Though once a bastion of Christianity, today’s Europe is considered to be one of the most difficult regions of the world in which to reach people with the gospel. Hundreds of years of religious wars, among other factors, have taken their toll in the expansive continent that comprises approximately 50 nations and territories, and a population of around 731 million.
It is to this region of daunting spiritual challenges that God called Jeff and Debbie Roper. Jeff, serving as Foursquare Missions International’s (FMI) area missionary to Europe, felt the Lord giving him a heart for the region as a 16-year-old new convert. Jeff and Debbie have now served as area missionaries for three years. Prior to this, they were regional coordinators for Eastern Europe for about five years.
The Ropers reside in Enumclaw, Wash.—the word “reside” being somewhat a misnomer, perhaps, considering they log more than 100,000 miles per year in travel. Their duties of oversight in Europe specifically encompass U.S. missions involvement.
“The most common word used when people describe Europe is ‘post’—post-Christian, post-Communist, postmodern,” Jeff tells Foursquare.org. “The harvest is modest when compared to other regions of the world that are more receptive to the gospel.”
Even so, he asserts, Foursquare missionaries and churches serving there are among the most faithful and fruitful ministers one will find anywhere in Europe. And they aren’t intimidated by the challenge.
“The people of Europe are worth every expense and effort to reach them for Jesus Christ,” Jeff insists. “We are ‘plowing up the fallow ground,’ and in the years and generations to come there will be a great harvest of Foursquare churches throughout Europe.”
Indeed the harvest has already begun. Statistics for 2010 report 341 churches and meeting places in the region; 3,028 first-time decisions for Christ; 1,733 water baptisms; and 1,350 Holy Spirit baptisms.
There were 12 Bible colleges operating in 2010, as well as 3 Bible institutes, 7 correspondence schools, and an orphanage, in addition to sundry outreach ministries, such as feeding the poor.
Among the many nations represented in this vast region, Germany is a stage-four nation in Foursquare’s Four-Stage Development Model, meaning they have reached the point where they send missionaries to other countries. Great Britain and Greece are both stage-three works (the “expand” stage), and are multiplying congregations.
Norway and Russia are stage-two nations (the “nurture” stage), meaning leaders are being reproduced. Italy and Ireland are examples of stage-one works (the “initiate” stage), where churches are evangelizing and discipling new believers.
FMI Missionaries Brett and Tammy Toft serve in Tallinn, Estonia, a stage-one nation of 1.2 million people that borders the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland, between Latvia and Russia. Though a nation of wealth and beauty, it also has a dark side, including drug and human trafficking.
Heart-wrenching stories of young women trapped in the malevolent enterprise of sex trafficking are unfortunately not uncommon. With deep compassion for those who find themselves victims of this evil industry, Tammy stepped into the fray to make a difference, one woman at a time.
Already volunteering at Serve the City, a center that helps rehabilitate former prostitutes and victims of the sex trade, Tammy founded The Butterfly Project. Working within the center, The Butterfly Project helps prepare former prostitutes and trafficking victims for the mainstream job market by providing professional-style clothing, makeup and a haircut, as well as training on how to present oneself at a job interview.
Tammy and her team of professionals choose one lady per month, spending three days with her, but don’t just give her a physical makeover—they help her discover, says Tammy, the beautiful woman inside whom God created, knows and loves.
“It’s my joy and honor to use this as a vehicle to reach these dear women and tell them about the One who will bring real change and healing on the inside, if they will only let Him,” Tammy affirms. “And so far, out of the four I’ve invited since the project started, all have said yes, and one eagerly asked if she could bring two of her friends, one of whom is still working on the street. And one is joining the group just because she heard about it from the center.”
Such thrilling accounts could happen on even a broader scale, Jeff believes, if there were more finances and more people serving in the region. Short-term missions teams from the U.S. do come to Europe, for which he and other leaders are very grateful. But to have more church planters called to the unreached cities and nations of Europe would fill a major need, as would more finances for things such as training of pastors and missionaries.
“Please pray for resources to be released to serve the needs of the harvest,” Jeff asks members of the Foursquare family in the U.S. “Pray for laborers to be sent into the harvest, primarily church planters. And pray for the pastors and missionaries serving throughout Europe, that they would be fruitful, faithful and protected.”
As he looks to the future in faith, Jeff sees much spiritual fruit.
“I see healthy Foursquare churches springing up in places like Budapest, Hungary; Tallinn, Estonia; and throughout the Balkans and former Soviet Union,” he says. “My heart for the peoples of Europe is for them to discover the love, life and liberty Jesus Christ brings.”
For information on helping FMI works around the world—including how to support the Global Missions Fund, a missionary or project, or to donate toward disaster relief, log on to https://give.foursquare.org. One hundred percent of every dollar given to the Global Mission Fund goes directly to the mission field. For details on short-term missions teams or other information related to FMI, visit http://www.foursquare.org/missions.
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles