myMISSION Missionary Blog

Near and Far: Sharing the Gospel in New Places

praying hands

My heart beat wildly as I felt the plane wheels hit the runway on that late October night. After almost a day of traveling, I was anxious to get off the plane and hit the ground running in South Asia again.

I wondered many times if I’d ever get to return to this area after my first summer there, and by God’s provision, I was there again. I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving to God and stepped off the plane into what has been one of the most challenging but also the most rewarding seasons of my life.

Before coming to South Asia a second time, I never thought I’d attempt to learn a new language and culture in order to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I never thought of myself as someone who’d go up to a student I didn’t know on a college campus and share the gospel.

I was fortunate to grow up learning about other religions and the cross-cultural workers who gave their lives to share the gospel with people who followed other gods. But never did I think that I would get to be a cross-cultural worker like the ones I learned about.

Authenticity: Less about What I’m Doing, More about Who I Am in Christ

authenticity explanation

OK, blog readers. It’s confession time.

In a season when I find myself living in one country but longing for the comfort of the one I call home, I have to admit that being authentic in my relationships is hard.

So when I was asked to write a blog post about that exact topic, well . . . you see the dilemma.

In the country I live in, I don’t tell everyone that I’m a cross-cultural worker because, for my safety, not everyone needs to know. Several friends do know more about what I’m doing here and why, but I struggle to share the details of what my life is like even with those friends.

As a result, I tend to open up more to my American friends who understand life here and less to my South Asian friends.

The longer I’ve lived here though, the more I’ve learned about how to be authentic with my South Asian friends who are believers. I bring them into what I’m doing, share my heart about my work, and encourage them to share with their lost friends. I’ve learned that my authenticity is less about what I’m doing and more about who I am in Jesus Christ.

Invest in Gospel-Centered Relationships

South Asian women

I got out of my taxi and walked down the street, stopping at Rajani’s* gate. Rajani, a neighbor named Swetha*, and their friend Lukshmi* were talking. I said hello, but what Rajani said next caught me off guard.

“Emily, tell Lukshmi about Jesus!”

My neighbors Rajani and Swetha aren’t followers of Jesus, so this was the last thing I expected to be asked.

“Well, what do you want to know?” I replied.

It turned out that Lukshmi was writing a report for school on Jesus and needed some facts. About an hour later, the girls gathered in my apartment and they drew henna tattoos on me while I shared the gospel.

I gave Lukshmi a Bible and prayed for the girls. I haven’t seen Lukshmi again, but I see Rajani and Swetha whenever I’m out in my neighborhood.

I make it a point to stop at Rajani’s gate and talk with her anytime she’s outside to build my relationship with her. Before that night, I had told her about Jesus many times but was never sure if she understood. The fact that Rajani recognized me as someone who knew about Jesus was a step in the right direction.

Loosening Our Grip on Time for the Gospel

young woman holding pocket watch

One of the first differences you learn about when you’re living in a different culture is how people value time.

In the United States, we love schedules and strictly adhere to them. We spend money on agendas and apps that will help us manage our time. We make sure we’re on time for meetings and lunch dates with friends, because being late says we don’t value other people’s time.

South Asia, on the other hand, is completely different. Being late is OK, whether just a few minutes or a few hours. Things don’t always start at the time they’re scheduled. Getting from one place to another on time is a daily challenge due to traffic in some places.

South Asians don’t value their relationships any less because they’re late or because they see time differently. In fact, they might value them more than Americans. For them, spending time with people, no matter the hour or what they have going on later in the day, is important.

As followers of Jesus, spending time with people should be just as important to us. No matter our culture, people whom we’re close with but who are far from a relationship with Jesus should be those we are investing in regularly.

Showing and Telling the Gospel

“What was it like growing up with the boy Jesus?”

My home church pastor posed that question as I listened to his sermon via live stream from the comfort of my bedroom a few thousand miles away.

It’s an interesting thought, being one of Jesus’ brothers or friends when He was a kid, before His ministry started. Being the friend or sibling of someone Who was always perfect, Whose words always matched His actions, was probably not an easy thing.

Making our own words and actions match isn’t easy either. Because we’re striving to be more like Jesus daily but still going to sin sometimes, we’re prone to mess up and show the people we’re trying to share with that we don’t always reflect the gospel.

