With her administrative skills, Shareen has learned to adapt and make herself useful in various roles. She relishes writing documentation. She finds it relaxing to mark up and decorate her planner in her free time.
As Shareen exudes organization, competence and reliability, deeper down is an even more valuable virtue—faithfulness. Many people, even among her co-workers, don’t fully realize the challenges she surmounts daily to pursue God’s calling on her life and serve in missions. Many also haven’t weathered the storms of life and ministry that she has experienced. As a pastor’s kid, someone who lives with a disability and a GFA staff member for more than 14 years, Shareen knows fulfilling God’s call isn’t easy. But she does know that she was called.
Overcoming Challenges, Embracing Her Call
Born in India, Shareen was adopted at 5.5 months old and grew up in a loving family in Ohio with a pastor father, teacher mother and three older sisters. Though she had a relatively normal American millennial childhood, she knew she would likely struggle with sight for the rest of her life. She and her family learned she had a genetic, degenerative eye disease, which was intensified by the vitamin A-deficiency she had experienced as an infant. At night, she is legally blind, and even during the day, her peripheral vision is significantly impaired.
Yet Shareen didn’t let this challenge keep her from stepping forward in faith when the Lord called her to help fulfill the Great Commission.
“He pushed me into ministry and missions as a youth, giving me opportunities to go to the Dominican Republic and do dramas in the pitch black of night in a village when the lights go out,” Shareen remembers. “I’m blind in the dark, so there’s no reason I should be able to do that. But by God’s grace, He’s given me ways to compensate for my disability and be able to serve Him.”
After completing a few semesters of college, Shareen was taking some time off from school. She knew God was calling her to missions, but what would that look like? Then she went to a conference and learned about a ministry called Gospel for Asia (now GFA World), a ministry that was supporting national missionaries and sharing Christ’s love in her birth country. That seemed to be the answer to Shareen’s question. A few months later, Shareen joined a yearlong internship and discipleship program at GFA’s office.
During the program, she and the other interns got to visit South Asia to see how national missionaries were sharing God’s love there. That experience, her first time returning to the land of her birth, left a deep impression on her.
“I got to see my own country through God’s eyes,” she says.
“It’s by God’s grace that I am able to do what I do administratively... and GFA has come alongside and helped me with having different screens and accommodating whatever I can do in order to get the job done.”
Even years later, moments from that trip would stay with Shareen. She wouldn’t forget the sound of Bible college students singing worship songs at 4 or 5 in the morning, full of a passion for Jesus that didn’t need to be translated. She wouldn’t forget the joy of the congregation that was constructing their own church building, a joy that spilled over to the entire community. She actually got to lay a brick in the wall of the church.
Perhaps that brick symbolized the role Shareen would end up playing as a GFA staff member. Each one of these behind-the-scenes missionaries supports, on average, approximately 100 national missionaries through their administrative work, and Shareen would be grasping her own opportunity to help establish churches in unreached areas through these national missionaries.
Driven by Passion
After her year in the discipleship program, Shareen joined staff. She taught herself administrative skills and grew in adaptability in department after department—whether her job was coordinating GFA volunteers, filing reports and photos from the mission field or answering donor phone calls and emails. Currently, she serves in the Broadcasting and Media Relations department, where she works with radio stations that partner with GFA World, designs radio campaigns and coordinates part-time office volunteers.
Though much of her day is spent in the details, a strong sense of calling and a vision to reach people with the Gospel drive Shareen. She knows, as she’s working on the details of signing a contract for a new radio campaign inviting people to give toward Bibles, that the Lord will use that campaign to change people’s lives on the mission field.
“No, we’re not necessarily on the frontlines in the way you think of missionaries on the field. But I’m really grateful that I get to be part of radio campaigns,” she explains. “… It’s impacting souls in Asia and Africa. It’s people. It’s not just, ‘Here’s a random Bible that some random person’s going to get.’ Yes, it’s a Bible that some random person’s going to get. But they’re also going to go out and share that with their communities.”
In addition to her work in the office, Shareen faithfully prays for the ministry alongside all GFA staff at our prayer meetings—a pillar of our community life. Seeing God answer prayers has reminded her that her work has an eternal impact for GFA’s national missionaries and for the 3 billion people in the world who are waiting to hear the Good News. During nearly 15 years here, she’s witnessed many before-and-after stories. She’s watched the Lord release pastors from prison, provide a boat for missionaries to share Christ’s love in an impoverished, remote island chain, and open doors for GFA World to begin ministry in Africa. These are just a few of the ways she’s seen Him grow, expand and nurture the ministry she’s part of.
“...I look back and say, ‘OK, my life represents 3 billion people that don’t know the Gospel,’ or ‘My life represents so many churches being planted’ … it makes all the circumstantial issues go away in a sense, or at least helps me look to the Lord and say, ‘This is why I’m here.’”
“That has been really, really encouraging to me. … It has been cool to look back and see, ‘Here’s how God answered prayers,’” she says.
Persevering for the Joy Set Before Her
While Shareen has seen many exciting things happen through prayer, serving in missions hasn’t always been a bed of roses. During nearly 15 years on staff, she’s seen many ups and downs, both in her personal life and in the ministry. She’s watched many friends come and go. During the last three years, she has experienced frequent migraines in addition to increased vision challenges. But through it all, God has been faithful, and she knows the struggle is worth it if that means more people will hear about Christ.
“I think when I look back on why I was called here in the first place, that’s what it really comes down to,” she explains. “So no matter how difficult my challenges are with my vision or facing insecurities or fear or anxiety or whatever it is in ministry life, just for me personally, I think when I look back and say, ‘OK, my life represents 3 billion people that don’t know the Gospel,’ or ‘My life represents so many churches being planted’ … it makes all the circumstantial issues go away in a sense, or at least helps me look to the Lord and say, ‘This is why I’m here.’”
Shareen continues to serve faithfully in ministry by God’s grace—because He has brought her here, and He sustains her. For her and for all of us who work at GFA, fulfilling His call often involves persevering through challenges and laying aside other opportunities. But we know the reward of seeing more lives transformed by Christ far outweighs any temporary hardships. Each of us plays a significant role in mobilizing Christians to partner with national missionaries, bringing the Good News to communities in Africa and Asia. Each of us is placing a symbolic brick in the wall of the Global Church that God is building up around the world.
If you choose to become a behind-the-scenes missionary with GFA World, you, too, can undergird the ministry of approximately 100 national missionaries, share His love with children in need and bring eternal hope to once-unreached communities. You, too, will help fulfill the Great Commission.
Considering becoming a GFA World staff member?