Today we welcome a long-term worker in South Asia to the TEAM blog. After decades on the field, she shares with us a poignant reflection of her ministry among Muslims. Because of governmental opposition to the gospel and gospel workers in her region, her identity will remain anonymous.
Before I left to serve overseas, I had a litany of worries. What if the language is too hard to learn? What if I’m lonely? Will I be able to adjust to the conservative culture of South Asia? Will I be able to make friends? Will I be able to lead someone into God’s kingdom?
The first two years there I really wondered if I would ever be proficient in the language. The residents of my host country were not shy to point out that I had been there for one year already and would ask why I was such a slow learner. Why indeed?
It was hard to meet people in my new homeland without an introduction. So, I spent a lot of time studying language, making pizza for the only neighbor who would talk to me and waiting for God to open up doors.
After two years of steady slogging, I finally was able to carry on a halfway decent conversation. Other neighbors started to open up their homes and invite me and my housemate to tea.
I realized that my ministry overseas was not to be a sprint to the finish line, but a marathon. To feel like you belong, people have to want you in their lives. Immediate acceptance is not a given. Trust is earned.
Today – thirty-four years later – sitting in my home in the States, I get a telephone call from my neighbor who had befriended me so many years ago.
“When are you going to come back overseas and visit us?” she asks.
“I’m on a home assignment, so I can’t really say,” I reply.
Here, on the other end of the telephone, is my neighbor for whom many years ago I prayed would get married. Here is my neighbor, for whom I later prayed would have healthy children. And when her son was doing poorly in school, I shared in her concern. Now, he is becoming an engineer.
Here is my friend who over cups of tea would patiently explain the customs and culture of her conservative world. Here is my friend who has heard the gospel, but still has not stepped into His kingdom.
So, I still wait and pray, and then pray and wait. I don’t know if I will ever be able to visit her homeland again. But I am hoping that one day we will again share a cup of tea, but this time in His heavenly kingdom.