Ore. woman overcomes odds to serve East Asia

By Sheila Allen
NW Baptist

Photo: Abby Spence traveled to East Asia on mission with hopes of spreading the name of Jesus.

GRESHAM, OR – Although she had never traveled abroad, Abby Spence wanted to go the first time she learned about an evangelistic trip to East Asia planned by her church.

“Before I went to East Asia, I never understood how big and how small the world is,” said Spence. “What I found is that even with how privileged we are in America with our freedom, our culture just blows God off. But in East Asia, they are willing to risk their lives to believe and share – and they do.”

Spence was raised from an early age in Oregon within a family of largely Mormon heritage.

“My grandma grew up Methodist and had a strong view of Christianity and introduced me to prayer,” Spence noted. “But it was later at a Vacation Bible School that I attended that I accepted Christ.”

After Spence married her husband, Jeremy, they looked for a church together and found a home at Greater Gresham (OR) Baptist Church.

“We loved it because people remembered our names and were so genuine,” Spence said. “We started our home on Christian principles, which now includes our son Jack and daughter Zoe.”

In her mind, the road for Spence getting to East Asia was more difficult than the ministry she accomplished while overseas.

Building bridges with people in East Asia requires sacrifice of time and money to share with those who have yet to hear the gospel.

“I was encouraged to write a letter to friends and family asking for support in prayer and finances, because I knew there was no way I could come up with the funds to go,” Spence added. “I sent that letter to 60 or 70 people, even with those in my family who are not believers. I mentioned that I was walking this journey by faith and trusting God with this financial need. I was shocked at who was willing to send money – those I expected did not help – and those who did. I struggled to ask for this help, as there were many who I had not been bold enough to share my faith with.”

Spence got a few responses of those committing to pray for her along with the financial help, but was saddened by some negative responses.

“Most people didn’t think I should go and said my kids were too young,” Spence said. “Many asked, ‘What if something happens to you?’ and ‘What would motivate you to go across the world and do this?’ but the most hurtful were those who called and told me I was an irresponsible mother.”

Her response to her family was that she had prayed and asked God to shut the door if it wasn’t for her to go, but the comments caused her to ask God if this was really something she should do.

“I started to question my judgment and ability to hear from God clearly,” Spence said. “I then began to rely on my church family to pray and uphold me. I want to turn the light back to him and share because most of my family are not Christians. My husband was amazing, comforting and supportive and prayed for me and let me know it. He even spoke to my dad and asked him to back off, but now my relationships are better because they know I am serious about this ‘Christian thing.’ God is more important than my precious babies and will care for them ultimately.”

The East Asia workers Spence’s team joined live in a giant apartment complex.

“We were able to invite the kids from the complex in to practice their English and were able to use Bible stories for craft time,” Spence noted. “We were also worked with college students and found they are really open and curious about our beliefs and why we were there. We were able to share the gospel when they asked questions about our customs and because it was close to Easter it was natural to talk about that as a holiday we celebrate. I was even able to share my testimony at a local church – one that is approved by the government.”

Since returning home, Spence has found the experience has stayed with her.

“If I can travel to East Asia and affect one life for Christ because of my willingness, it was so worth it,” Spence said. “It strengthened my faith because I really had to choose who and what was most important. I would love to go again and can even envision doing this for life because I love to share about Jesus.”

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