Cynthia didn’t fit the “missions mold”—if there is one anymore. She was single, in her 40s and had worked in the business world. But God had given her a vision of helping young girls in South Asian villages avoid being trafficked. And she was convinced that making disciples and planting churches in their communities was at the heart of the solution. Now, ten years later, she has seen God bring her vision to reality.
Cynthia didn’t fit the “missions mold”—if there is one anymore. She was single, in her 40s and had worked in the business world. But God had given her a vision of helping young girls in South Asian villages avoid being trafficked. And she was convinced that making disciples and planting churches in their communities was at the heart of the solution. Now, ten years later, she has seen God bring her vision to reality.
**BONUS Content** When Cynthia began telling Bible stories every night to a group of children from the neighborhood, she couldn’t have imagined what one young boy would do with his newfound knowledge.
My heart and the mission that God had given me was in preventing this not necessarily running into brothels and red light districts and rescuing girls and rehabilitating them, and that's great work that someone is doing and people are doing that. But his mission for me was to stop it from happening in the first place. And that was through the gospel. It was through church planting that we see this end. And that's the preventative.
This is the Relentless Pursuit podcast where we hear stories from cross-cultural workers on what it's really like to be a missionary, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So sometimes you hear those stories of that village, you literally can't even drive to it. You have to walk two hours through the desert or the mountain or the jungle to even get to it. And somehow in this village there's a missionary and a church and you wonder how did they even get there. Well, today's story, we are going to hear how they got there.
Exactly. We are talking today to Cynthia who serves in South Asia, and she's going to tell us right from the beginning, actually before she even ended up in this village, what the journey was that brought her there. So let's join the conversation in process.
Way back in 2007 was just feeling called to work among unreached people. It was through church, it was through the Perspectives course that I took and just really feeling a call to do something among the unreached. And at that same time, I also heard about human trafficking around the same year, about 2007, 2008. And back then it wasn't a big social justice topic as it is. I feel like right now. Everybody knows about it, everybody's heard about it. Back then it was just unheard of and I really just remember being floored by that and just couldn't believe that things like that were happening around the world and was wrestling with that, okay, Lord, if you want me to do something about trafficking, but you also are calling me to an unreached people, what does that look like? What does one have to do with the other?
It was confusing and he gave me sort of a vision, a calling, a mission statement, if you will. It wasn't like a visual vision, but it was more a mission statement, I would say, and I'll read it to you, I wrote this down in 2009, and the mission he gave me was to serve the women and children of a South Asian country that are at risk of being exploited or trafficked while developing relationships in order to share the gospel and ultimately to see a community of believers grow in places where the name of Jesus is not yet known. That was the mission statement I had. I had no idea how I was going to do that. I had no plan really, just this mission statement, and I really didn't even have an organization at that point. What drew me to Pioneers was the fact that the way Pioneers works is they like to come alongside people who have a vision and a mission and this calling that God has given them, they come alongside them to help them achieve that goal.
They're not necessarily sitting somewhere and directing our activity saying, well, you need to do X, Y, and Z. It's more like, okay, we're going to come alongside you. God's given you this calling. Great. How can we help you fulfill that mission? And that's what really drew me to Pioneers. And so I contacted Pioneers with that mission statement that the Lord had given me, and I was like, Hey, God's telling me to do this. And they were like, that's awesome. We don't have anybody in that country that you want to go to. I was like, alright, awesome. So that was in 2009, and it took, it's kind of a long story how I ended up getting there, but by 2012, I had moved to this country in South Asia with Pioneers. So God was faithful to see that through.
So what were you doing vocationally before you went to the field?
Yeah, that's a really good question. I think I'm not your typical, I don't know. Can I say missionary?
Yes, you can say missionary and there's no such thing as a typical missionary.
Yeah, especially with five years. Yes, exactly.
Well, that's true. That's true. But okay. So I would say I'm not what you would normally think of as a missionary, and at least that's not what I would've thought of because I was later in life and I was single. So I was 42 when I went to the field, and had been married long time before, had a grown son. So this was sort of a second career for me, but as a single, and there weren't too many people my age. I don't know of any really my age, maybe one or two in the field single who are leading teams in South Asia. My vocation prior was, let's see, I worked in healthcare my whole life. I started off as a registered dietician and ended up actually in IT as a clinical analyst before I moved to where I'm at.
Do you see any of that kind of coming into play in your ministry now?
I love when people ask me that because it's like no nutrition and computers, neither one of those things are in my context at all. It's really, but the thing about just life experience and work experience in general, I think prepares you for all kinds of things in the field. You have leadership experience, you've got managerial experience, you've got team building experience and just all of the other stuff that comes with working in the secular world, in the business world for so many years, for almost 20 years. That does prepare you in some ways to lead a team and to see things happen on the field. Yeah.
Yeah, absolutely. So I guess you're a team leader now, is that what you said?
Yeah, I actually started as a team leader and I'm still the team leader. Oh wow,
Okay. Yeah. So how did that all play out? Obviously we didn't have anyone from Pioneers in your country that you wanted to go to. You didn't have this big long church planting ministry experience background, so what did it look like landing in the country, developing a team?
