When you think about key women of faith in the New Testament, who do you think of? Do you ever think of Martha? Her brother Lazarus had been dead 4 days when she said, “Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” (John 11:22) Wow! I usually think of Martha as the worried hostess, not the woman who told Jesus I believe you can raise Lazarus from the dead. There are some other women who surprise us when we look closely.
My favorite woman in the Bible is a church planter. When I think about her ministry, it makes me wonder how many of us husbands miss out because we don’t allow God to use our wives in ministry. Before we look at her, her husband, and how their ministry changed history, let me tell you about some women God is using to start churches today in Eastern Europe. Recently my wife met Marci Totos at the introduction of “The Significant Woman” life-coaching outreach material in Hungary. Marci told Luiza, “My heart is planting churches.” She and her husband just started one church near the airport, found a good leader for it, and want to start another near their home in the center of Budapest.
We met Tatiana and Vasile in 2013 at the MC2 training in Romania. They are from Uncesti, a village of 200 people north of Vaslui County. In Uncesti people cannot find jobs easily, so most people work in agriculture. The harsh life conditions and the lack of money has driven many men to become alcoholics, to abuse their wives and children, to steal and end up in jail. The wives and children are left to work in the fields alone.
Tatiana met Jesus first, then shared Christ with her husband Vasile. They were attending a church in a city 60 minutes away. Their church would come each month to feed poor children. Tatiana was encouraged to show the Magdalena film to the moms and begin a Discovery Bible Study for women. She did. Eventually a few men would come to bring their wives, but would hang around outside. “We can’t come in, we are bad people, we smoke and drink.” Vasile kept telling them, “God loves everyone. Just come and listen.” They did and now a Bible based church has begun in Uncesti.
There was also an Orthodox church in Uncesti, where Romeo rang the bells and Luminitsa sold candles. One day the priest fired Luminitsa (her name means “little light”) and found someone else to sell candles. Luminita got mad and decided to get revenge by going to the “repenters” (Tatiana and Vasily’s). She liked the Bible study a lot, began to attend regularly, and announced to Romeo that she decided to repent and follow Jesus. Romeo went to the priest and told him that his wife had lost her mind and gone to the “repenters”. This created a scandal in the small village so the priest called Luminita back and offered her the job back on one condition, that she leave the “repenters”. Even though they needed the money Luminita refused because she really wants to follow Jesus. “God will take care of me and my family. We don’t have money, but I have Him”.
Several days later Petronela, her friend and neighbor, stopped Luminita and told her, “Luminita you changed. I don’t know why, but you really changed.” Luminita shared that she attends a Bible study at Tatiana’s. Petronela begged her to ask Tatiana if she can come too.
Now Petronela is part of the Bible study.
Encouraged by what God had done, despite her struggle with diabetes and frequent visits to the hospital, Tatiana started a group in another village, Satu Nou, where already 2 women have become believers. She works with Corina in another county to start a group there too. Tatiana remembered a neighbor, Mariana, who would come and listen but never made a decision for Christ. Mariana’s husband was drinking a lot and he would be abusive. He beat her so badly that one day Mariana left him, got a divorce, and moved to another village. Tatiana lost all contact with her but she started to pray for Dobroslovesti, the village that Mariana moved to, that God would open a door there.
One day a woman named Stratica came to Uncesti from Dobroslovesti where Mariana is now, so Tatiana asked if she knew her. Stratica knew Mariana and told her that she remarried and now has a little girl. “Why do you want to find Mariana?”, Stratica asked. Tatiana explained, “To start a Bible study in her home.” “Why not in my house!?”, Stratica exclaimed.
When Tatiana went to Dobroslovesti where Stratica and Mariana live she took Luminitsa along to train her (Petronela asked to come too). They began a Bible study in Mariana’s house with 7 women. At the end of the meeting one of the woman named Pamela asked if they could start a group in her house too, since Mariana’s house is quite small and she wanted to invite other friends and neighbors. So Pamela invited other women and they started a group in her house too. None of these ladies Petronela, Mariana, Pamela are believers yet, but they are active in three Bible study groups. When we ask God to open a door, we need to be ready for Him to open more doors than we are expecting.
My time is up and I still haven’t told you about my favorite church planting woman in the New Testament. That will have to wait for another article. Meanwhile let me encourage us as husbands to be more like Vasile and look for ways to encourage our wives in ministry. Be a good steward of her spiritual gifts, not just your own. You might be married to a very significant woman. Together you could change history.