“Well, it all started whilst I was working on a cannabis farm in California …” I have heard unusual testimonies before but Mariya’s topped them all!
We were sitting on the banks of Paris’s trendy Canal St Martin at the end of 2019 getting to know one another. We had both recently joined the church, Église Connexion. I had come to work for the church; she had recently moved back to Paris to be near her parents.
The daughter of Ukrainian artists, Mariya was born in Russia, but spent most of her childhood in the States. In her early teens, she relocated to Paris with some of her family. Some tough experiences caused her to ask important questions about life and meaning. Wanting to make the world a better place, she studied sociology and later the environment. Dissatisfied and still seeking, she travelled and worked on farms, surrounded by New Agers, until she started practicing Buddhism.
Years later, however, Mariya’s life was turned around. It was at the time she was working as a casual labourer on the Californian farm that she met a Christian who introduced her to the gospel and to a church. She felt dissatisfied with the answers offered by other beliefs, and was struck by the joy of true faith in God.
Growing through reading the Bible together
This was less than a year before I met Mariya. In the intervening time, she had understood the gospel and put her trust in Christ. Every area of her life had been turned around: desires, hopes, thoughts, lifestyle. She turned up at Église Connexion looking for Bible teaching like she had known in her church in California, and strong fellowship with other believers.
For the first year, Mariya and I read through the Bible together. We read 3-4 chapters a day individually, and met up weekly to discuss what we had learned and the themes we saw emerging across Scripture. I saw Mariya grow in her love for Christ. Her joy in her discoveries caused my own soul to sing. Having made it through the whole Bible, we are now returning to books in more detail.
Making disciples who make disciples
Mariya’s zeal for sharing the gospel is a constant challenge to me. Every time I see her, she tells me about opportunities she has had with her colleagues or non-Christian friends. She has a real heart to see the communities of environmentally sensitive artists and New Age travellers that she spent time with reached with the Good News.
This year, after some encouragement, and with the support of Église Connexion and our church union – the Association Baptiste – Mariya embarked upon theological training with Crosslands Seminary. Her first essay was on a Christian response to environmental activism. Her next course is on evangelism and apologetics.
The focus of my work in Paris is discipling and training Christian women so that they might make disciples of others, who in turn make disciples, as Mariya is doing. Please pray for her as God shows her how and where he wishes to use her studies for his glory in the future. Please pray for me too, as I seek to walk alongside Mariya and women like her, as they grow in their service of others, flowing out of an increasing love for Christ.