I felt very strongly called to this particular country. I went through Explore, it was called COP back then, so it's called Explore now. And they made me wear the tag that said undecided or undeclared, I don't know. I don't know what it is, but I was like, no, I'm going to this country. You should put that on there. But I really had no way of getting there. And so after being accepted with Pioneers, I decided I should probably take a vision trip, a survey trip to the country where I felt God was calling me. I had never been there before and I thought it might be a good idea. So I contacted the area leader and said, hey, I want to come visit this country, and afterwards I'd like to come and see you. And he was in a different country, neighboring country. And so I did that in 2010, went and spent 10 days in this place, had made all kinds of connections and just really felt confirmation from the Lord that yeah, okay, this is where I'm supposed to be.
I went and debriefed with the area leader, and I'll never forget sitting there, I had actually gone with another girl from my church who was also accepted onto Pioneers who didn't know where she wanted to go. She had no clue, but I convinced her to take the survey trip with me. And so we sat there before our area leader and he heard the whole story of our 10-day trip and how we felt called to this country, and he just sat there and he looked at me and he, I think we need to start a new team in this country. And then he looked at my friend and he said, are you okay with her being the team leader? And she was like, yeah. And it was, it was just born like that. And I thought, this is crazy, because I never asked to be a team leader, and I thought, who am I? Like you said, I had no church planting experience and no really any full-time ministry experience whatsoever. No cross-cultural experience. And yet he sat there and affirmed my calling to this country and my leadership and said, okay, let's do this. That's what happened. That's cool. I was going to say, and I've never felt more unqualified and unprepared for anything in my entire life. Just going to say that.
Maybe that's what he saw. Maybe he saw that you had a healthy recognition of your limitations, but you had a strong vision. Though. I don't know how many people come into Pioneers with a vision statement that clearly articulates what they feel God is calling them to. So that's really cool. Yeah,
I don't know how many people come into Pioneers and they start recruiting people at Explore onto their team before their team even exists. So that's definitely such a fun story. Yeah. So tell us first, when you landed in country, can you give us an idea of what those first couple of years looked like?
Yeah, definitely. They were terrible.
Yeah, they were really hard.
Was the good, the bad and the ugly?
They were really hard and really difficult. So before I landed, the girl who had gone with me on the vision trip, she also came along. And in that it took us two years between the vision, the survey trip, and actually landing took two years before we actually landed there. But in that time, there was a family from Australia who wanted to come along and join, and another single female from Australia. And so we landed, all these people, boom, none of us having been there before, all kind of trying to figure this out together, all of us with different callings, different sort of missions, and then obviously there was some cross-cultural differences between us, between them and Americans and Australians. And it was a rough two years. All of us are going through culture shock. All of us are trying to learn language. All of us are trying to figure out how to be a team. I love pioneers for it's sort of like a hands-off approach in the field led model. But there were times where I was just wanting someone to be like, okay, just do this. Someone just tell me what to do.
I had gone from so much structure in my previous life, if you will, and my job in the secular world office job, nine to five, you knew what your job description was. You knew nine to five what you were supposed to be doing. And now here we were just sort of like, what are we doing? And there were of course team conflicts and differences, and it was really challenging the first two years. Yeah.
What do you think held you together through all that?
Well, after the first two years, the single from Australia, she became really ill and had to return home, wasn't able to return, so she left. And then myself and the other girl who had come with me, we really felt called to be outside of the capital city into a district where we knew trafficking was happening and where there were a lot more unreached people, as well as very few, if any, missionaries working, we wanted to go there. And so we made a decision after the first two years to split into two teams. Not because of the team conflict, but because of just a difference in vision and location, desire where we wanted to be. And so after two years we made that split, she and I moved out to the district where I'm at now, and the other family remained in the capital, and they're actually still here with their team. They have their own team now, and they're doing really well.
About six months after we moved, however, we had a major earthquake in this country, only about 20 miles. Epicenter was from where I was living at that time. It was major 7.8, hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed. 9,000 people died, major, major. And that was almost coming up on the three year mark. And so my friend and I, we had decided to stay our first term for three years before we returned home for our first home assignment. And that earthquake was, yeah, I don't even know where to go with that. It was terrible. It was horrible. We lived through it. We did relief work for three months, and then we both went back to the states for our first home assignment. And about a month after she came to me and she said, I'm not going back.
So that was really hard because now I was a team of one. But to answer your question, what kept us going? Or even I would say, how am I even still here after all these years? It's actually just turned 11 years I've been here now, was what you said earlier was a very strong sense of calling and mission. I knew without a doubt what I was supposed to be doing, what I was called to do. And just knowing that, and maybe we'll get to the story later of how God fulfilled that vision, that mission statement he gave me as well. And that's what has kept me here through all of the conflict, through the team split through the earthquake, through my teammate leaving and having to start over. It was just a really strong sense of calling.
Yeah, that's amazing. I think one of my questions would be how—and this maybe goes back to as you began your work there—you had this calling, you had a real clear definition of what you felt needed to happen, but there wasn't another organization doing this kind of stuff that you were tacked onto. You were starting from scratch. So what does that look like to say God's calling me to reach trafficked people? Where do you find them? What's the strategy look like to find and minister to and share the gospel with people that are in this situation?
