Sharing the Good News with the Tibetan people of the Himalayas has never been easier. You don’t have to trek the world’s highest mountain range to get to them because some live right here in the United States — Queens, N.Y., to be exact!
Most of the world’s 6,000-plus unreached people groups (less than 2 percent follow Jesus) can be found in neighborhoods throughout the United States, maybe even yours. This global migration gives the American church opportunities like never before to reach a lost world.
Let’s be practical, though. These international neighbors usually speak a different language. They follow another religion. Their culture is not the same. So where do we even begin to make an impact?
Never fear! Readers just like you answered this question via social media and offered these tips and resources:
Start a conversation. Become friends.
Sometimes just opening your mouth is difficult when you don’t have a common language. But let’s be honest. Walking up to any stranger — let alone someone from another country — can be intimidating. Laurel Duty, a college student from Mississippi, pointed out, “Everyone just wants a friend and someone they can trust, especially when you are far from home. We, as believers, can be that person.”
Tips from you:
– Ask for someone’s story. They will tell it IF you will listen. – Morgan, Texas
– Ask how things are going or if they have needs. If you don’t know the people around you, you will never know their needs, their hurts and you will never know how to share the love of Christ. – Nicholas Pepper, Georgia
– Don’t blast people with the Bible from the first sentence. That’s off-putting to anyone. Show Christ’s love by being interested in them as a person. – Abigail Elizalde, Massachusetts
Take the first step and ask a simple question like, “What does the henna (temporary dye art) on your hand mean?” Who knows? Maybe your next conversation will lead to a henna party with women from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East using patterns that depict Bible stories.
Be intentional. Share Jesus.
Nikki White spent years showing people Jesus in her life but never put “intentionality” to her actions until an Oklahoma pastor challenged her. “I had never sat down and actually talked about heaven and hell,” she recalled. “I expected people to intuitively understand by watching. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be intentional in meeting people, knowing their needs and sharing the gospel.”
Tips from you:
– Look for ways to share Scripture. Make sure it is bi-lingual so you are helping them learn English, but they can better understand in their own language – Dean Sides, Alabama
– Look for local events that attract immigrants. There’s an international soccer tournament in our town. – – We mingle and develop long-term relationships. – Katherine Pullen, Tennessee
– Ask about needs. That’s how my church hosted a two-week tutoring camp for immigrant children. – Parents also come to a “parenting in America” class. – Becky Gilbert, Georgia
– Frequent a gas station, restaurant or shop owned by internationals. Our men’s group has a morning Bible study at a convenience store owned by an Indian man. He now joins them. – Susan Bryant, Kentucky
Transitioning from a polite or casual conversation to the gospel is a common barrier, especially if the other person is from a very different religion. Getting2Gospel can help you be intentional in three easy steps using Romans 6:23. http://southasianpeoples.imb.org/resources/view/getting2gospel
International students hang out at Levi and Jenifer Perkins farm in Kansas. “Share your everyday-normal life including how Christ is a part of it,” Jenifer advised. “International students want to know.”
Call your local university. Host an international student.
When Neisha Roberts took a new job in Alabama, she called the local university to see if there were any students from Thailand. She had just returned from serving two years with the IMB and wanted to continue ministering to Buddhists. Reaching out to international students is a great way to impact a lost world. Most plan to return home and can take the gospel — or a seed planted in their heart — back with them.
Tips from you:
– Invite students to hang out with your family. They want to experience American culture and life. This is where you connect. – Levi and Jenifer Perkins, Kansas
– Offer extra help with English. Students already know it well enough to be in class, but often have a hard time with subject specific vocab — such as medical students learning medical terms. – Dean Side, Alabama
– College kids never turn down food. I always take my international friends from the dorm with me to church when there’s a dinner. – Jacob Pruett, Mississippi
– Jenifer Perkins noticed in their student program at Washburn University in Topeka, Kan., that students love to attend church with their host families but not when it’s the only thing you invite them to do. The students feel disappointed and like they didn’t really experience America. Avoid this pitfall by allowing students to see God in all aspects of your life.
Hospitality. Share a meal.
Most of our international neighbors come from cultures where hospitality and relationships are central to life. When they come to America, they often feel disconnected, isolated and alone. Inviting them into our homes, serving them and treating them with love is a vital first step in sharing the gospel.
Tips from you:
– Get past the surface stuff and be a part of their lives. One relationship developed to the point we became “grandparents” for school events. – Patricia Reaves, Kentucky
– Don’t just share a meal. Cook together. Teach them a dish and let them teach you. – Melissa Treat, Mississippi
– Offer rides. Many don’t drive yet. A Chinese woman and I had a baby around the same time. We scheduled our well-baby appointments together so I could drive her. That developed into me teaching English from a children’s Bible. – Emily Kuhnel, Texas
– Invite them to your normal activities, like going to the store or for a walk in the park. – Olivia, North Carolina
Teach. Learn. Love.
Learning is a two way street. Let your international friends teach about their culture while sharing about your own. Virginians Scott and Rebecca admitted this can take time and effort but it’s worth it in the end. Learning our way into their world provides a culturally appropriate way to share the Gospel and disciple.
Tips from you:
– Volunteer to teach English. Contact your state Baptist convention about ESL programs. It’s a great way to meet unreached people groups living in your community. – Kathy Wade, Oklahoma
– Celebrate their holidays and your holidays together. This allows you to share on a deeper level. – Patricia Reaves, Kentucky
– Teach things not covered in normal ESL like how to drive, going to the doctor, conducting official business, etc. The time you spend together builds a bond. – Scott and Rebecca, Virginia
– God is moving people to your community so they may hear and know Him. Will you take up the cross? Remember, you aren’t alone. There are people willing to assist. All you have to do is join the conversation.
Susie Rain is an IMB senior writer living in Asia.
Susie Rain, IMB