From early on in her Christian walk, Tammyma took God at His word and experienced astounding provision from His loving hand. Her remarkable reliance flowed out of an unwavering faith in her King. In this conversation, Jonathan and Tammy discuss her journey to Christ and the joy found in trusting Him and experiencing His tender care.
This conversation is condensed and adapted from episode 185 of Candid Conversations with Jonathan Youssef. Listen today on your favorite podcast platform or online to hear the full story of Tammyma's journey to becoming a missionary in Asia, where she began raising 46 children, as well as her recent return to America after being blacklisted for her faith.
"I just understood that God is faithful and He likes to be believed. He loves to be trusted."
Jonathan: A modern-day Müller, Tammyma has been reaching untold young people in South Asia. Tammy, my team has told me that your story is one well worth hearing. So, I wonder if we could hear your testimony.
Tammy: I grew up in a broken home, and I was an atheist . . . unchurched. As a college student, I would encounter Christians and often make fun of them. I asked them lots of questions—I wasn't aggressive, but I just thought Christianity was dumb and wanted them to know that. Some of my friends would share about Jesus with me but would also get drunk with me, so I had no respect for their message.
A friend began inviting me to a campus ministry and eventually, I ended up going. The night I went, the campus pastor was sharing his testimony. I had never heard anything like it. . . . I told him: "This stuff that you're talking about doesn't make any sense to me. Are you saying there's no other way to God except your way? Doesn't that sound arrogant?"
He gave me a book and in the front of it wrote, "I hope you find the answers you're looking for." He talked to me about the Lord and explained the Gospel, but I still rejected it. In that time, I also read Josh McDowell and C. S. Lewis and even the New Testament. God was doing some stuff inside of me. The pastor had also asked me, "Why don't you just pray, 'God, if You're real, show Yourself to me.' If He doesn't show Himself, you've got nothing to lose. If He does, then you've gained everything. But if you don't ask, you could potentially lose everything." So, I did.
By the spring of my sophomore year, my friend said, "Tammy, you're more hungry than anybody I've ever met; you're wanting the Truth. And here the Truth is. What's holding you back?"
I said, "Well, I think God is real. I think Jesus might be real, too. But if He is who He says He is, He's asking too much. From what I can read He wants everything, and I'm not sure I want to give it to Him." [Soon after, I talked with God, saying,] "Okay God, I think it'd be really stupid for me not to give You everything. All I know is You're real, and I want to know You." After that I just sat and read [the whole Bible, thinking,] "This is the book. I need to read it." I was growing really fast.
I was reading Philippians 4:19 and realized, "Oh! My God shall provide all my needs according to His riches in glory. That means I can just ask Him! Oh, that's awesome! God, I could use a job. I need to [earn enough money but I can only] work a few hours." As I'm praying, the phone rings and I pick it up. And it's a friend of mine: "Tammy, I was just thinking about you. Do you need a job where you could make a lot of money and just work a few hours?" I said, "What?" That was my first experience [of God's faithful provision], and it just continued.
God stepped in and did everything. My friends didn't want to be around me anymore because I wasn't getting drunk with them. I remember praying, "God, I need some friends. Could You help me?" That same day, a guy walked up to me and said, "Hey, you're Tammy, right? Can I be your friend?" I thought, "Whoa, you can really ask God anything." I saw that happen with so much regularity all the way through college. I remember thinking, "Why doesn't everybody do this? Why don't they all pray for what they need? I don't understand why this is so unusual." It wasn't because I was awesome or I had more faith than other people. I just understood that God is faithful and He likes to be believed. He loves to be trusted.
I went to the campus pastor and said, "I think God's calling me to the Christian Peace Corps." And he introduced me to the word missions. I ended up going to Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and studying intercultural studies, missions, and evangelism. And the same kind of thing kept happening. Whatever I needed, [God provided]. I felt His joy when I trusted Him. And He never let me down; He consistently covered me all the way through seminary. In that season, I sensed that God was calling me to Asia, and finally that's where I was called full time.
Jonathan: Your story is so George Müller-esque—the daily provision. I was just thinking, in our health and wealth prosperity gospel surroundings, how many people are thinking, "Gosh, that would be great. Just make it known, and then it happens." But the trajectory that God was leading you on was actually into deeper service to Him. It wasn't "I'll just come to God like Santa Claus and then leave Him on the shelf."
He desires that trust, and you were building that relationship with Him and growing in dependence on Him to the point that you actually gave up all of your things and went into the mission field. I think we do hear stories of people's great faith and God's provision for them, and we often misinterpret it. I'm so glad that you're here to help [us understand] that we are to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). If we're not seeking the Kingdom and instead are just looking for the adding, it probably won't come.
Because you brought up Asbury, where you studied, and I know that you've recently gone and visited there in Wilmore, [can we] briefly talk about the things that you saw at this Asbury University revival? I think there's a lot of connecting points here.
Tammy: I ended up flying in on Day 1. I was already scheduled to speak at the seminary, and so as I [arrived], I saw some messages on my phone: "Hey, there's something cool going on at the university; come check it out."
My first impression on Day 1 was that it was one of the most beautiful things I've experienced in a long, long time. I really sensed the presence of God. The way to describe it is just the tenderness and kindness of Jesus being poured out openly on all of us, myself included.
I spent all the free time I had between my different commitments [there]. I saw Scripture being read; I saw people being forgiven, confession and repentance, people praying for each other. I saw nonstop worship, nonstop prayer, and God pouring out [His] peace, kindness, gentleness, and tenderness on our hearts.
Jonathan: All you've described to us are the ordinary means of grace—praying, singing, worship, reading of Scripture.
Tammy: There was no hype, no projector, no slides, no fanfare, no famous names. This is so Jesus. I was ministered to, and I also had the joy of ministering to Him in that place, and I don't know how to explain it, but it was beautiful. God actually put something in my DNA in [those] three and a half days. He did a deep work in me in my uncomfortable wooden chair in Hughes Auditorium. And not only in me; He did it in so many people. I would say one of the biggest fruits of this has been that it seems to have produced a worldwide hunger for God. . . . I talked to our kids in Asia, and they are hungry. It's producing hunger in them, and everybody is seeing it. It definitely has the potential of being an awakening for our world. I can't wait to see what happens, and I've sensed a hunger in the body of Christ.