Thrive Insider | Paula Franco’s Journey with Thrive

Paula never endeavored to be a voice for global women. She lives in a small community. She’s not a confident public speaker. Here’s Paula’s story of being a humble yet willing participant as God stretches her to share the needs of global women with her church and community.

Paula first heard about Thrive in 2013. As she prayed about volunteering, God directed Paula to John13:1-17. “As I read about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, I knew it was confirmation that I needed to serve the women who come to Thrive retreats. One Scripture stood out in neon lights—verse 17—‘Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’” Paula initially thought God would open the door to Africa, where she had prayed about going for several years. Instead, God said Turkey.

Those around her didn’t share Paula’s excitement. “Lord,” she wrote, “my family is not happy or joyous about me going to Turkey. My mother and father are very sad, nervous, and upset. My sister doesn’t want to hear of your wonders and provisions. My cousin is very fearful, crying hysterically, thinking I will be kidnapped and tortured, not sure she will ever see me again. My husband is very quiet and I don’t feel I can share all the joy and excitement you have given me. Please give them faith, hope, and peace.” This was Paula’s entrée into understanding the lives of global women.

Paula returned changed by the women she met and the stories she heard. Some were difficult stories that didn’t align with the lives she imagined global women led. “Supporters don’t understand, and I didn’t either before I came. I can’t figure out how I go back and tell the story. My church doesn’t want to hear this. They want to know, ‘What wonderful thing did God do today?’ I want to tell them the hard parts, but they don’t want to hear it.” Paula found a way, with God’s nudging, and shared her experiences with five churches who provided financial and prayer support for her trip.

A year later, last February, Paula volunteered again. Around that time, she became a donor, initiating a monthly gift to Thrive to support the care of global women and provide one retreat sponsorship each year.

When Paula discovered Thrive, her church in Gardendale, Texas, didn’t support global workers or even talk about them! Starting small, Paula convinced her pastor to allow her to lead prayer one Sunday each month using the Global Woman Highlight from Thrive Connection. Last year, Paula asked her church leadership to consider sponsoring one global woman to attend a Thrive retreat. They said yes.

In October, at the church’s Harvest Fair, Paula set up a booth using a rug from Turkey, a scarf fromThailand, and a wall hanging from a previous trip to Guatemala. She shared her own experiences, and invited others to pray for global workers. Paula said humbly, “God sent and I talked. I was so excited all day.” One woman, a former global worker, had tears in her eyes as she noted how God is developing their church’s love for global workers. In preparation for the fair, Paula asked her church council to challenge the congregation to pray for global work for a year. “They seemed excited to make this next step in our church. I ordered silicon bracelets to remind us to pray and give us a starting point for conversations with others.”

In December, God assembled a team to meet each Sunday morning to pray for global work and the vision He has given the church. Paula leads each meeting with information about a country, gathered from Operation World and Joshua Project websites. A world map with pins in the prayed-for countries provides a visual affirmation of the impact of their prayers. “The group is small, but the people have been so receptive to learning more about what is going on in each country and about the lost there.

“The first week,” she says, “we prayed for Moldova. Just last month, God arranged for me to meet a Moldovan pastor, who really gave me insight into what is going on there. God is good!” At the end of 2015, Paula’s pastor closed a service by asking the congregation for a 52-week commitment to pray for global work. “I haven’t seen that many members at the altar in a long time! I don’t know what to say except, ‘Wow, God!’”

The vision is contagious. Paula is seeing God develop her congregation’s love for—and understanding of—global workers. Several people have stopped Paula recently to show off the bracelets they wear. They explain that they pray on Sundays, and also during the week. “I’ve also noticed that prayers from church members at different times include global work and global workers. It’s the first time I’ve heard that in our church. I’m overwhelmed by how God is working!”

Ready to serve again, Paula shares, “I was ready to go to South Africa with Thrive in October. God told me no. I cried, then said, ‘Ok, what’s next?’ Recently I’ve had the feeling that Thrive was just a catalyst to get missions started in my church.” She’s working with another local church to coordinate short-term trips. “I believe God will use this to bring our church to another level of commitment to global work,” she says.

It’s exciting to see how God is working in rural West Texas. Paula—and we!—can’t wait to see what God has planned for this year!

@2016 Thrive