An Open Letter to a Potential Missionary

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I know you. You are sitting on your fluffy couch. Maybe your kids are sitting close by, or your spouse. Maybe you’re single. You just read the Bible account of Abraham or a story in this magazine, and your heart is on fire.
You are on the brink of a huge decision. That afghan on your lap, the one your grandma knitted, and the tick of your clock, and the purr of your cat—everything feels familiar. But in your mind something has changed. You strain your thoughts, listening. Is God calling you?

I remember the day we arrived in Delhi. Colors, smells, sounds. People—masses of them—loitering or moving in a great hurry. Sarees and spices, roads full of cars that behaved more like rushing water than solid machines.

In a bus with wooden seats, we drove 16 hours on a cliff-hugging road to our new home. There in those mountains we would begin a new project with AFM—the Pahari Project.

Our first few months, we prayed about everything. We even prayed in our sleep. Every interaction seemed like a divine appointment. The lady we bought wool socks from, the man with the huge Yak. The only thing keeping them from hearing the gospel was our language handicap, or so we thought.

If you are an introvert, you will understand why it was daunting for me to talk with 30 people a day using a vocabulary totaling 11 words. We kept praying for the gift of tongues, talking, staying with people, pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones until I felt like a different person.

After a year of this, we understood. We looked back and realized that language learning, culture study and culture shock were the easy part. We would have to keep praying, because now it was time to do what we had come to do—tell people about Jesus.

Jesus’ parable about the sower is more dramatic in person. Imagine loving someone like you are blood relatives. You tell them something from the Bible—a precious seed—and Satan snatches it away. They stare. They don’t get it. But it isn’t language blocking the meaning.

Imagine your joy when someone accepts the message, and the devastation when they change their mind because “it’s too expensive.” Imagine watching the cares of this life choke the fruitfulness of a new believer. And imagine seeing the birds and thorns and rocks in your own life, and praying for God to make your heart into good soil, too.
What am I getting myself into? You wonder. Let me tell you. You are getting yourself into a whole lot of hard work. You will depend on Jesus hourly to do things you don’t want to do. You will feel confused long after you have learned the language, because you will encounter situations that don’t unfold at all how you expect. Your faith and health and relationships will be threatened by Satan’s fiery arrows. You will sleep holding your shield.

What are you getting yourself into? You are getting yourself into the tough, soul-wrenching work of gospel seed planting. Be prepared to leave many of those seeds in the ground, wondering whether they will ever germinate.

But be prepared, too, for a miracle—a green shoot stretching up out of the cold ground—faith taking root in an unreached heart. Be prepared, my friend, to see gospel seed grow and flourish and produce fruit. Because, as God promised, His word will not return to Him empty.

Should you do it? Ask God. He will tell you. Whatever He says, I advise you to say yes. Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear. Don’t worry about where you will lay your head. Don’t even worry about results. Just take it one day at a time, knowing you are a very small part of the very big plans of an almighty, all-powerful, all-merciful God.

And bring the afghan with you.

With love from a fellow missionary,

Alexa Sharma