“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” Leviticus 19:34
One of the most effective ways to become equipped for doing cross-cultural ministry overseas is to engage internationals right here at home. Lasting kingdom impact within a culture requires understanding how to relate cross-culturally. If we don’t have experience in cross-cultural relationships, we will be unprepared for adaptation and penetration into a culture.
Sometimes a huge population of refugees lives in the shadow of U.S. churches, yet they are linguistically and culturally “far away” from the gospel. The same churches may even be sending missionaries to those very refugees’ home country. We need new eyes to see the new mission fields God is establishing. In times past we thought we could reach a people group only by living in their homeland. Today we find we can reach them by living among them, whether they are in their heartland or among a diaspora of refugees or immigrants living in a different part of the world. God is at work in the world, shaking countries up, scattering peoples of the world to every corner of the globe. God is calling His Church to embrace this unique period of time for decision and action in history, and to step out to reach the nations living right in our own cities. Cross-cultural missions exposure and experience no longer requires spending a lot of money to go overseas. We can bring the gospel to unreached people groups who live right in our cities.
Ethnic concentrations in the United States are expanding every day. What should our response be to the high numbers of refugees, students, and immigrants coming into the U.S.? While some of us can and should be involved in seeing better filtering in the immigration process, we need to focus more on our attitudes and behavior towards these internationals. Perhaps immigration is one way in which God has sovereignly chosen to bring the peoples of the world closer to the gospel. God has unreached peoples living down the street from us right here in the U.S. The desire to be involved with overseas cross-cultural ministry often begins with a spiritual experience in the heart which always grows and develops over time. This desire should begin to direct our lives and the lifestyle choices we make. High levels of migration in the world today leave no excuse for anyone not to be building friendships and ministering cross-culturally to internationals right at home. One way to begin a relationship with internationals is by volunteering with World Relief. See here for more information.
If we believe we are called to long-term overseas ministry, we should test this calling and take advantage of all the opportunities available to develop our cross-cultural skills. Moreover, Westerners are rarely prepared for daily life in the new culture, the loss of conveniences, and the local community lifestyle. We must begin now to make important choices to test and prepare ourselves for the typical lifestyle of overseas living. Basically, we need to know and live our callings here before we take them over there. We want to be people who are “worthy of hire” in regards to ministry support by making sure our callings are integrated with our present ministry and lifestyles (1 Timothy 5:18).
If you'd like to learn more, plan to attend Understanding and Engaging Islam on Tuesday, May 12 from 6:30-8:30pm at 3340 Poplar Ave., Ste. 222, Memphis, TN 38111.
This blog comes from Chapter 4 of a book David Frazier wrote in 2014 called Mission Smart: 15 Critical Questions To Ask Before Launching Overseas which is available in Kindle and paperback at Amazon. David (leader of Understanding and Engaging Islam Seminars) has been involved in cross-cultural ministry and equipping believers for over twenty-five years. Before moving to the Middle East, he and his wife, Vicki, ministered to internationals in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, USA. He uses his twenty years of overseas work, mentorship, teaching, and cross-cultural living to equip and train others to reach the unreached. David leads Equipping Servants International, a ministry that mentors individuals, trains churches and advises mission agencies. Their desire is to equip God’s people to do healthier candidate assessment, pre-field training, and on-field guidance for cross-cultural ministers both at home and abroad. For more information and to arrange for training or consulting, please refer to their website: www.esionline.org.