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Building Relationships - Rachel's Story

December 12, 2022

Building Relationships - Rachel's Story

December 12, 2022
A women peers out of her gated home while her daughter looks at the camera

Rachel is a young woman who wanted to commit her life and skills to God. A short-term trip to serve refugee women in the Asia Pacific region turned into a life-changing commitment as a missionary. “I realized that I was thinking a little selfishly, wondering what plans God had for 'my life.' The real question is, ‘What is God doing in the world? And how can I give my life to that purpose?’” In 2020 Rachel became a Reach Beyond missionary and moved thousands of miles from home.

Rachel ministers to women from an unreached people group who are now also living far from home. She calls them "my girls", "Most were trafficked here to be child brides. Once the girls arrive, they’re immediately married to a man who is older and who they’ve never met. I’ve heard the stories of my girls, and it’s heartbreaking. But when they talk about it, they speak of it like it’s normal. Because for them it is. It’s all of their stories. So my goal in that is to help them see that they’re precious and valuable to me, and ultimately to God.”

Poverty, discrimination, and isolation have created countless challenges for these young women, including difficulty finding care during and after pregnancy. "These women do not have access to perinatal education or care in this country. They have low health literacy and education in general.” Racial discrimination by local healthcare workers, costs that they can’t afford, and their status as illegal residents deters many of these soon-to-be moms from seeking care until very late in their pregnancies—often in their 6th or 7th month.

Rachel checks a newborn as part of her perinatal care program

A nurse by trade, Rachel established a perinatal health care program that equips expecting mothers for healthy pregnancies and childbirth. It also includes postnatal checkup visits and provides additional resources and supplies. Without a program like this, these mothers would have extremely limited access to the support they need to ensure their newborns thrive. The program also provides a starting point for Rachel to engage in longer term relationships. “News of the program spreads really fast.”

A big part of Rachel’s ministry involves maintaining relationships with women she’s met through the perinatal program. Transplanted to a new country, their religion, culture, and security concerns keep them mostly isolated in their apartments. “They have many, many needs, but one of those needs is friendship. We’ll cook together, eat together, go to the market, and just do life together.” Rachel provides a crucial relationship—an empathetic and caring spirit—to women who have experienced an incredible amount of trauma.

But building that relationship is not without its challenges. Many of the women from this unreached people group are understandably wary of strangers, to say nothing of the language barrier. “It’s a very hard language. It’s unwritten—basically no one who knows it, writes it. For the first several months I did it the old-school way. We didn’t speak each other’s language, so we would just point at things and hope for the best!” But after months of practice and God’s blessing in finding a teacher, Rachel is developing a practical aptitude for the language. And that skill makes a big difference to the women Rachel works with; learning the language further demonstrates compassion and a desire to connect, “A lot of the girls are surprised when I speak to and understand them in their language.”

Rachel builds relationships with women through everyday activities

COVID also presented unprecedented challenges. “A month into my stay here, COVID hit. So it’s really been wild. All the plans I had at first were pulverized.” Lockdowns drastically altered what it meant to engage in ministry. For the women Rachel serves, however, quarantine changed very little in their day to day life. While frustration and weariness weighed heavily on Rachel, as lockdowns lifted, she was inspired not only to get back out herself, but to encourage her girls to do so as well. Even if that’s as simple as taking a mom to the park with her child. “It was an absolute blast! We climbed on the playground, pointed out boats and clouds. It was great to see the joy on their faces.”

While the work of educating and caring for expectant and new mothers is crucial, Rachel doesn’t miss opportunities to capitalize on everyday activities to build relationships and equip and empower the women she works with. Rachel has a passion for art and has used the medium to connect with women, and their children. As she was beginning to develop language skills, Rachel created colorful tableaus of everyday objects, fruits, vegetables, and the apartments her girls live in. She used those drawings to help her learn new vocabulary and now she uses them to teach them English.

Closeup of the hands of a woman learning to use a sewing machine

Recently, a fellow member of Rachel’s church began a sewing ministry, and asked Rachel if any of the women she meets with would be interested in joining. “I know nothing about sewing. Good thing there are people who are really good at it and have the passion for teaching!” She was able to bring some of her girls along, and since then they have engaged and started attending on their own. “They have learned how to make hair scrunchies from pattern to marketable product. They make money for each item they finish, which they are pretty pumped about. I’m just so excited to see them excited, having fun, and learning skills that will help them in the future!”

Rachel lives in a sprawling apartment complex and has opportunities to connect and develop friendships with her neighbors. Those relationships are essential—a chance to introduce more people to the hope, faith, and love that Rachel possesses through Christ. But they’re also as an avenue to receive friendship, support, encouragement, and sometimes share in some incredible local meals. “I can see God’s fingerprints all over this neighborhood. The timing, the work we’ve done previously, the old connections, the new workers, the language skills. All of the pieces are in place. And these buildings are overflowing with new friends!”

As a woman uniquely equipped to minister to women in South East Asia, Rachel is living out the calling to be the voice and hands of Jesus. “The goal of everything that I do is to build relationships that will allow me to share His love and eventually share the Good News.” The obstacles to sharing the Gospel are numerous; the women Rachel works with know she’s a Christian, but they are very entrenched in their own religion. Yet Rachel sees this as her calling, “This is what He has asked of me—to leave everything, go where He says to go, and love who He asks me to love. It's scary and hard, but I will follow the Savior and Shepherd of my soul. What a privilege it is to spend my life making Jesus known to those who have never heard!”