Despite the mess-ups we have, isn’t that the message of the gospel? We are imperfect people striving to love a perfect God, which is made possible by the One Who knew no sin, the One Whose words and actions always communicated the gospel.

Getting to the Gospel in Everyday Conversation

I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d gotten us into, but we paid for the special entry pass and entered the temple.

I was showing some friends around my city and made it a point for us to visit some of the larger temples in the area.

We walked around, observing the worshippers praying and walking in front of a gold altar displaying ornate, manmade gods. Our special entry pass gave us an opportunity to talk to a priest. He wanted to pray to his gods for us, but I quickly explained to him that we were followers of Jesus and prayed only to Him.

The priest said he knew of Jesus and began to explain that Jesus was a messenger, the Son of God but not God incarnate. I replied, doing my best to find the right words to explain the gospel in a way he would understand. The priest continued to argue his point, but seeing that we wouldn’t come to agreement, he prayed to Jesus for us and we finished our temple tour.

No matter if I find myself in a temple, a coffee shop, or the back of a taxi, when I’m in a conversation with someone, I do my best to look for ways to bring the gospel into it.

Purposefully Praying for Lost People

We sat on the concrete floor with our friends’ family surrounding us, waiting intently for what we would say.

Our friends were newly married, and we’d been invited back to the family home to stay overnight.

We had the opportunity to share the gospel and encourage the family, and it was an answered prayer happening right before my eyes.

Days before, I had been praying for this trip and had asked others to pray, too. I knew I’d be around people who have yet to come to faith in Jesus, and I wanted to be able to share the gospel with them.

That night, 3 people who had yet to believe in Jesus heard the story of a God Who created them and loves them. And while 3 seems small, to me, they represent billions of lost people around the world who haven’t yet heard and responded to the gospel.

Why do we pray for these lost people? Why did I take the time to pray to have an opportunity to share the gospel while celebrating the marriage of 2 friends?

Reaching the Unreached with Prayer

In the United States, the beginning of fall signals a season of bonfires, football, and cooler weather. In South Asia, fall is the beginning of festival season. Hindus across the region celebrate some of their major festivals, including the Ganesh festival and Diwali.

It has been quite the culture shock to see idols of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, being displayed everywhere in my city and celebrated by many as the god of new beginnings.

According to the Joshua Project, 3,322 unreached people groups are in South Asia. These are people who haven’t heard the gospel yet—people who, as you read this blog, will be born, will live, and will die without knowing Jesus or the grace He offers them.

The amount of lost people can be overwhelming. Knowing where to begin to reach so many can seem like a lost cause. Not doing anything is not the answer though when the opportunity for people to hear and respond to the gospel and avoid eternal separation from God is at stake.

Using God’s Good Gifts

Several of us were crammed in a small room. Two cameras, a backdrop, and some lights took up what space was left.

In front of the cameras was an older South Asian man, a former Hindu turned follower of Jesus, sharing his testimony.

I sat behind the cameras watching the whole interview take place, listening to this man talk about how he was a believer despite his wife and 2 sons still being Hindu and how he followed Jesus because he knew Jesus answered his prayers.

After 4 weeks of being in South Asia on my first-ever missions trip, this was the moment that changed everything for me. Here was this man, following Jesus with everything he had, and our team, working to capture his story to show others across the world how God is working in South Asia.\

Tears streamed down my face as the man continued his story, and I knew this story was the kind I was called to tell—the story of a God Who loves all people and wants them to personally know His love.

Divine Flavor in an Ordinary World

I looked over and saw her, sitting at the table, eyes glued to her computer screen and focused on what she was working on.

I felt that nudge inside to talk to her, but I was doing my best to talk myself out of it. “She looks busy,” I thought. “And how would I start a conversation?”

I sat in that coffee shop, knowing that I wanted to share the gospel with this girl and take an ordinary conversation and make it a divine one. Then I remembered what I had talked with a friend about a few days earlier. She had suggested interviewing people as a way to start conversations.

I grabbed my pen and notebook, wrote down a few questions, walked over to the table, and began talking to the girl, who introduced herself as Leela*.

The conversation felt so natural, and it brought me joy being able to get to know her story. As it turns out, Leela became a believer in college.

One conversation led to another and another, and now I’d consider Leela one of my best friends in South Asia.

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