As a pastor’s daughter growing up in a Nazarene church in Bangalore, India, Miriam Vijaya was always drawn toward missions and to serving as a missionary.
Today, that vision is turning into reality. The 26-year-old recently quit her job as an accountant at a France-based multinational oil company and took a two-day train journey to Kolkata where she is serving as a volunteer for three months with her best friend, Monica Rachel, 26, through the Eurasia Region’s M+Power initiative.
Vijaya and Rachel are two of the first Indian volunteers to be sent by the India Church of the Nazarene initiative in many years. They represent a wave of young Nazarenes who sense God’s call into cross-cultural ministry and are ready to answer that call.
Last summer’s Eurasia Mission Orientation in Bangalore attracted 21 participants. Most were from India, but a few from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh attended as well. All were there to find out what it would mean to live and serve God in a cross-cultural context, whether in their own nation or somewhere else on the Eurasia Region.
Of the 21 participants, 16 took the next step to interview for a ministry assignment. One plans to move to the Maldives Islands, where he was offered a job, and plant a church in his free time.
Vijaya's father often traveled into other cultural areas of India, and Miriam and her brother Moses sometimes traveled with him. Both were shaped by those experiences, and Moses also attended the orientation last year.
“That seed was already in our heart to work among people and to help them,” Vijaya said. “My heart was always for missions. I was always praying God would open a door for me.”
Vijaya later graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and Rachel trained as a nurse. While Vijaya enjoyed her work in a major corporation, she knew what she really wanted was to be a missionary.
Rachel interviewed for her first job at a hospital.
“At the time of the interview, I started crying," she said. "In my heart, God said, ‘I am not calling you for this. I am calling you to missions.’”
Rachel changed directions, embarking on several short-term opportunities through parachurch organizations such as Youth With a Mission and Kings Way Union Ministry.
When she returned home to Bangalore, she asked God to make the next mission opportunity clear to her.
The district superintendent visited their church to talk about M+Power, and the young women felt this was the answer from God they were waiting for.
At the orientation, Vijaya and Rachel were accepted together to an approved ministry site with the Nazarene church in Kolkata.
The women were required to raise their funds over a period of six months. Their local church, Divya Jyothi Church of the Nazarene, which had provided them many opportunities for ministry as they grew up, such as teaching Sunday school, rallied around their calling.
“My pastor, when I told him I was getting into missions, he was very happy,” Rachel said. “I could see the church support me in every step.”
The congregation, which numbers about 200 to 250 members, weekly contributed money to a box the women kept at the church to collect donations. The women also baked cakes and sold them at Christmas to raise more funds.
They departed January 31 for Kolkata, where they will be assisting a local Nazarene church with overseeing a Nazarene Compassionate Ministries child development center, teach Sunday school, and also after-school tutoring, computer and English classes.
“God’s call is upon everyone,” Vijaya said. “It depends on how you respond to it; if you’re obedient to Him. I would encourage our youth to go out [in mission],” Vijaya said.
Rachel encouraged local churches to give young people ministry experience locally so they can grow and develop as leaders with the support of their church.
“Let them start with small things in the church, giving them opportunities in different ways,” she said. “When we show them that they’re accepted in the church and loved in the church, they will open up and do many other things.”