Editor’s note: How can Chinese nationals bless the American church? By helping us reach internationals in our own communities! This interview was conducted with a Chinese man who works with Second Presbyterian Church to reach the broader international community in Memphis, Tennessee. Global missions today often looks very different than it did fifty years ago; the call of the church is no longer simply to send workers overseas, but to think creatively to work with international communities in our cities to help reach out with the gospel and serve in Christ’s name.
1. Why did you start getting involved in serving internationals?
I had been serving in Chinese ministry at Second Presbyterian Church since 1996. In 2005, as more and more Christians from other countries came and joined the church, the Chinese ministry was turned into a multinational, diverse group called International Christian Fellowship. While reaching out to Chinese was always my main focus, the Lord opened my eyes to see the needs of internationals, and most importantly helped me to understand the big picture of global mission. As a result, I decided to serve internationals in the American church context since then.
2. What does your church do to minister to internationals?
We spend lots of time and effort to build relationships with internationals. For example, we partner with InterVarsity to host a welcome dinner for new University of Memphis international students. We also invite internationals to become involved in our church activities, for example picnics and retreats, and even local community service projects. During the Thanksgiving holiday, our dear American Christians open their homes and invite the internationals to be part of this American tradition. At Christmas, we share the gospel with them and let them know why we celebrate Christmas. English class (ESL) is a platform we offer for internationals who want to learn English and for us to get to know them and build relationships. Our ICF Sunday school is like a big family – we study the Bible with internationals and pray for their specific needs.
ICF also has vital connections with local internationals groups, like the Sudanese refugees and those with a Muslim background. I’ll tell you Ba's story. Ba was a Muslim. He was involved in a car accident almost nine years ago and became disabled as a quadriplegic since then. One church family first heard the news and was moved by God to show love and to take care of him. They and other ICF helpers became good friends with Ba. Every year we celebrate his birthday at the rehab center or at the church. We regularly visit him and invite him to participate in ICF outdoor activities if possible. At the beginning of his sickness, brothers and sisters visited him and prayed for him. Gradually God changed Ba's heart. He started to read the Bible and scheduled a bus to take him to church to worship God on Sundays. By God's grace, Ba professed his faith and now has become a believer of Jesus. Praise the Lord!
Personally, I have had many opportunities to serve internationals with practical needs. The Lord has led me to visit them in the hospital and pray for health issues and family issues. I have given students rides to church and social activities. This often gives rise to sharing the gospel. We have also had a regular Friday night fellowship for students and visitors that included food, hospitality, music, and Bible study.
3. How do you get volunteers involved?
We invited people who are interested in international ministry to be part of outreach programs. The church volunteer ministry also plays an important role in recruiting volunteers and provides serving opportunities to support local international ministry partners.
4. How has serving internationals impacted your church?
When people from different counties and ethnic backgrounds worship together in my church, we get a picture of what it looks like in heaven. God provides us opportunities to connect local internationals and bring them to God's family. Some of them are already believers in their own countries. We have seen unity fostered among believers which encourages the congregation to actively involve global mission with Christians all around the world.