Cross-Cultural Ministry in our Back Yard

8:10 am | Uncategorized

In recent years the need for cross-cultural ministry has been a growing topic of discussion among Evangelicals at all levels. Renewed focus on the gospel’s cross-cultural emphasis and Biblical mandate has caused many Evangelicals to emphasize the need for developing cross-cultural ministry. Everyone seems to recognize the need for it, but unfortunately other than recognition of the need, there rarely is any change in how we minister to others. This isn’t anyone’s fault really - the simple reality is that most people don’t really know what opportunities exist around them and how they can be involved in cross-cultural ministry without going far from home. Instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, I’d like to offer a real opportunity for cross-cultural ministry that is close to home and only requires a willing heart.

The opportunity I am talking about is volunteering with a chapter of International Students, Inc. at a University near you. It is an opportunity to engage the lives of students from a wide variety of different cultures and make a difference to them by helping them with their needs coming in another culture. Every year students from around the world leave their homes to attend Universities in the United States. Most of them are very eager to see the United States and experience the culture first hand. Many, however, are never able to break through the cultural barriers between themselves and the secularized individualistic culture. Some leave having never made a friend in the United States. This is where International Students, Inc. makes a difference. The friendship partner program connects international students with local families who are willing to open up their homes to an international student. It does not take an huge time commitment, but it can make a significant impact in the life of an international student.

The University of Texas at Dallas has a much higher proportion of international students than most Universities. Not very long ago, a speaker at one of our events was looking at pictures posted in the Student Union, and asked me if this was the international student hall. I was a bit bewildered at first, and then looking at the pictures I realized why he was asking that question. The campus is surprisingly diverse both racially and culturally, which only serves to underscore the kind of ministry opportunities that are available. Peoples from nations all over the face of the earth have come here and are eager to build friendships - it seems only right that we do so.

The opportunities for ministry are numerous, as the needs of international students are varied and diverse. Even a back yard bar-be-que is a welcome experience for an international student, so there are cross-cultural ministry opportunities literally in our own back yards :) Every Friday night the group meets on campus for dinner, worship, a guest speaker, and plenty of fellowship. The food is provided by many dedicated ISI volunteers and partner churches, and there is always a need for volunteers to help here. But the greatest opportunity is just to be able to take the time to develop a lasting friendship with an international student and show them the active love of Christ - a friendship with potentially eternal blessings.

An evangelist with a Texas swagger once made an insightful observation: “There’s no use bringing a lamp to Mexico that won’t shine at home.” In the Bible we are told that we need to attend to the needs of the foreigners who are in our land. Ministering to the needs of international students is mission work that doesn’t require years of seminary training, ordination, and raising of support. It is something that any believer can do that does make a real difference in people’s lives. For all the time and effort that ministries put into fundraising for short term mission trips, doesn’t it make sense to be involved with real mission opportunities that are close to home?

For some more information for volunteering with International Students, Inc., please visit their website to find opportunities near you. But, if you are in North Dallas, I hope you will accept my invitation to participate with the local chapter here at UT-Dallas :)



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Comment on July 14, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

Thank you for this post - an encouragement, as you said, to take care of the foreigner in our land and an opportunity to learn more about God’s diverse creation. Win-win situation.

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