As part of World Horizons expression of mission in Europe, Neil Rees runs a small evangelical church in Zafra, a Spanish country town.
Planting and running a fellowship in a place like Zafra can be very challenging, but World Horizons believe in persevering in pioneering mission amongst communities of people who have little or no experience of Christianity.
Here is a story he tells which shows some of the challenges and triumphs his team have seen.
"Lola came to Christ twenty years ago, after finally beating alcoholism. Her husband died three years ago, after repeated cancer-related illnesses. Of her three children, one still lives at home, controlling his 25 year-long drug addiction with methadone. Another was divorced last year after two years of marriage.
Lola’s daughter got pregnant whilst studying twenty years ago, and gave up university to get married. Her husband is now a long-term invalid, unable to work. Lola’s younger brother was recently diagnosed with leukaemia.
What does "persevering prayer" mean in such circumstances? For Lola, it has meant refusing to get down on herself, or on God, pursuing a meaningful relationship with God, and learning to trust him at all times. And it has meant an ongoing investment in time spent with God, asking for him to make his grace real in her family's lives.
The result? Well, perhaps I shouldn't talk about 'results', for prayer of this nature cannot be focused solely on getting what we want from God. But it will bear its fruit.
For Lola, this fruit has been a slow, steady, and ongoing transformation in her family. Her husband found faith in Christ a few days before he died. Her son-in-law came to Christ with our team here in Zafra. Now her daughter and grand-children are following the Lord too.
Her eldest son is doing well despite being HIV+. He is clear of hepatitis after a 6 month course of drugs, though 40 cigarettes a day don’t help much... but his mother’s love and care is constant. Her other son finds comfort in his mother’s prayers as he looks to re-establish his life.
Lola has started daily Bible reading and prayer times with her brother and another sister. They rarely spend less than an hour together before God. Her brother has now been 6 months without transfusions - though needed one a week when first diagnosed. Better still, his growing faith and trust is becoming an example to others in the family.
Beyond all this, Lola has found a quiet trust and tranquillity. No sudden explosive miracles, but as she has prayed faithfully over the years she has experienced a deep satisfaction and hope for the future, and the joy of seeing God’s grace gradually penetrate those around her.
Such is the kingdom of God - a small amount of yeast, that affects the whole batch of dough; a mustard seed that starts so small, but eventually grows huge."
Written by Neil Rees, International Director, World Horizons