Yeah. My first two years in country, what I did besides language learning was research. That was the way I stayed in country, was on a research visa. And so I applied at the university to do research, and I researched anything and everything that was going on with human trafficking in this country for two years, alongside language learning. And so I met with any and every organization I could find who was in any way connected with anti-human trafficking work. And that's where you come to find out where is it happening, which districts are notorious for it, and you find statistics you find and who's doing what. I really wanted to know who was doing anything in prevention because my heart and the mission that God had given me was in preventing this not necessarily running into brothels and red light districts and rescuing girls and rehabilitating them, and that's great work that someone is doing and people are doing that. But his mission for me was to stop it from happening in the first place. And that was through the gospel. It was through church planting that we see this end, and that's the preventative way. So yeah, I found them. I found the district, I found the people through all the research I had done the first two years.
So you kind of touched on it a little bit as you were sharing your story a little bit, but what happened next? So you moved to your district, you did all the research, you kind of knew where the problem was, so to speak, and then of course you had, because things weren't complicated enough, you had an earthquake and relief work and all the tragedy and craziness of that in a developing nation, right? So yeah, what happened next? You said the Lord kind of fulfilled that vision for you. So I'd love to hear how that happened.
And I think this is a story we told back in 2016, Matt. So the earthquake happened in 2015 in April, and we went home in July and I decided to take six months home assignment. It had been almost three years in the field. And yeah, I took six months a month into it. I get news, my teammate's not returning, and then there was all kinds of stuff happening with my sending church. It just felt like everything was falling apart. I had no team anymore. I wasn't even sure if I was going to be resent by my sending church because of organizational changes that were going on there. I didn't have a team anymore. I didn't even know how I was going to stay here. I had been on a student visa, this research visa, and now I didn't even have a visa platform. I just had no idea.
I really was feeling quite hopeless, to be honest, for a couple of months there. And a friend of mine reached out to me. She was also living and working in this country, and she was running a small business that was employing women who were rescued out of trafficking and then giving them jobs. And she knew what had been going on, and she's like, I want you to pray about maybe starting a branch office out in your district and hiring girls that are at risk for trafficking through my business. And I was like, okay, yeah, I don't know, maybe. And I thought about it and the first thing that came to my mind was, in order to make that happen, in order to do that, I needed to invest in this company in order to be eligible for a business visa. And that meant a 50,000 US dollar investment into this company.
And I thought, where in the world am I going to find $50,000 and in a couple of months like this? Okay. And she told me, she gave me some very wise advice that I've not forgotten to this day. And she said, look, just take out all the other voices in your head, not what your church is saying, not what your friends are saying or your family is saying, not what you think is possible or anything. Just go before the Lord and ask him like, Hey, is this what you want from me? Is this your will? Is this the path? And so I did that. I took out all the other voices in my head and I went before the Lord, and it almost makes me tear up when I think of it, but he told me very clearly, he's like, do you remember that vision I gave you in 2009? He's like, this is how that's going to be fulfilled. It is through this work, through this business. This is how you are going to do what I called you to do. And I thought, okay, you're right. Yeah, I'm going to go into an unreached at risk area and I'm going to provide jobs and I'm going to hopefully share the gospel with people who've never heard before. Awesome. Now where's the money going to come from? And I'll tell you what you guys, the Lord provided that money within a month.
Wow. That's amazing.
It was amazing. It was amazing. My friend who was with the business, she already had $20,000 in donations set aside, and she didn't tell me, she did not want me to think about the money. She's like, don't think about the money. Don't think about what people are saying. Just really if this is what God's calling you to, he's going to provide. Well, all of a sudden there was some money there. I had money from the earthquake relief fund that I used for this, and then I raised the rest of it within a month and it was a done deal. So I returned January, 2016 with a new team, a business team. I returned with a visa platform. I returned with a purpose and a mission and a way to fulfill that mission. It was really a small miracle when I came back in January of 2016. Yeah.
Oh my gosh. I mean, it makes me tear up a little bit, like hearing about how the Lord just really affirmed that vision for you, and then after you were like, okay, I'm going to go for it. And then he just provided all the stuff that you needed just within such a short amount of time. I mean, what a rollercoaster you went on during those few months.
Yeah, it was rough. But again, I'm going to go back to just that calling is really important, really being sure that this is something that the Lord's asking you to do. Because what I have seen over and over again is that he will provide what you need. He provides the grace that you need. Whatever it is, you need finances. If it is something that you are sure he's calling you into, you don't need to worry about the provision. I've just seen it, and even just recently I've seen it again. And so yeah, I am assured of that 100%. Yeah. So I'll just keep going if that's okay. I can finish the story.
Yeah, tell us about the business, please.
Yeah, so I'm not going to get too into too much in detail about what we do because I don't want to share too much about that for security reasons. And so in just a couple months after I got back in 2016, I opened up a branch office, and it was out in this district, but it was near town, the area where most of the girls are at risk and where the unreached areas are are quite far away. They're in remote areas that you have to hike into. They're not easily accessible. It's just really difficult to get into, it's not in the mountains, but it's hilly. The terrain is rough, there's no roads. And what I was doing was visiting these areas on a regular basis and interviewing people and talking to people and trying to find out, okay, who are the at-risk girls who would come work with us, blah, blah, blah, all that kind of stuff.
