Engaging Chinese at First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga
Why did you start getting involved with serving internationals? My late husband and I started ministering to internationals even before our marriage because of the example of a couple at Park Street Church in Boston. Dr. Jim Shaw and his wife, Vera, faithfully hosted internationals weekly and kept in touch with them over the years. We saw God at work so when we started our marriage, we worked with Yale University to begin a host family program for international students, as well as a Sunday night supper and weekly Bible study. Wherever God has taken us, we have continued with this outreach.
What does your church do to minister to internationals?
Our church presently supports our First Friends ministry with funds and publicity on our web site, as well as encouragement with particular prayer needs. They give us space to have a bazaar with items the students can take for free and use while they are in town such as bedding, linens, and kitchen supplies. Recently, we have included items of furniture donated by church members and needed by students. We use the space for English classes and Bible studies.
How do you get volunteers involved?
Volunteers come to us mostly by word of mouth or coming to our monthly gatherings to see what we are up to. They are also attracted when internationals who have become believers join the church as members. That has not happened often, but is the best way to inspire more volunteers. We can always use more volunteers, but recently are trying to focus on doing less for the internationals so that they can take ownership of activities and have leadership roles. We are not very far along this road yet.
How has serving internationals impacted your church?
This ministry creates awareness in the church of the diversity in our population and helps to break down the distinction between our active overseas missions program and the local work that is right among us. It has also attracted more internationals to the church when they see they are not the only ones who look different or speak differently. People have become more involved with outreach locally, causing spiritual growth in ways that giving money to missions never has provided. So prison ministry is thriving, as well as work among the poor of our city. There are so many ways our ministry can inspire and cross-pollinate work in God's kingdom.