As GCMI's administrator and primary teacher for our English access ministry, I spend most of my time in tutoring sessions with people from across the spectrum of NYC's immigrant communities. My job is to serve them by mutually sharing about our lives (of which a large part is my faith as a Christian) through conversation and to help improve their English proficiency. In this way, our English ministry helps meet a need in the lives of our diaspora friends (to learn English better for greater advancement & job opportunities) while also to offer some ‘food for the soul,’ something they may not have anticipated receiving but find to be beneficial as well.
This is all made relatively simple thanks to our partnership with an already existing program called Let’s Start Talking, that utilizes the reading of scripture as a means of learning English. As you can imagine, in this way, there are lots of opportunities to have conversation about meaningful, spiritual matters. Of the conversations that take place with various students during our study time, some of the topics include grace, self-control, self-discipline, personal responsibility, spiritual ‘development’ and transformation and love for God & neighbor.
I marvel at the world impact a simple platform like LST can have when it takes place in a global city like NYC. These conversations take place with people of all walks of life, and every national, religious and ethnic background. The tutoring experience brings me into contact with individuals from all over the world and leads to so many meaningful learning experiences for me, as a missionary, while allowing me to share my faith in Jesus with those who wouldn't otherwise hear the gospel message. Much of the time, I am surprised by the kinds of conversations and moments of opportunity that can occur when we allow conversation to flow.
And these ‘moments of opportunity’ are exactly what we're looking for when we enter into work among migrant groups in global cities. They arise and offer us the chance to make a connection. My experience tells me that if we are observant, culturally attentive and sincere, they offer us a chance to get a ‘foot in the door’ to allow the gospel a greater audience and further opportunities for conversation and dialogue. More specifically, in our case, the hope is that after initial English/Bible classes with me or a visiting short-term LST teacher, that, through meaningful conversation, students would then become interested in continuing a Bible study, allowing them to explore further the questions they have regarding who God is and how he relates to them in a deeper way. In fact, our hope at GCMI is that this interest will lead them to gather others in their social network, opening the door for the planting of new churches.
These opportunities to connect cross-culturally as a missionary present themselves frequently, though there is always a large ‘margin of error’ and the risk of the moment passing if we're not attentive to the opportunity when it comes. While it is important to remember that people are people, and that we often say the wrong thing or that the initial interest may not there, we must also remember that God is with us when we go out in mission to love our neighbor. Missions, in whatever form it takes, always requires a large amount of patience, perseverance and no small degree of divine help. But if we are persistent and place our confidence in what God can do through us, neither our words, energies nor our passion will come back empty handed. So I want to end by asking you this: who will you step out to in missions today?