By Julie Shaffner, President of Voices to Connect
When I first encountered Ester two weeks ago in Alexandria, I was struck by her long, black hair that seemed to meld seamlessly into her fashionable black jumpsuit. She was a beautiful, twenty-year-old woman, and as soon as she spoke to me in her almost perfect English, I recognized a depth that could not be ignored. I soon learned that Ester was not her real name. It was the name she chose to go by because it was necessary to hide her real identity. You see, Ester is from a Middle Eastern country totally closed to the gospel. She was born into a strict, traditional Muslim home, but three years ago, she met her Savior, Jesus Christ, and her life is no longer the same. She has been set free from a system of guilt and shame and has stepped into the abundant grace of God. Ester’s eyes are now open to new life, and she will never go back to the shackles of her heritage. But this decision comes with a price. According to Ester, if her father or sister finds out that she has turned her back on her Muslim faith, they will kill her. Literally.
My heart broke as Ester shared the turmoil she was experiencing. She loves her family, but now she also fears them. She was raised in a home that promoted revenge and retaliation, but now she is being called to love the ones who persecute her. She wants to follow Jesus with her whole heart and be more like him, but she transparently expresses that she still feels darkness pulling her back.
Ester is now a student in another country and has found a Christian community. In fact, an invitation from someone in this community was the reason Ester was at the 4G3/ Radical Mentoring conference. But Ester needs more than a conference to learn how to stand firm in her faith. She needs what the ministry of 4G3 and Radical Mentoring (here in the U.S.) promote and teach . . . discipleship. Someone to walk alongside her and mentor her through the trials she is facing. The wife of the leader of 4G3 recognized this right away, and I got to be an eyewitness to something extraordinary. Generational Discipleship.
Laila has discipled hundreds of women over the years. One of these women was at the conference, and it filled my heart to see the love they had for one another. The deep connection formed over years of intentional relationship and mentoring. And at the end of the conference, before Laila left to return to the U.S. she “activated” her mentee to be the mentor for another young woman who needed it: Ester.
Jesus said to “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations”. Discipleship takes time and commitment, but when you witness the fruit of it, you catch a glimpse of God’s plan for His Kingdom expanding on the earth, one life at a time.