And identified a group of girls and asked them to come and live with us in this office. So they lived with us and they worked with us, and I did that for several months. They went home for a visit and they didn't come back. So I went again to a nearby village, recruited another eight girls, and then this cycle repeated itself three times over the next two years where they would come and stay for a season, but then they would return home and then not come back to work. And what I began to sense was, one, the model wasn't working, and two, I began to feel like I was reinforcing the model that the traffickers were using. Basically, they would go into the village, they would tell girls, hey, I've got a job for you, and take them out and trick them and then sell them into these brothels.
When I was just kind of reinforcing that, yeah, that's a legitimate thing to do. Yeah, follow some stranger out of the village and go work for them and it'll be fine. And I began to just feel convicted that this wasn't the right way to go about doing this. And in one of my visits to one of the villages, I had met a guy and another friend of his said, hey, this guy, he's a national. And he's like, he's a really good guy. You should take his name and number. And I was like, okay, great. I take down his name and number and a couple years ago by, and I'm like, you know what? I haven't been to his area. I should call him. And so I tried calling him and hey, I'd like to come visit your area. I haven't been having much success over in this area, so I'm going to come try and visit your area.
And he didn't answer and I kept calling, calling, he didn't answer. And so I took a couple of national friends and we just went, we didn't even know where he lived, but we knew his name. And as we were hiking up the mountain, literally we just kept asking, where does so-and-so live and where does so-and-so live? And they just kept pointing up, keep going up, keep going up. After two hours we hiked up the mountain. The last person we asked turned out to be his wife. So she was like, oh yeah, that's my husband. Come on over. So we ended up spending three days with them. So something really remarkable happened when I was there, A few things. One of the cool things was we found out his father was the main spiritual leader of that area, and we had dinner with him and his father and his mother and his wife and their kids that first night in their little tiny shelter because they hadn't rebuilt their home from after the earthquake.
And his father said to me, my path is this way, but my son, he's sort of on a different path and I'm okay with that. And basically his son had been exposed to Christianity and was interested in it and open to it. And his father knew that, and his father was okay with that, which was remarkable to me. And what I felt like we had found was a person of peace in this particular village. The other thing I found on their property were two unfinished buildings that some relief organization had come in and started to build but didn't complete. So there was a foundation, there was some steel frame and a tin roof, and that was it. But there were two of them there. And I asked about these buildings and they said, yeah, they started building 'em. They told us we need to finish it.
We don't have any money to finish it. So they're just spent two years, they're sitting there and I saw an office and a living space. That's what I saw. And I asked them, so how much would it cost to finish building these? And he told me and I was like, that's it. Okay. I'm like, done. I'm going to do it. I didn't even ask permission of my business manager. She wasn't happy with me. I'm just going to say, but sometimes I am better at asking for forgiveness than permission. And I just really felt like the Lord was saying, yeah, do it. And even if she said, no, bless them with these buildings. Okay, that's it. No problem. I had the funds to do it. And so I told him, you start building. I'm going to pay for these. We're going to finish these buildings. He did. We visited next month, they were halfway done, and within three months they were both usable buildings. And a month after that, I moved our entire office down from town up into this village where you have to hike an hour and a half to get to. And I had already been interviewing on my visits there, and I had selected eight girls to work with us. And we opened the very next day after we moved, opened our office. And I've been in this village for five and a half years.
That's amazing story.
Yeah, God, he totally made a way there. He just provided a place, a person of peace. It was just really remarkable. And we've seen some really great fruit since then in the last five and a half years.
And now these are all local girls that are just from that community, then they're not leaving. And you're able to provide them with an income or employment. Tell us a little bit more about that.
And so I really felt rather than asking the girls to continue to leave their homes and their village to come work where I live, I decided to go live where they do. And so they walk to work every day. Some of 'em are immediate neighbors and some of them walk 40 minutes away, but they go home every day. So they are all from that village. I've had about, let's see, I have right now seven girls. I've had some come and go and maybe a total of 15 altogether in the last five and a half years. But of the seven I have right now, five of them have been with me from the beginning. And the girls I hired in the beginning were all 14 and 15 years of age. So they were very young when they started down.
Is that the age when they are vulnerable to being trafficked? That's kind of the age range.
And in this particular community, they also get married very young, usually around 13, 14, 15. And so to find unmarried, anybody in that village, you had to go quite young. But I had a criteria, they couldn't be in school. I would not take anyone for a job if they were in school. If they were in school, they had to stay in school. So I looked for girls who had never been to school or had left school at a young age, those with maybe really large families, those homes, maybe they didn't have a mother or father or anybody. Some of the risk factors that I had identified in my research, what I looked for were girls that had those kinds of circumstances and just the very fact that they were in a somewhat, not affluent, we'll just say village it, I hate to use the word poor, and that they have no education or very little education. And this area was known and is famous for trafficking. Those things alone put them at risk for falling prey to traffickers. And so yeah, some of them have left and gotten married, some of them ran away at 14 to get married, some of them at 18. And you can only do so much to convince them to wait, but it is what it is. So yeah, I have seven young girls working with me right now. A couple of them are only 17 and the others are 20.
