TRAIL·BLAZ·ER  /ˈtrālˌblāzər/
One that blazes a trail to guide others; a pathfinder.

“I started volunteering with VOR after hearing a friend share about Women’s Day. At the event, I met a few Arab ladies and enjoyed getting to know them. Soon afterwards, VOR referred me to an Afghan woman residing in a place that serves women escaping abusive environments. There, I met Khadija (all names changed to protect identity).

“We began our journey as conversation partners and started meeting once a week. When I first met Khadija, she barely spoke any English at all. It’s been a year and three months now that she’s been in this program. Her English has improved to the point where we’re working on her getting a job. I’m helping her with online applications and taking her to Stater Brothers and Little Caesars to explore full time opportunities. We both have Saturdays free so I started taking her once a month to the beach. We’ve been to Seal Beach and Laguna Beach and many others. We’ve eaten out at many places. It’s been a lot of fun! I focus on helping her expand her vocabulary and encouraging her to order her own food and navigating real life situations herself. 

“Often when we met, I would talk about God with her and she was open to knowing Jesus. She regularly heard about Jesus at her program and also came with me to church once. One day, I asked Khadija, “Have you considered being a Christian?” And she said, “Yes, but I have some questions.” From there, we talked about the Holy Spirit and the Trinity and how that differs from Muslim beliefs. I encouraged her to reach out to a Persian staff worker at VOR for a deeper discussion in her heart language. I felt honored to see her open heart and understood that it could take years for someone to have faith in Jesus. 

“To my surprise, one day I got a text message, sharing that Khadija had become a Christian and wanted to get baptized! So I met with her a few days later, and asked, “I hear that you received Jesus and became a Christian.” She replied, “Yes, I am a Christian. I am changed. God has provided for me.” She went on to explain how she’s come to America and met all these Christians and felt so loved. That really stood out to her because in her country, you had to give something to get love. You have to give and they’ll give back. But what she’s experienced here is that Christians around her just kept giving and giving and giving. Sometimes she has a need and she hasn’t asked for it and still she receives it. People simply give and don’t expect to receive back. And I said, “That’s unconditional love. That’s God’s love. You don’t have to give Him anything for Him to love you. He just loves you.” 

“Once, I took her to the Good Friday service at my church, where there was a cross. We were invited to write our names on a piece of paper and walk up to the cross. There, the pastor gave each person a hammer and a nail and we nailed our own names on the cross. When Khadija heard that she was going to nail her name on the cross, she gasped and her voice quickened. That moment, it was clear that she really got it.

“It’s been pretty radical and amazing to witness the way Khadija has changed, the way the joy of the Lord is in her. As an example, there’s another Afghan lady at her program with six children. Khadija shared, “I really care about her and want to do something for her.” So I said, “That’s the good work that God has for you to do. Why don’t you and I help her together?”

It’s really special to witness the way God has poured His love on Khadija and empowered her as a body of Christ to help others and, in doing so, bring greater joy. I can tell that she really wants to serve and she’s great at it too! She helps me communicate with other Afghans by being my interpreter. She’s always been proactive, in learning English, in riding a bike, in learning to swim, and in finding a job. Now, she wants to pass on her skills to others. I can really see her being a trainer or a coach someday. How beautiful it is how God is using her as a trailblazer to reach out and bless other women in need.”

Epilogue: “Reflecting on this journey, I believe that it’s about figuring out where your strengths are and offering yourself to the Lord. Sometimes, there might be pressure, even at church, to be a certain way but for me, I struggle to fit in a lot of places. So I sometimes end up being a trailblazer because I’m just that way. My gifting is in meeting people, getting to know them, learning their needs, connecting them to people and places, helping them figure out where they should be. And I’ve always had a heart for missions. I tend to like to go ahead and just start meeting people. Sometimes I get into uncomfortable situations, but I trust in the Lord and seek Him. Sometimes we have to put our comfort aside to reach someone else. Quite frequently, I make blunders. For example, I try to get food for Khadija and often she doesn’t like it. But it’s an offering, right? I just pray, Lord, help me be a blessing. It’s been a great joy to walk with Khadija. Many times, we might not see the fruit that we’re bringing, but never give up loving people and sharing Jesus and give others the time and space to decide how to respond. Khadija’s been a person whom God has allowed me to love and nurture her faith, and it’s been wonderful.” – Kathy, volunteer