Stef lives in a large Middle Eastern city which is also home to around 300,000 migrant domestic workers.
They come from all over the poorer parts of the world — places like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya and many, many other African countries.
These workers are extremely vulnerable. No one knows what happens behind closed doors and they are specifically excluded from the country’s labour laws.
Stories of mistreatment and abuse — verbal, physical and sexual — are commonplace. On average, one of these workers commits suicide every week.
Long-time MECO and now Serving In Mission worker Stef has been reaching out to domestic worker women for many years by giving them the Jesus film. She has versions of the film in 14 languages.
But in the last year, she’s added audio to her gospel-sharing tool-bag in the shape of MP3 players, which can be loaded with passages of Scripture — and they have proved hugely significant.
She explained: “The MP3 player project was stimulated by an Ethiopian domestic worker who lived in the same building as me.
“She had been in the country for 19 months and had never left the apartment except when her madam [the woman of the house in which she works] took her to clean her mother’s house.
“I loaded an MP3 with the New Testament in her own language, along with lots of worship songs, and then managed to throw it on to her balcony.
“She ran it flat that first night – she must have listened to it for about five hours. That gave me the idea of doing the same for other domestic workers, who are virtual prisoners in their madams’ homes. How truly transformational it could be!”
Using a crowd-funding website, Stef raised £14,000 in just two months to launch the project.
While preparing the audio material, she co-ordinated people in various countries to make the recordings in three languages and then had the audio machines manufactured in China.
Her first order was for 1,000 — and she handed all of them out last year. She is now handing out the second order of 3,500, for which she raised nearly £50,000.
Stef’s method is simple. She knows she will never be able to see the women face to face, so she builds relationships with the concierge staff in the buildings where the women work.
Many of these staff are from Syria and have huge compassion for the shut-in workers. Stef goes from building to building, talking to them and encouraging them to find ways to hand out the audio devices.
She usually goes back to each building a week later, to check on what’s happened. She hands out 15-20 audio players a night and is finding that around 70 per cent of them reach the women.
She said: “They are making a difference. One concierge told me an Ethiopian worker burst into tears when she heard worship music in her own language.
“I’m getting good feedback when I follow up with the Syrian janitors, who are offered a gospel of Luke, the Jesus film and a tract. Nearly all are very happy to get the literature and a couple have gone to church with me.
“They are spiritually thirsty. A friend says he’s never seen such openness in his 35 years in the Middle East.”
Stef’s original goal was to reach domestic workers — but an unforeseen benefit of the ministry has been the huge number of Syrians hearing the gospel.
When the Syrian concierge staff see someone like Stef, who has real compassion for the forgotten women, they want to know more.
Stef’s experience, entrepreneurial skills and passion to see lives transformed through the gospel has significant potential as she takes this work forward.