Yeah. So tell us about the community there and how they've received this ministry. You coming from the outside and I realize like you said, you had a person of peace there, someone who's able to host you and provide you credibility. But talk a little bit about what it's like being in that community.
Yeah. My experience in this country in general has been that the people are very hospitable people and have always welcomed me into their homes and always getting invited over for tea. Or every shop I go to sit down and have something to eat, have tea. It's just always this. Sometimes I just want to buy something and leave and they're like, no, no, stay and have tea. So it's this culture, which is beautiful. And then I entered this village and nobody's inviting me over for tea. And I thought, what in the world? Suddenly it was very different. It wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting to be invited into everyone's home for dinner, for whatever. And it wasn't that they shunned me in any way. They were very friendly and everything, but it wasn't the kind of friendly I was expecting, I had seen in the rest of the country.
My experience thus far was very different. And I don't think they knew we were Christian, to be honest. I don't even think they knew what Christianity was. No one had heard the name of Jesus. There were zero believers in this village, no church within two or three hours at that. And when we first got there, there was no church anywhere near this village. They had no idea. They didn't know anything. And so they didn't even suspect maybe that we were there for that purpose because they just had no idea. I mean, you want to talk about unreached, they really just had zero idea about any of that. But they're a highly superstitious group, highly superstitious. They had a lot of superstitions that they believe. And one of them, I found out very early on, I was warned by our host, our landlord, to not actually go and drink tea or accept food and beverages from the people I didn't know.
And I was like, why is that? Because they'll poison you. And I was like, excuse me, what do you mean? They have, yeah, they have this belief or it's like they think they have this belief. I don't know that if you poison a hundred people, you'll somehow gain some kind of merit or you'll get rich or something good will happen to you if you poison X number of people. And so they were automatically suspicious of each other and then of us, because they didn't know us. So I was warned by three different people don't accept food and beverage from people you don't know because they might try to poison you. And I was like, man, talk about a lie from the devil to cause disunity and disrupt a community and to just make people suspicious of each other. It was such a lie. Nobody was doing that. Nobody was doing that. But it was this belief that people were doing that. And so that was part of why I think it wasn't the culture up there anymore to invite people over.
So this was not like a countrywide belief, this was just in this region for some reason?
Correct. Yeah. This was literally just, I had never heard that before. That was this area, these people, their belief there. They had a lot of very interesting superstitions and beliefs in this particular area, very superstitious people. But we did have a lot of girls lining up for work. A lot of people came for interviews, a lot of people were interested in working with us and wanting to be a part of whatever we were doing. They really still didn't understand that we were providing jobs. They kept thinking we were just doing training. And I said, yes, we will train you, but we're training you to do work. But that concept was hard to get them to believe and understand. Even now, sometimes they say we're doing training. I say, I haven't been training people for five years. So it was an interesting entrance into that area.
Can you tell us a little bit about how this has intersected with making disciples and church planting and maybe even your work with local believers in the country that you're working in?
So that was always one of my favorite things to try to explain to people. Everyone's like, well, what does human trafficking have to do with church planting? And vice versa, how are they connected? And in my research here, what I found was that the trafficking was happening in unreached villages, not in reached villages. You could find reached villages where there were believers and churches and thriving communities, believers and stuff. And there no, were no cases of trafficking that I could find. It wasn't happening in those areas, but it was happening in these dark places that are remote areas that were isolated both from society as well as from the gospel. To me, that's where that sort of overlapped. And so in terms of what do I do? What was my approach, then what did we do about it?
The Lord told me from the first day to be bold. I heard that pretty clearly from him, to not be afraid, just to be bold. And that didn't mean going door to door, handing out tracks and standing on the rooftops and preaching with a megaphone. But it did mean to not hold back who we were and our beliefs and to share with anyone who would listen. It also meant that from day one, I had instituted in our office what I was calling, in the beginning, story time, an educational hour, if you will. So we took an hour out of our workday at the end of the day every day where I would teach them stuff. These are girls that haven't been to school or had very little education, couldn't write their names, didn't know the alphabet, even in their own language.
So I combined, what do you call it, Bible storytelling, oral storytelling, with education as well. So I took the whole hour and I decided to just teach them stuff. And so I told them on day one, it is one of my favorite stories. I told the staff the first day, so I'm going to tell you a story out of this book today. And what it was, it was the Jesus Storybook Bible. Maybe you guys have seen it. You know what? It's very popular children's book in the us. It's in English. And I was merely going to use that as a guide to show pictures and what we were just telling the story orally. One of my staff, she said, oh, lemme back up a little bit. I'm sorry. And so I told the staff that this education hour, the storytelling time was completely optional.
They were under no obligation to sit through this. If they didn't want to listen to what we were going to say, they could continue to work. No matter what, they were going to get paid. You can keep working or you can sit down and listen to what I have to say. And all of them decided to sit down except for one girl who said to me, I'm not going to sit because my aunt told me that if I listen to anything from you and your books, that I will go crazy. Yet another myth that's here, another superstition that they have, if they listen to our talk, whatever our talk is, that they will literally go crazy. And I said, that's fine. No problem. You can just keep on working and we're going to sit over here and tell the story. Well, she kept on working, but she was literally 10 feet from us.
