Lea Ann Wright, iFace Staff
Lea Ann is a staff of InterFace Ministries, an organization that seeks to serve international students in the US. She has interacted with and ministered to many international students from all over the world right here in Greenville, SC.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27, NIV)
Through increased mobility and technology, the world is getting “smaller.” Today, you can learn and experience the joy of cross-cultural friendship right where you are! God is calling once again to His people, “Whom will I send, and who will go for me?” Who will reach out across culture and language to love these neighbors on your campus, in your community, and at your job? Sometimes the hardest part is just knowing how to start. Here are some simple tips for building a cross-cultural friendship.
International students leave everything familiar; for some, it will be the first time in their lives they have been away from their family, friends, the comfort of knowing their community & culture, food, and language. It is an exciting time of their lives but also one with stress and fear. Culture shock, homesickness, and the challenges of studying in English often create a crisis point. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to demonstrate the love of Jesus through friendship, Biblical hospitality, and practical service. Having a caring, Christian friend to help them through these difficulties can create a life-long impression and is a great way for them to experience the living Christ at a point of deep need.
Have open eyes to see the internationals that God has placed around you—dorm, classes, student center, cafeteria, library, etc. Then smile and say hello! Your smile will go a long way to helping them feel welcomed. Introduce yourself and ask them how they are doing. Express your interest in learning more about them. Understand that English will probably not be their first language, so speak clearly and more slowly. Your patience and a smile will be encouraging when communication is difficult. Exchange contact information (cell #, email, WhatsApp, etc.) and follow up! Invite them to meet for coffee, have a meal, or join your study group.
Build a bridge across the Cultural Gap.
Learn to appreciate new cultures and ways of life. What are some things from their culture you can learn about or experience? As you show a genuine interest in what is foreign to yourself, you will begin to realize that there are many ways to bridge the gap: learn their real name and a few words in their language. Take them to a restaurant where their home food is served and expose your taste buds to various dishes. Eat the way they eat (learn how to use chopsticks!). Invite them over to your place and cook with them. More than anything else, ask lots of questions. Have fun and enjoy the fellowship!
As you expose yourself to what you are not used to, help them to do the same—invite them to experience the American culture. Take them to places with your friends. Maybe they have never been to Cookout or Taco Bell. Teach them new words and games. Do you know that many of them might have never played a boardgame before? Explain the differences when discussing a topic, because some things we talk about in the US might not be as popular in other countries as other things. As you continue to build friendships, why not invite them over to your home during holidays? You would be surprised to find out that Thanksgiving and Christmas are not that big of a deal in other parts of the world.
Through the Friendship Partner program, we (iFace) were able to connect many people together. A Muslim international student told me this:
“When I heard you speak about the Friendship Partner program, I thought, ‘Yes, I need someone to help me find my way around this new campus and city—someone who can help me understand these American phrases that I keep hearing people use, and someone to help me understand this new culture which is so very different than mine.’ But what I didn’t realize is that I would be meeting someone who would become my best friend. We have shared so many experiences and had so many talks about the things that really matter. I am graduating and moving away, but I will always take her with me in my heart. We are friends forever.”
Could God be calling you to join Him in befriending the international students on your campus or in the Greenville community? In her book Crossing Cultures with Jesus: Sharing the Good News with Sensitivity and Grace, Katie Rawson says that she believes, as in the book of Isaiah, God is asking us: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us (Isaiah 6:8)?” (pg. 12). She says that by following the incarnational model of Jesus as we listen to and depend on Him, we are enabled by the Spirit to make sharing our faith a normal part of living in union with Christ. (pg. 14).
Jesus said that they will know you are my disciples by your love. An atheist international student said, “I’ve been in the U.S. for nearly two months. What impressed me most is these Christian friends. I can strongly feel their love for other people. I am not religious, but I am moved by these friendly guys who love people from the bottom of their hearts.”
By God’s grace, will you reach out to internationals around you?
It has been a joyful adventure making friends from around the world serving with iFace. If you are interested in learning more or serving with iFace, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some Things Haven't Changed
Coordinator of Outreach and Evangelism, CGO Staff
If you’re like me, you don’t particularly love change. But 2020 has been full of changes. We are now looking at a Thanksgiving and Christmas season unlike any we have ever experienced. No matter where you stand on how things should be handled, this holiday season will be different. For me, it means I won’t be spending hours on end in coffee shops during my weeks of vacation. It also means I won’t be planning or attending near as many Christmas parties.
But as our disappointments and frustrations seem to pile up, let’s not forget what hasn’t changed. A couple weeks ago, I was reminded of a phrase Dr. Bob III would repeat in BJU chapel all the time: “The most sobering reality in the world today, is that people are dying and going to hell today.”
Yes, 2020 has changed our lives significantly in many areas, but the most sobering reality of 2019 remains the most sobering reality of 2020. There are people around us that have not accepted the wonderful news of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. They are living without hope in one of the worst years most of us can remember. And, some of those will die without that hope, not even living to see 2021. That is a sobering reality.
It’s easy to get into a spirit of complaining about the regulations while you are waiting 6 feet away from someone in line at a grocery store. Guilty as charged. However, why not take that opportunity to share some of the hope that lies within you? Why not turn the unfortunate circumstances of 2020 into a joyful gospel opportunity? If the most sobering reality is that people are dying and going to hell today, then the most precious news is that Jesus made it possible for us to escape that eternal death by dying to self and following Him.
