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Motivated by Relationships

For Sarah Reed, ministry is all about relationships. “I am motivated to see people in right relationship with one another, and with God,” she said recently from her new home in Austria. “When I think about my calling as a missionary, I think about the importance of partnership and seeing people work together in unity, despite their differences.” 

In the fall of 2019, Sarah completed her initial training for long-term service as a global worker with Multiply. At that point, she expected that it would take a few months before she would be ready to move to Austria. But she wasn’t expecting COVID-19.

“When the pandemic became a reality in spring 2020, I definitely felt disappointed and frustrated with all of the restrictions and limitations,” said Sarah. “COVID slowed down everything, including fundraising. I knew my departure would be delayed, but I honestly asked myself, ‘Will I ever get to Austria?’”

The tension of not being able to move to Austria and not being able to settle in Canada was difficult for Sarah. “But God used that time of uncertainty and those feelings of insecurity,” Sarah recalled, “to help me refocus. I learned how to be more content with each day and more present with people.”

As she went to work on developing relationships in Canada with financial supporters and prayer partners, God blessed her efforts and gave her confidence that he would eventually bring her to Austria. But God also had something more for Sarah while she waited in Canada. 

With extra time on her hands during COVID, Sarah asked herself an important question: “If I was in Austria what would I be involved in?” As she pondered that question, God gave her an idea. 

At her home church, WMB Church in Waterloo, Ontario, there was a group of Persians, mostly Iranian immigrants, that met regularly after the Sunday service. “I had visited the group many times,” said Sarah. “It was a great way to get to know people and to observe their language and culture.”

Sarah was also well aware that there were numerous Iranian refugees that were a part of her future church family in Steyr, Austria, the Mennonitisch Freikirche am Schlosspark.

During COVID, Sarah asked herself an important question: “If I was in Austria what would I be involved in?” 

Sarah decided to talk to the leader of the Persian group at WMB—a woman named Mehry Javady who was an immigrant from Iran and spoke fluent Farsi (Persian). “I asked Mehry if she would be willing to help facilitate an online Bible study with the Iranians in Austria and the Persian group at WMB.”  

Sarah had no idea that Mehry had for many years been asking God for an opportunity like this, to be more involved in discipleship ministry. Both of the women were thrilled to see what God had in store for them. 

With the blessing of the pastor of the Austrian church, Sarah and Mehry formed a group online and invited the Iranian men and women they knew in Austria to join. As they began to meet weekly, Sarah and Mehry watched in amazement as God built bridges within the group and brought strength and growth to those who came together to learn. “God was doing the heavy lifting,” said Sarah, “and Mehry and I were just responding to his invitations. We’ve always had a strong sense that the Holy Spirit was leading these times together.”

As the primary facilitator of the group, Mehry was delighted with her new role and excited about how her interaction with the group enriched her own life. About ninety-five percent of the meeting was in Farsi, so Mehry was heavily relied upon to lead, but Sarah was engaging too, and learning a lot.

“I didn’t understand most of what was being said,” Sarah explained, “but I was so thankful for the way Mehry led as she listened to the Spirit and spoke with authority. Because it was mostly in Farsi, I spent a lot of time praying silently and simply taking in the melodic sounds of this beautiful language.”

During most of the Bible studies, at least once, Mehry would turn to Sarah and ask if she had anything to add. “Having faith that the Holy Spirit was leading,” Sarah said, “I would share my thoughts on the Scripture and Mehry would translate, then I just tried to figure out by the look on people’s faces if it resonated. It was always exciting and faith building when Mehry told me later that what I shared fit right in.”

After the first few meetings, some of the group members in Austria asked if they could invite friends from Iran to join the online video calls. “We said, ‘Of course!’” Sarah recalled. “I was so encouraged by the questions people were asking in the group. People were so engaged and hungry to know Jesus.”

For Sarah, it was, in some ways, perfect preparation for her eventual move to Austria. “Through the group online, I was connecting with people there, serving the church there, practicing my German (and learning some Farsi too!), and I was growing a stronger relationship with my home church in Waterloo through my partnership with Mehry.”

In November 2020, despite the fact that COVID restrictions persisted, God finally opened the door for Sarah to move to Austria. She was thrilled to arrive in Steyr and to embrace her assignment on the ground with the church there. In recent weeks, she has been settling into life in Austria, investing in ongoing language and culture studies, building relationships with church leadership, and continuing to meet online regularly with Mehry and the Persian Bible study group. 

“I really look forward to seeing how God continues to use the gifts and diversity in this group to encourage one another, but also to help us reach out to others in Austria, Canada, Iran, wherever. I’m amazed at the diversity of people in the group. Whether it’s Mehry in Canada, or the medical doctor from Iran who is now sharing the Gospel with her co-workers in Austria, or the man in Iran who is learning to live as a follower of Jesus in a closed country, these people are all so precious.”

Sarah looks forward to greater freedom as COVID restrictions hopefully loosen up in the weeks and months to come. But no matter what changes or what stays the same, she is eager to keep investing in relationships. 

As she considers the partnership opportunities before her, Sarah thinks of the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29. “The man who scatters seed on the ground doesn’t know how it grows, but it does. He tends the field and watches the seed grow until the harvest is ready, then he takes out his sickle. He wasn’t the one who made the seeds grow, but he was paying attention to what God was doing and he was willing to join in when there was opportunity.”

That’s exactly what Sarah’s trying to do: to pay attention to what God is doing and be willing to join in as God opens doors. She understands her limited role in partnership with God and others, but she embraces the opportunities as they come.


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