities to share his faith in another culture.
"I am very grateful for those people that talked to me about God," Rios says. "It is not a simple thank you that comes out of my mind. It is something that really connects with my spirit."
Hearing about the transformation in Rios' life kickstarted by the IWC team approaching him is "validation that you never know what will happen with that one encounter," Gidley, from the IWC team, says. "To come to know the impact that was made that day on Abraham is unimaginable."
To learn more about the Connexxion ministry, visit Connexxion Europe
. Go to imbstudents.org
to find out more about IWC and Hands On service opportunities.
Marie Curtis writes for IMB from Richmond, Va. Kate Gregory, an IMB writer/editor, contributed to this story. For additional Week of Prayer resources, go to Totally His