Missions conference speaker learns to follow God's call across continents
Senior Rebekah Davis works at her desk in the SMU office, diligently preparing for Missions Conference. | Grant Walter/THE CHIMES
“My visa expires on March 16,” Pam Sardar mentioned casually at the beginning of the Skype interview.
Her daughter and the co-director of Missions Conference, senior communications major Rebekah Davis, laughed in response.
“How ironic,” Davis said, shaking her head.
Neither seemed worried that Sardar, one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Missions Conference, could be unable to return to her home and family in New Delhi, India after the conclusion of the conference because of a customs delay or other intentional red tape. Despite the fact that Sardar has only just been allowed back into India after a forced five-year absence, both women were remarkably calm.
LEAP OF FAITH LIFESTYLE
While such a reaction may seem strange and even foolish to observers, Sardar has learned from experience that taking such a drastic leap of faith is possible and plausible if God has called her to do so.
Originally from Indiana, Sardar explained that it was during a six-week mission trip in the ‘80s teaching English in India that she not only heard God’s voice for the first time, but a specific call to serve in India.
“I heard in my spirit, ‘I’m bringing you back.’ I did not know the voice of the Lord, but I knew that it was from him,” Sardar said.
What Sardar did not know was that her call to India included an arranged marriage to an Indian national.
Sardar’s mother had received a letter from Sunil Sardar, a friend in India, asking for prayer for his search for a wife. During her prayer, she became convinced by the Holy Spirit that the wife he was looking for was her daughter. Pam and Sunil were shocked by this revelation, but after much prayer, both agreed to the arrangement. They became engaged during their first phone call in April 1989, without ever meeting each other.
“He said [to me], ‘My last confirmation that this is from God is if you are willing to come to India, because my calling is to my people,” Sardar said. “I said, ‘Well, God has already spoken about that!’”
MINISTRY IN THE MIDST OF TRAUMA
Sardar’s first year in Yavatmal, Maharashtra was full of extreme culture shock. Almost none of her neighbors or new relatives spoke any English and she was the only white woman for miles. Even worse, while Sardar was seven months pregnant with her first child, her husband was imprisoned for his controversial boycotts and baptisms.
“When you marry a national and become a part of his family and ministry and you don’t speak the language … It was hard. That was kind of a traumatic year,” Sardar said.
Despite the initial hardship and language barrier, Sardar rapidly adjusted to life in India. She supported her husband during the first 10 years of his ministry work — church planting in rural areas, serving the tribal people, the poor and the Untouchables — while raising her three daughters at home.
“My mom [was] a huge example to me growing up,” Davis said. “She has always been involved in the ministry, but has also been really devoted to her family. I think that is hard to find in people in ministry.”
BOLDLY ELIMINATING CASTE SYSTEM
The Sardars’ ministry soon evolved into the organization that is now known as Truthseekers International. Truthseekers continues to minister and reveal Jesus to the members of the lowest caste in the country while also leading rallies and working with the government to dismantle the caste system.
However, the Sardar family’s bold stance against the caste system has not gone unnoticed by opposing political parties. Although Sunil, as a national, cannot be expelled from the country for his work, it is all too easy to deport Pam.
But no matter how many times she is blacklisted, delayed, denied and separated from her family, Sardar never fails to return to her adopted homeland.
“SHE IS A WOMAN WHO KNOWS HOW TO LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT”
It is this determination to follow God’s call no matter the cost that made Sardar an ideal speaker and role model, according to Keaton Tyndall, a junior double majoring in ICS and business and also co-director of missions conference with Davis.
“She is a woman who knows how to listen to the Spirit,” Tyndall said. “I am really excited for students to see a face and see a story that lived out our theme so that they can say … someone has done what we want to do.”