Pictured Above: Maison Impact with Lauren’s 2nd year roommates. She’s lived with a total of 14 different girls over the past 3 ½ years.
“Whether in the grocery store aisle, on the ball field or in villages nestled alongside the Amazon River in Brazil, when people see us, they should know that we carry the gospel with us,” said Pastor Tommy Brett, Southside Baptist Church, Live Oak. “Just as Paul went on his missionary journeys as told in Acts, wherever he went, so went the gospel.”
This teaching, that missions is wherever we are, with whomever we meet, making the gospel of Christ known to others at home and abroad, prepared Lauren Ulmer to follow a call to international missions.
During a mission trip to Costa Rica with her home church, Southside Baptist, a leader asked Ulmer if she had ever considered long-term missions. The leader simply noted that Ulmer seemed to enjoy what they were doing and suggested she pray about it. This truth spoken out was the nudge Ulmer needed to walk in faith and see where the Lord led.
‘God planted a passion for missions in Lauren. He shaped and molded her desires to His desires. As our church sent Lauren off for missions, we recognized that God first set her apart for missions.’
“God planted a passion for missions in Lauren. He shaped and molded her desires to His desires. As our church sent Lauren off for missions, we recognized that God first set her apart for missions,” said Brett.
In answering the call, Ulmer initially signed on for a four-month International Mission Board program called Hands On, which led her to Quebec, Canada, for university ministry. She faithfully applied for the IMB’s Journeyman program and is currently in her apprentice term studying theology through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
There are roughly 8.5 million French Canadians, but only about 100,000 call themselves followers of Christ. While hostility toward the gospel is frequently heard in the secular culture’s derogatory language aimed at the church, Ulmer sees university students and younger generations displaying a deeper desire for community and less hostility to the gospel than previous generations.
Ulmer and four Christian roommates live at a home called Maison Impact (Impact House) where they encourage one another through Bible study, prayer and doing life together. Their ministry includes hosting free weekly dinners, Bible studies and worship, as well as on-campus lunch gatherings and outreach events.
Opportunities for gospel conversations abound as, “We’ve seen students freely come and ask questions who would never step foot inside a church,” stated Ulmer.
“A non-believing friend who just read through the book of John for the first time with our ministry recently told me that no matter where people are in their faith journey, there’s no escaping the truth and love of Jesus after being in the Maison Impact,” said Ulmer.
Church 180, named for a complete life change with Jesus, supports the work Ulmer is doing by generously providing meals and testimonies at weekly gatherings. The church also organizes a mission trip each summer for 50 Americans to come and help Quebecois move on the national moving day, July 1, when renters’ leases end.
Challenges and celebration
Following the call to international missions is not without its challenges.
Ulmer found learning a new language to be discouraging and realized she needed to give herself a measure of grace. “You feel like a toddler unable to express themselves,” said Ulmer. “There’s also a level of exclusion in the beginning because you feel left out of every conversation around you.”
Learning French is vital in Quebec due to language laws to protect the native language from the English influence surrounding them.
“Using the heart language of the people is a key to connecting with them,” added Ulmer.
Being far from home and absent from day-to-day connections with family and friends can create a sense of loneliness. Part of counting the cost for Ulmer is “wishing you could live out your calling and live where your loved ones are.”
A particular challenge faced by Ulmer was the pandemic, when many ministry opportunities including free meals, worship and student gatherings were all restricted or banned. How would they use the ministry house if they literally could not use it for its intended purpose?
“It took a lot of creativity and the help of Zoom to stay connected weekly with students. Now looking around at a full house, meals and activities for students, I am extremely grateful,” said Ulmer.
God is at work through Ulmer’s commitment and walk of faith. She recently celebrated the baptism of her roommate and had the joy of knowing she was walking with the Spirit as she went to purchase French Bibles and felt a nudge to purchase a Spanish Bible as well. Later that afternoon, a student from Colombia was sharing how she wanted to read her Bible, but had left her Spanish Bible at home and could not find a Spanish Bible in the area. It just so happened that Ulmer had the Spanish Bible in her car and was able to give it to the student.