Finding The Nations In Cleveland

'By Douglas Graves

Semester Missionary

First Baptist Church Powell, TN

This week I experienced a bit of a transition from one task to another. It is not so much of a transition from one task to another as it is a shift in focus. Throughout the summer and leading up to September 9 my main focus was on launching Serve Church Euclid. Yesterday Serve Church had its third official service. There is still much growing that will take place at Serve Church, and my involvement there is far from finished. However, last week I attended a seminar at the International Mission Board's International Learning Center to learn the art of ethnography. I did not think that I would have much to talk about following last week, but I came away with more to say than I would have imagined!

I was greatly humbled at the experience of being at the International Learning Center. Before last week I had no idea this place even existed. The ILC is where the IMB sends missionaries who are training for the field. Missionaries and their families who are preparing to leave the country for the mission field are sent there for several weeks leading up to their departure to receive training and spiritual encouragement. It was an incredible feeling to be among some of the bravest Christians around. People who in a few short weeks will be leaving their families and abandoning all sorts of physical wealth to go become doctors for the spiritually ill around the world. I was reminded of the sacrifices these individuals make to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In the cafeteria hangs flags representing countries in which IMB missionaries are serving. It is a dedication and reminder of those on the field teaching the Gospel of Christ. After examining the flags for a few minutes one may realize that there are a handful of plain grey flags hanging down. I learned that these flags are hung representing countries which are closed to the Gospel and in which it is illegal to preach the Gospel. It is so dangerous for missionaries to be in these countries that they do not even hang the nation's actual flags. That was a most humbling and challenging realization.

It was in this environment centered around ministering to the peoples of the world that I learned of the peoples of our cities. There are great resources being spent on sending missionaries to countries all around the world to preach the Gospel, yet people from all over the world live among us in our own neighborhoods and communities. There are even families and people living in our neighborhoods who come from those grey flagged countries, and other countries which are closed to the Gospel. They live among us now and we have the opportunity to tell them about the Gospel, many of them will hear it for the first time! Throughout this seminar it was easy to get lost in the process of studying these people and locating them on a map. We learned how to use resources available on the Internet that can lead us to groups of immigrants and families from all different cultures. We learned how to effectively take this data and enter into spread sheets and build maps. I don't want to get to involved in explaining the process, because that is of little importance as far as missions is concerned. This is only a step in reaching the peoples of our cities. But through gathering data we are able to supply pastors and churches with information about the peoples in their area. Our vision is that these facts will filter down to the individuals that fill our churches and that this information will impact them in such a way that they will be burdened with the Great Commission to take the Gospel to every people. And the best part is that we do not have to spend eight weeks at the ILC or leave our families or friends. We can reach the entire world from our own cities.

The goal of the IMB is to map out the top 100 MSAs (Metro Statistical Area) in the United States. This search goes beyond mapping out people from their individual countries, but identifying them with a people group, a language, and a specific culture. We want to reach people in the most personal way possible, and we want to equip the body to do the same. Over the next several months you will be hearing stories about our search for the people groups in Cleveland. I am excited about reaching these people and connecting with them to learn more about them and their cultures so that we may be able to effectively show them the love of Christ and how it can change their lives forever.

Pray for Cleveland and all those who will be here working on this task. Pray for wisdom and understanding when researching. Pray that God would direct us to churches and organizations that we will be able to connect with and develop strong relationships with. Pray for open doors in communication and understanding one another; we will be crossing many cultural and language barriers. Continue to pray for Serve Church as well. Pray for growth and development. Pray that the congregation would continue to be encouraged and that we would be given boldness to share the Gospel with the community of Euclid and the city of Cleveland. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouraging words! 

To God be the glory!

Date Created: 10/2/2012 1:25:01 PM

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