Robert Harris* is a missionary on the frontlines of evangelism in South Asia. He has witnessed God’s hand at work on the mission field through miraculous healings and seen the evidence of faithful believers standing firm in the face of persecution.
But Robert’s journey to the mission field was anything but normal.
The following is a summary of the podcast interview above. Many more details are included in the original podcast episode and we encourage you to listen.
Jesus, Prince of Peace
Robert Harris was a depressed, suicidal teenager when Jesus came into his life. Peace was something he desperately longed for, so when Robert heard that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, he promised his life to Christ and asked God to fill him with peace.
God was faithful to that prayer! After being saved, Robert never had another suicidal thought. Instead, for one month straight, God placed a question in Robert’s mind…
“If you really believe that you’ll live with Me for eternity, how would you want to live your life?” Robert couldn’t get this question out of his mind, so, after pondering it for a month, Robert concluded that he was compelled to share the Gospel with people who had never heard it.
From that time forward, Robert began preparing to do just that. In the meantime, God was preparing a special companion to work alongside Robert.
Robert’s future wife was working toward a successful career in engineering when she felt God telling her that He was going to ask her to do something crazy. For a year, she didn’t completely understand what that meant. But eventually she clearly sensed that God was calling her to work in missions overseas, and she also began preparation for her calling.
God placed Robert and his wife in the same training program, and they met when they were paired up to do an outreach project. They were soon married and, together, threw themselves into learning how to make disciples.
Robert and his wife were living in a small apartment in Austin when they had some visitors that would change the next several years of their lives.
First Mormon missionaries knocked on their door. The missionaries quickly left when they realized that Robert and his wife were Christians, but they were soon followed by Jehovah’s Witness missionaries.
These missionaries also left quickly, but the experience caused Robert and his wife to be convicted. If people who had a false gospel could be so bold, why weren’t Robert and his wife, with the true Gospel, sharing the truth with the people around them?
Robert and his wife began following the false missionaries around and visiting the same people the false missionaries had just met. They knocked on the doors of their neighbors and asked if they could use prayer for anything in their lives. This approach proved to be fruitful as Robert and his wife began to see many of their neighbors come to Christ!
In one instance, Robert and his wife knocked on the door of a Spanish-speaking neighbor, and, in the little Spanish they knew, asked if there was anything they could pray for. The family eventually communicated that the man of the house had some sort of pain. Just as they were doing for the rest of their neighbors, Robert and his wife prayed for the man.
Later, when they came back to follow up, Robert and his wife learned that the man had been completely healed! With the help of a Spanish-speaking friend, Robert and his wife were able to share the Gospel, and the man who had been healed joyfully accepted Christ that very day!
The newly converted Christian then called his family and asked Robert to explain the Gospel to them as well. Instead, Robert encouraged the man to share the Gospel with his family on his own. The brand-new Christian proceeded to share his faith for the first time, and his entire family, with the exception of his wife, came to Christ!
God had done a mighty work in this family, and His work wasn’t over! The wife was cautious about Christianity and wanted nothing to do with church because of bad experiences in her past. She was, however, open to studying the Bible in her home with Robert and his wife, and, eventually, God brought her to faith along with the rest of her family.
Disciples Making More Disciples
As his work in the community continued, Robert was given the opportunity to minister in a local jail, teaching Bible classes to inmates. It didn’t take long for Robert to realize that most of the men already had basic Bible knowledge.
As more and more of the men were saved or rededicated their lives to Christ, Robert began to see that the men needed to learn how to share their faith. He shifted the focus of his classes from “Bible 101” to discipleship training.
One of Robert’s students in particular took seriously his call to be a disciple of Christ and became passionate about sharing his faith. It wasn’t long before he led a fellow inmate to Christ. He told Robert the good news, assuming that he should bring his friend back to Robert to receive more teaching.
Surprisingly, Robert said that the man could disciple his friend himself. Robert told him that the Holy Spirit would empower him to do so. The man began teaching his friend what he was learning in Robert’s class, and, eventually, the friend led yet another inmate to faith in Christ!
Over 50 men came to Christ during just 4 weeks, and, all over the jail, there were chains of disciples making more disciples, sharing with those they had led to Christ the exact same things they were learning.
Eventually, the day came when Robert and his wife felt a prompting from the Lord to head overseas and do exactly what they had been doing in Austin in south Asia. They had been well-equipped for their ministry as overseas missionaries by simply being faithful in their own neighborhood!
However, they immediately noticed one big difference which caused them to shift the focus of their ministry. Unlike people in the United States, almost 100% of the people in Asia that Robert shared the Gospel with would “accept” Christ, not genuinely, but out of respect for Robert as a foreigner.
This posed a big problem for Robert and the local pastors as they tried to decide where to most effectively spend their time following up and discipling people.
Robert’s response was to focus on equipping local pastors to share the Gospel and make disciples. As Robert began to interact more deeply with these pastors, he began to hear inspiring stories of steadfastness in the midst of horrible suffering and persecution.
Steadfastness in Suffering
One pastor told Robert how his house had been burned down simply because he was a Christian. With the knowledge that Christ was truly all he needed, the pastor rebuilt not only his house, but also built a school to bless the people in his area.
In God’s sovereignty, the children of the people who had burned down his house now attend the school! Because of his faith, this pastor now has an unprecedented avenue to share the Gospel.
Robert met the wife of a different pastor who became a Christian and was persecuted by her own family. She would read a small New Testament in her bathroom in dim light every night because, if anyone in her family caught her, they would take away her New Testament and beat her.
She persevered in this way for 10 years and her personal example of willingness to suffer for the sake of Christ has borne much fruit. By the time Robert met her, only one uncle in her family remained who had not yet accepted Christ.
It was during a car ride with a pastor friend that Robert had his first introduction to demonic activity in Asia. In their conversation, the pastor casually mentioned that he had run out of time to pray for a demon to be cast out of a woman because he was late for another commitment. Coming from the United States where demons are rarely even spoken of, Robert was surprised and wanted to learn more.
As he probed further, Robert learned that not only did almost everyone in Asia believe in the spirit realm, but that demonic possession was commonplace. The pastor explained that, in his experience, God would frequently heal or cast demons out of people he prayed for.
Robert was excited by the prospect of actually observing a physical healing and started asking God to allow him to see one. However, he eventually became convicted that his motives for wanting to see a healing were wrong, since they were focused more on the spectacle, than on revering God for His power and goodness.
Not long after repenting for his selfish motives, Robert encountered a woman who was having bleeding and issues with her stomach. Robert prayed for the woman’s healing, and, when he looked up, she was weeping. She said that, when Robert had prayed, she had felt a jolt in her stomach and that she immediately felt better than she had in months.
When Robert shared the Gospel with her, the woman accepted Christ and received spiritual healing along with her physical healing. Robert emphasizes that a person can be healed and still go to Hell, so the greatest miracle that happened to the woman that day was, not that her body was made well, but that her soul was saved.
The Great Commission in Our Lives
Robert’s story encourages all believers to share the Gospel and make disciples, and it is especially relatable because, before Robert was a missionary overseas, he was simply witnessing to his neighbors in America.. Robert saw God working just as mightily in his own apartment complex as he did on the other side of the world!
The same question that prompted Robert to devote his life to missions can cause us to engage the people around us: “If we really believe that we’ll live with God for eternity, what will we do with our lives?”
For those wanting to dive deeper, Robert recommends Pioneering Movements by Steve Addison.
* “Robert Harris” is a pseudonym due to the sensitive nature of Robert’s work.