Instead of dwelling on all the things that have changed this year, let’s make a list of things that haven’t changed! I shared one, but there are hundreds of amazing things that remain the same. Just a few that come to mind are things like our union with Christ, our eternal security, and the ability to stay in touch even when we can’t travel or gather! Use the comment section below to list some ideas. Then, find someone who needs some hope in their life and share those with them.
A few weeks ago, I realized I had slipped into a get-through-the-day mentality. But hearing the words of Dr. Bob reminded me that I can’t be content to just make it. I have been left here on earth for a purpose—a mission. That mission is to make disciples because people are slipping into a Christ-less eternity. Sticking my head in the sand and just trying to survive the pandemic isn’t being an ambassador for Christ.
So, will you join me? Will you decide it’s time to do more than just make it through the rest of 2020? We have an open door to connect with people and turn the conversation to eternally weighty things. I know, it’s not exactly an ideal time to talk to strangers, knock on doors, gather a crowd of people together, but can you think of a more ideal time than right now that people are looking for hope? So, let’s think creatively. Let’s build relationships. Let’s use the conversations waiting in line for Christ. After all, He gave everything for us, and now, he commissions us to bring that news to everyone we can. That’s something to give thanks for next Thursday!
Evangelism During COVID-19
Elliott Martin, BJU Alumnus
This summer hasn’t been the easiest summer for our outreach efforts at my church in Detroit. We were in the middle of trying a new evangelistic Bible study when everything started getting cancelled in March. Pastors and professors wrote the studies. Ladies at the church volunteered to bring food. Church members invited lost friends. A surprising amount of new faces showed up. Then, they couldn’t come back because our church stopped gathering together.
After that, we thought we could engage the community by bringing sanitation kits to each house in our neighborhood. That way we could make contact with the lost in our community, demonstrate love for neighbor, and seek opportunities to share the gospel. We calculated the cost, drafted a proposal, found the supplies, started writing a tract to include in each kit. Then we got hit with a stay-at-home order.
Eventually, for our Sunday morning service, our church started meeting in our parking lot and inside with limited, social-distanced seating. But the question remained—how could we be well-known in our community as a place that takes God and His Word seriously and is marked by Christ-like love while communicating the gospel to the lost correctly, clearly, and consistently?
In May, our outreach pastor wrote some articles entitled “Pandemic Evangelism” to try to equip others during “these unprecedented times.” Some people in our church made their best efforts to call lost friends to check in on how they were doing. Some found that people were more willing to talk because of being shaken up by everything going on. Others found that some of their friends had dropped off the face of the earth. Last month, we tried door-to-door evangelism with our Spread the Word interns. Some of them were met with coronavirus-related resistance, but, for the most part, it was profitable.
This month, we were supposed to have Fall Fest, one of our biggest church-wide outreaches of the year. Last year, hundreds of people came. We had a straw maze, corn pit, hayride, cider, and donuts. Many church members connected with people from the community. Many lost people heard the gospel or were invited to Christianity Explored. This year--cancelled.
But despite the discouragement of things getting cancelled, the annoyance of wearing a mask, and the uncertainty of whether someone will act like a normal pre-2020 human being or spray you with hand sanitizer and run away accusing you of not caring about people’s health when you approach them, there really have been good opportunities for evangelism this year.
My favorite is one-to-one Bible reading. This is how I’ve seen redemptive relationships most regularly built. Before Covid, I met with individuals throughout the week to read the Bible together at restaurants, coffeeshops, or my house. After Covid, I meet with people outside, at parks, or on Zoom. The location may change, but coronavirus can’t stop this outreach.
It’s pretty simple but very effective (and fun). When I meet a lost person, I ask them if they have ever read the Bible? If they say no, I ask how they come up with informed opinions about God, life, or truth without reading the Bible, which is the #1 bestseller in the world that claims to be written by God, and invite them to read it with me. If they say they’ve read parts of the Bible, I ask how they come up with informed opinions about God, life, or truth without reading the whole Bible and invite them to read it with me. If they say they have read the whole Bible, I say, “We should read the Bible together then! I love reading the Bible with people! You will have insights that help me understand things I didn’t understand, and I will have insights that help you understand things you didn’t understand.”
One example began the beginning of February. A man named Nick visited Inter-City. I introduced myself, got his phone number, and invited him to study the Bible with me. Three weeks later, he accepted the invitation, and we met at a library. He had recently started reading the Bible himself for the first time, so we read the next chapter he was going to read together. It was 2 Kings 20. Soon, I recommended we read Mark. We would read a passage, ask each other questions, and I’d try to explain concepts like Jesus coming for those who know they are sick, not those who think they are healthy. Over the next 8 weeks, we read through a portion of Mark each week. After reading Mark, we went through 1 John. We are reading Ephesians now. It has been amazing to see Nick’s eyes open as God gave him understanding. Nick went from believing that he wasn’t a bad sinner and not knowing clearly who Jesus was, to saying he wants to follow Jesus because obviously he is the only one who can save!
Coronavirus can’t stop this. God’s Word will powerfully accomplish his purpose whether it’s heard in a church auditorium or over a Zoom call. That’s why regular exposure to the Bible is so important for evangelism. Who could you invite to read the Bible with you? If this kind of redemptive relationship building seems too difficult for you, check out David Helm’s book One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian, or try reading the Bible with a believing friend first and commit to praying for each other when you try reading the Bible with a lost person. You could also use a booklet that helps you walk through texts of Scripture like Christianity Explored (which now has a free online version for those who can’t meet in person), Uncovering the Life of Jesus by Rebecca Manley Pippert, The God Who Saves by Mark Gilbert, or You, Me, and the Bible by Tony Payne. Anyone can do this. And it can be done any time, even in a pandemic.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.