And so she heard everything that I said. So we started off with creation from just in the beginning, and we just talked about, Hey, what do you guys believe about creation? Where did everything come from? And we just had this really beautiful conversation, and I told them about the God of the universe and how he created everything. Next day we go to sit down again for story time. And the girl who had refused to listen the day before she joined us, and I said, so what happened? She goes, well, I heard everything that you said yesterday, and I'm not going to go crazy. It's not what she thinks at all, and I want to listen. And I was like, awesome. And she became our first believer.
Oh my gosh, that's amazing.
She was the one who was refusing to listen, and she's the one who became our first believer. About a year later, she accepted Christ, she prayed with us, and yeah, she's like, no, I totally believe this. So yeah, that was pretty remarkable. She's the first believer in that village.
Yeah. Wow, that's amazing. So have people kind of generally been receptive to the gospel to stories from the Bible, that sort of thing? Or how do people generally react to when you start telling them these stories?
So the staff, we've had some believe, some don't. I have seen a lot of our girls come and go, like I said, but out of the seven that I have that right now, five of them, two years ago, all well plus the girl who said she was my first believer. So there were six at that time, and this is three years after we had been in this village, after three years of sharing with them daily, every day, sharing with them, going through creation to Revelation, first at the high level and then a little deeper, and then we went into really deep stuff. And after that third year, I could see that something had changed. I could see a shift in their responses and the questions they were asking and their interest level. And I felt the nudge. It just took me three years for the Lord to say, ask them if they want to follow Jesus.
I was like, okay. So I asked them and all six of them said yes. All six of them said yes all at once, and it was amazing. So we prayed together and I was like, awesome. And so we just kept kind of discipling them and talking to them. I went on home assignment maybe a month later, and in the middle of my home assignment, I got a message from someone from the village saying they all got baptized. So they all walked two hours down the hill, down the mountain to the nearest fellowship and took it upon themselves to go and get baptized. So my first reaction was like, I got robbed. I wanted to be there, but I mean, what a beautiful thing. It wasn't because I was there. It wasn't at my encouragement or my urging, they didn't do it to please me in any way. It was just their personal conviction of we're believers now we're going to go get baptized. And they did. It was just amazing. That's been the staff's response.
The adults in the village are pretty much indifferent. They tolerate us being there. They all know now that we're Christians. They know now that we're sharing Jesus with people. And we shared with many people, and we have not seen people come to faith in the adult world in our village, except for the mother of the first girl who, my first believer, her mother has been baptized, which is amazing. So she influenced her family, her mother, but other than that, the adults really, yeah, we haven't seen a whole lot of fruit there. But I do want to say, and that was disappointing because I had always felt like my ministry there was going to be to the adults. But early on, the kids in that village were quite attracted to us. I think having a foreigner there. And let me tell you, there are no other foreigners, not only in this district, but certainly not in our village.
So it was very much a novelty to have this person in their village. And of course we have games and toys for them. And so it kind of attracted the kids and the kids started just coming and hanging out with us, all the local kids, and there were tons of 'em. And in the beginning I was a little like, ah, these kids, they're always around. And I wasn't here to do children's ministry. And then I really felt like the Lord said, let the little children come. He was like, hey, you remember the disciples were like, little kids were coming to me. And the disciples were like, go, hey, go. Hey, don't bother the teacher. And he said, no, let them come. And I was like, okay. So, he's telling me, let them come. And what we have found is this beautiful ministry with the kids up there and little kids who are now big kids are believing. Now we have young teenagers who are believers in the village, some who've even been baptized now.
And so while our ministry to the adults is really just not what we want it to be, the Lord is using the young people and our staff and our girls. So he's using young people and women to reach others in the village. Yeah. I will tell you one of my favorite stories. So I told you, our landlord, our host is the major spiritual leader in the village. Well, our very next door neighbor, he's the senior witch doctor. Okay. Very next door neighbors. I lived between these two people. He has eight children, eight children, four boys, four girls, and his profession is passed down from father to son kind of a thing. So his grandfather and his grandfather's father, and that witch doctor profession is passed down through generations. And his oldest daughter is married and moved out of the house, but his second oldest daughter has been a staff member of mine from the beginning. So she has been baptized, his second oldest daughter. Baptized.
What does he think about that?
Yeah, he is not happy, but he's also not calling the police, so I'm going to call it a win. That's good. Yeah. And she, man, I have stories about her, but here's one of my favorite stories. So the oldest son in the family, out of his eight children, six of them have become believers. I'm just going to start with that. Six of his eight children have become believers. Two of them have already been baptized. His oldest son, who is now 18, he about a year and a half, two years ago, told me that he wanted to become a pastor. He is the one who's in line to become the next witch doctor. But he said he wanted to become a pastor. And so when it came time for him to go to college, I told his father that I would pay for his college tuition if he allowed him to go to town and also receive Bible training. And his father agreed, his father agreed. And I told the boy that my condition for him was that once he was done, he would return to the village and he's not going to stay in town.
