India (MNN) — Mr. and Mrs. Smith are heading to India.
No, it’s not another Angelina and Brad movie. This is the story about a couple obeying a call they’ve had on their lives for many years.
Nathan and Abagail Smith, who have worked at Cornerstone University the last few years, are packing up the family and heading to India to join Abby’s parents in ministry there.
“This is the biggest thing that either Abby and I have ever done in our lives,” Nathan says.
The area of India to which they’re moving is actually quite dangerous. Christians are not allowed to proselytize, women are often the brunt of violent crimes, humans are trafficked across the nearby border of Nepal. So why are they moving there?
“I grew up in India,” Abigail says. “I was born and raised in India, living in a ministry home where my parents worked full-time–and still do as missionaries in India. They run a school, a girls home, a women’s project, and a few literacy projects.”
Their work in India is what started it all. “Watching them work and being a part of their ministry gave me a desire to do something to help people as well,” Abigail says.
In high school, Abigail’s calling became more defined. “There was a very, very small article in the newspaper,” she says, “and it was talking about how girls were being sold in the marketplace in some area in India. The price for the girls that were being sold was cheaper than the price for a water buffalo.
“The fact that girls were being sold: I mean the thought of that was terrible to me. And the fact that they were being sold for a cheaper price, to me, was unfathomable that a person–a human being–was being sold and was being given a price that was lower than the price of an animal.”
Abby knew that she wanted to fight against this terrible reality of human trafficking.
This desire is what led her to the United States to pursue undergrad and master’s degrees in counseling. While in school, she met Nathan.
Nathan Smith grew up with missions-minded parents, as well. His parents served in Canada. Nathan spent two years overseas with Operation Mobilization and knew he wanted to continue in missions. But he had no calling to a specific place or people.
He pursued an education in Theology. Though he didn’t know his location, Nathan knew his vocation would be to provide access to good resources and information for pastors and churches who had the least access to them.
He says, “I ended up marrying Abby which has been very wonderful. She has always wanted to go back to India, so I put my vocational calling together with the fact that I’m married to an Indian who wanted to go back to India. And that’s why we’re going back.”
All of the sudden, Nathan’s location was defined–through careful prayer, of course. He says, “When we trust God with our futures and our finances, we also have to trust Him with our calling; that was a new idea for me.”
God has been teaching the couple quite a few things. Most often, He is teaching them to trust His timing. Nathan says, “Trusting Him with timing seems to be a resounding lesson that I learn over and over again.”
Nathan and Abigail have learned that God will provide at the right time, and if He doesn’t, He’s asking them to wait, asking them to trust Him for the things that seem impossible.
Abigail did not expect to stay in the United States so long before returning. But things weren’t fitting into place for her to return. Nathan and Abigail found themselves in a rather difficult spot financially.
A friend told them to apply at a small Christian University in Michigan: Cornerstone University. And they soon discovered that this was an example of God’s perfect timing and providence.
Abigail says, “I think Cornerstone has been an essential part of our journey and our lives.”
As a resident director in one of the campus dorms, Abigail found herself able to practice all of the things she had been learning the last seven years.
She was able to counsel the students living in the dorm and learn how to work within an institution. The couple’s apartment on campus mimicked the hospitality and busyness that her childhood home had–a ministry run right out of their own home.
“If I ever got the opportunity to do it over again, I would do it over again,” Abigail says.
Nathan also had the opportunity to teach Bible classes as an adjunct. This put into practice his ability to teach the Bible and equip Christians with the proper tools to engage their world for God.
Cornerstone was essential in giving the couple confidence that they could work in ministry in India.
Nathan is excited that they will be near Nepal where he says the fastest-growing church exists.
“Anytime you have a really fast growing church, you have a lot of messy situations that need help,” he says. He wants to come alongside the church to train and teach.
The Gospel is central to everything in Nathan and Abigail’s life. The way that they present it, however, will necessarily look a little different in India.
India is not open to evangelism. Every witness they make must be by example and by deed.
They will take their cues from Abigail’s parents who have been ministering in India for 25 years now.
Nathan says, “Everything they do is to make Jesus look good. To compel people–not to necessarily convince, but to compel them–toward Christ through their actions, through their high standards, through their love for their students, through the way they reach out to the people who no one else touches or reaches out to.” And the list goes on.
“All of these things point to a Jesus that is compelling; that is the primary way to live out the Gospel in this region.” Nathan explains that this interest will serve as a foundation for evangelistic opportunities.
The first year in India will serve as a year of discernment for the couple to make sure they know exactly where God wants them to be in India and what it looks like.
They believe God wants them to stay in India for life. Nathan says they must stay for a long time, be embedded in the culture, and use wise and careful contextualization to reach the people. They want to listen to what India needs, not tell India what it needs.
Nathan says, “To do what we want to do takes a very long time.” He wants to help train and equip pastors without introducing western ways. “Our goal is to elevate what it means to be an Indian and to let the world know that India has a gift to give to the rest of the world.”
Moving a family of five to the mission field isn’t easy, and one big reason is the finances. To be a missionary isn’t as cheap as it used to be. If you would like to support Nathan and Abby, to pray for them, and to find more about them, visit their Web site at underthebanyantree.org.
Pray for discernment. Also please pray for their safety, specifically the children.
Nathan says, “The region we’ll be in…actually has the highest rate for atrocities against women. It has the lowest literacy rates per capita in the entire country. There are a number of trafficking issues as the border of India and Nepal is an open border; our area is becoming a hub for trafficking human beings, both for labor and sex trafficking.”
Nathan and Abigail are not troubled too much by the danger for their own sakes. As Nathan says, “We know that the Gospel has a shining light that’s brighter than all these things, and that, as our parents have taught us, you’re only safest where God wants you to be. You can try and hide from Him anywhere and hope to be safer there, but you’re only safest where God leads you. And we feel God’s leading us to this region.”