“HOW TO REACH THE NATIONS IN MY OWN BACKYARD”
“What an opportunity we have to share the Good News with the nations right here at home. That doesn’t mean we don’t go overseas, but it does mean we shouldn’t miss the wonderful opportunities that the Father is giving His church. The nations are literally living next door.”
– Terry Sharp
When we reach international students, we potentially reach leaders of countries around the world. But we cannot ignore the nations that are in our neighborhood who live among us, neighbors whom we can “do life.”
I know you are noticing the “melting pot” society our nation is becoming. Whatever our personal opinion is about this, I have been convicted that we cannot ignore the fact that God is the one bringing these people to us as the body of Christ. One of the bedrock truths of the Bible is the Gospel is for all nations (people) (Revelations 5:9). One of the greatest spiritual awakenings in history happened right after different nations had gathered together in Jerusalem. The disciples had just said “goodbye” to Jesus and “hello” to the Holy Spirit. We call it Pentecost. The Holy Spirit moved and brought people from the different nations to Himself. Today many of these foreigners are from countries that are closed to the Gospel of Christ. While they are here they have the greatest opportunity to see the reality of the Gospel in and through each of us. Therefore we must be intentional to build relationships with them.
Be Engaing Before you approach an International please pay attention to these five things:
First put yourself in their shoes and think through what life would be like for you living in another country…. Difficulty of culture and language, missing family and friends; and favorite and/or familiar foods and stores;…possible feelings of loneliness and isolation…etc…
Second pray and ask God to help you see them as He sees them and make yourself available to Him to be their friend.
Third determine to be patient and go. Go with the attitude you will be their friend for the long haul. We never know how long it will take someone to come to faith or even if they will. We all have things to unpack in our lives before we see our need for God. Be willing to be used of God in any way He wants to use you in this manner.
Fourth ladies reach out to ladies and gentlemen reach out to the men. For the sake of the Gospel and not giving the opposite sex any reason to think you may be interested in a romantic relationship, stay true to this. If this is a family you are reaching out to that will make it much more convenient.
Hopefully this will help keep the communication lines clear so you can stay focused on sharing the Gospel with them.
Fifth Listen Well
After introducing yourself and letting them know you are thankful to meet them here are some questions that may be helpful as your conversation progresses. Be careful not to be too forward or too pushy, but let them know you are genuinely interested in them as a person.
Who, What, When, Where, and How
Who are you? Who did you bring with you? Who else do you know that are here?
What is your purpose? Do you have a job or are you a student? A Visiting Professor? Or are you here to work on your research? What are ways I can help you? Would you like help with English, transportation, understanding the school systems for their children, shopping, homesickness, doctors appointments, where to direct them to pay taxes –paying personal property and assessing it. What is your faith background? Have you found a place to worship yet? Or would you like help with that? This is where I go, you are welcome to go with me anytime. This is when we meet.
If you were back in your country, what would a routine day be like for you? (You may be surprised how similar it may be to your day.)
When will you return to your home country or have you transplanted indefinitely? (This question may not be appropriate or necessary to ask.)
Where do you work? Where do you live? Have you found all the location of places you need to know? Would you like me to go with you or take you there and help you get started? (ie… children may need to get enrolled in school, they may need help getting their drivers’ license, social security card or with the paper work of finding and purchasing a dependable car). Ideas are endless here.
Why did you choose this city? This neighborhood? (These of course may have been answered earlier)
How can I help?
Be Authentic Be real about your Christian faith. Share it naturally. Let them see how real Christ is throughout your different life situations. You can even ask them how you can pray for them. Do not hide the fact you are a Christian. This does not mean you are to preach at them, but simply be honest and transparent about your relationship with Christ. We find it is better to not try to sneak up with a gospel presentation out of the blue with them, but instead be upfront from the beginning of your relationship with them.
Be Watching God is at work. You have prayed, He is responding. Watch and listen carefully to any problems, concerns or difficulties that are going on in your new friend’s life. Let them know you will ask Jesus to help them by giving them wisdom, comfort, peace, provision or whatever their need is. Share with them a scripture and see if they are receptive. Offer to pray with them and let them know you believe Jesus wants to show Himself to them.
In our ministry, it seems this is when most internationals find Christ to be very real. They feel something when we pray for them. They begin seeking Him and we get to watch Him draw them to Himself. And this past Sunday we got to watch three internationals testify of their faith publically as we witnessed their testimonies and baptisms.
May God guide as He loves the nations through you and they follow Jesus as Lord.
Teresa Bit Stephens