He is not going to go overseas. He's not going to go to the capital city, but he needs to come back and do ministry in his own village. Well, this past summer while I was in the States, he came home for a visit and he preached the message. He preached a message in our little fellowship that we now have up there. He's preaching. He's 18 years old, and he's preaching the message, and he is in line to be the next witch doctor, and instead he's preaching Jesus in this village who did not know about Jesus five years ago. I mean, it's just remarkable to me to see the things the Lord has done. That was one of my favorite stories. And so when you ask what's the response been, and not what I expected, but God works in his own ways and does some really cool things that you just don't expect, and it boils down to me to obedience and just following and listening God's voice.
What is he asking you to do? Be bold. Okay, let the little kids come. Share with your staff. This is what he told me. So this is what I've been doing and where I find myself now, you guys is in a village that no longer doesn't know Jesus. They may not all believe, but they've all heard. They know they've heard the stories. There's now a group of believers up there, and when God said, I'm going to send you someplace to minister to women and children, and he did say children, I think I just blocked that part out before because that wasn't really my thing. But he did say women and children in an unreached area where they're at risk for trafficking, so that there would be a community of believers where Jesus was not previously known. And this has been the fulfillment of that, and that's what we've seen now. So yeah, it's been pretty amazing. It's a pretty wild ride,
But full circle from what God had promised you. That's so cool. And also just to see this is what it means when we talk about unreached, and this is what it means when we talk about a community having access to the gospel. And I think your story really demonstrates that in a visible, dramatic way, of the change that can happen. And yes, there may not be as much receptivity among the adults, but these children in a few years will be adults. And of course, that young man already is an adult at 18. So it's happening. It's happening, what God promised you.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's been pretty cool to see and to watch and to be a part of.
So what does the future look like for you in the next season?
Yeah, that's a really good question too. I have been sensing for the last year that it is time for me to hand over what we're doing up there to the locals, that it's time for me to move on to something else. I don't know what something else is, but it has become abundantly clear to me. I even feel like I've been given a date by the Lord right now, when I need to vacate the village. So my plan over the next six months is to begin training up and raising up people to the locals, the witch doctor's daughter, actually to run the office up there. She's giving messages at church right now. This girl's never been to school, and it's just remarkable. The transformation in her has been so stunning, to train her up and to hand over the work. We're going to keep the office open. We're going to keep production going, and we're going to try to keep ministry going. But I'm going, it's time to do a handover, to hand it off to those that are local and for me to exit and move out of the village.
Does that feel risky?
It feels risky, yes. But okay, so here's the thing. Though though I'm exiting, God has also given us a more long-term vision for the area. So this is this one little tiny village we're talking about, but there are multiple villages, a very large geographic area, and there's all these little villages on hilltops and valleys all around us that are just as unreached as the one that I've been in for five years. And through our business, he gave us this vision to expand this model because it has been successful, to 10 more villages. So we want to expand this. We want to multiply this effort into other villages. We want to see 10 more offices and 10 more villages over the next 10 years. And part of that vision includes building a hub, if you will, like a central location to serve all the surrounding villages.
So a central location where we can bring materials in and out of and do training in and out of where we can house people and send them out to these locations. We've purchased this land a couple of years ago actually. We already own land, and we're hopefully going to be building on that land within the next six months, this hub. And so we won't be far. It feels a little scary and risky, but we won't be far. It's literally just an hour and a half hike up the mountain where this land is. We plan to stay in touch, we plan to stay connected and to continue to pour into this place. Just what it means is I won't be physically living there full time. I've been living there about 75% of the time. I do have to come down from time to time. So I come down once a month to bring supplies back up, bring product down, take a shower, things like that. Eat something other than rice. Yeah. So I do come down, but I do spend the majority of my time in this village. And so what I'm sensing is that that needs to change. We will continue the work, we will continue to stay connected and pour into those people. It's not like we're making a clean break, and that's the end of it. We'll still continue to be connected and hopefully expanding in that area over the next 10 years.
Yeah, that's great. And also, there's just the sense that the Holy Spirit went ahead of you, and he's still there after you leave continuing to work, so you can be confident that he'll continue what was begun there in that little village. It's amazing.
Yeah, that's definitely a lesson that I've been learning and relearning. It's funny, I've talked so much about all these, how God has provided and how he's faithful and all these things, and yet it's hard to trust sometimes still it's like, yeah, I need to trust that the Lord loves these people more than I love them. I need to trust that he knows what he's doing. I need to trust that I don't need to be there. It's not me. It's the Lord working through me, but he can work through the people who are there now. And it's definitely stretching my faith and my trust in the Lord. I don't want to say that it's not hard. That's something that I wrestle with God too. But yeah, you're right. Trusting that the Holy Spirit is there. God is there. He is working there, and he will continue to work there, and he will finish the work that he started.
Those are really good things to remind myself of. I get caught up sometimes in self-reliance and self-sufficiency. Oh yeah, we can do this and this. But it has never been more evident to me than recently how much this is the Lord and it's His grace by His grace that any of this has happened. And I'll just explain what I mean by that. Whenever people have come to visit me, and I have had dozens and dozens of visitors over the last five years, they all say, how do you live up here? How do you live up here? And I've always been like, it's not that big of a deal.
I don't know. I guess I'm just wired this way. And it never felt difficult to me until this last month. Nothing has changed up there. Nothing is different up there. But what I sense is the Lord removing some of his grace from my ability to stay in this place because my time is done there. And I feel that very acutely. It's very interesting. And it's not in a punitive way. It's not something in a negative, but it's by his grace that I have been there for five years and have been able to withstand living in those conditions for five years. And that anything has happened has been by his grace, his work. And it's just been so clear to me this last month that a hundred percent, I can't wait to leave there now.
It's crazy. But I love these people and I love this place, but this last month up there, there's no more giant spiders than there used to be. There are no more rats in my room than there used to be. There's no more rain than there used to be. There are no more leeches than there used to be. But every bit of that is driving me crazy this last month, and I just, wow. Yeah, it's really been the Lord who has sustained me and done this work in these last five years, and it has not been me. It's easy for me to think it was me. It was not me at all. I just want to say that. Yeah.
I love how he's made that so abundantly clear to you in this last little mini season. Yeah. That's so interesting. But yeah, I mean, what a cool testimony of, he was like, yeah, in case you forgot, I've been here protecting you this whole time. So that's awesome.
Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Cynthia. It's been an amazing conversation and I just love how we've been able to just hear full circle your whole story from beginning to where God's brought you now and such clear evidence of his work in your ministry there in your life. So I really appreciate your transparency. And now it's time to move on to quickfire questions. You don't need to think too much about the answers to these. Hopefully they'll come instinctively. And if our listeners have not discovered already that you are just a normal person that God is using in amazing ways, this will maybe even bring some more normalcy to who Cynthia is. So coffee or tea?
Okay. Early bird or night owl?
Okay. Winter, spring, summer or fall.
Okay. Window or aisle?
Depends on the length of the flight.
Flight. Short flight window. Long flight. Aisle?
Yeah. Dog or cat or neither?
What's your favorite local dish where you live now? You mentioned rice, which I'm sure is part of everything/
Not your local dish though. Not your favorite dish.
Oh man. What is my favorite? They really only eat one meal here. They have a few other things. I do not know if I have a favorite.
You can pass on that one.
Think I'm going to pass. Alright. Yeah.
Is there any song on repeat on your iPod?
Not right now. No.
No. How about a must pack item for traveling
From coming from the States to here?
Yeah. Yeah. If you're going to bring one thing, what is it?
I always bring my vitamins.
Yeah. How about missed comfort from home? If I were to visit, would you want me to bring.
Oh yeah. I would say That's a good question.
Or what's the first thing you do when you go back home?
I eat a huge salad.
Yeah, sure. Actually, I totally get that. I totally get that. Okay.
Because people think I'm strange, but yeah, I miss salads. I'm a little bit of a health food junkie kind of person, and so I miss the nice, healthy foods and lots of raw vegetables, like a huge salad, but you can't bring me a salad on a plane, so no.
Right. I can bring peanut butter. That's sometimes what I do.
Yeah. We have peanut butter here, and I don't eat much of that anymore, but you could bring me some beef jerky. Protein is a scarcity here. Or protein powder. You could do that too. Yeah.
What's a talent that you wish you had?
Singing and playing guitar.
Oh, okay. Yeah. How about a go-to late night snack?
Oh, I don't snack late at night.
You don't? Oh, good.
I'm, I'm a little bit of a health freak. Yeah. Yeah.
This is the last one. What did you want to be when you were a kid? What did you want to be when you grew up when you were a kid?
Yeah. I wanted to be a teacher.
Well, it sounds like some of that's been fulfilled.
I think so. I do a lot of teaching, and I love it. Yeah.
Well, thanks so much for taking time with us today, Cynthia. It's been really cool.
It was so much fun to hear about the witch doctor and his family and how so many of his children have come to know the Lord. So if you want to hear one more bonus story about one of the witch doctor's kids, click on the link in the show notes to access that bonus content,
And there'll also be some other articles and photo essays from that part of the world where Cynthia is working. What I really love about this story is how close it is to the heart of what Pioneers is all about. You have someone who doesn't necessarily fit the mission's mold, as Cynthia said, as far as her background and her age and her marital status, and yet she had a vision. She had a real clear call of what God wanted to do through her and the part of the world she wanted to serve in, and the people she wanted to reach. And that's what we're here for, is to help people that have a clear vision and a clear call from God. Bring that into full expression among the unreached, and then to look back and see 10, 12, 15 years later how that vision has become a reality, how people have come to faith, how church has been planted, and how the gospel is present in an unreached part of the world. That's really what it's all about.
Thanks for following us on this episode of the Relentless Pursuit Podcast. Our goal is to make missions accessible to show that it's not just reserved for elite, super Christians. If you want to be involved, just go to pioneers.org/start and answer a few questions. We have a team who would love to help you discern your calling and what your next steps might be.
At Pioneers, we love to partner with local churches and send teams to people groups with little or no access to the gospel. Keep up with what God is doing by following us on Instagram, Facebook, X, and YouTube, all at Pioneers USA. One word or visit pioneers.org. Thanks for listening.