Engaging Internationals

Loving will almost always require inconvenience.

At least that’s what I’ve been learning lately.

Recently God began prodding my heart to reach out and love the internationals in our community through starting an ESL (English as a Second Language) ministry.  I fought it for a while because I knew what a labor of love this would be and already felt “at capacity.”  However, as I’ve reflected on the cross and the ultimate labor of love that I’ve eternally benefited from, I’ve been drawn to worship God by giving myself over to Him in whatever way He’s asking.

As I’ve begun to rely on the Holy Spirit to accomplish this work through me, I’ve been like a child riding in the backseat of a car, eyes wide and forehead pressed hard against the window.  He is in the driver’s seat, happily taking me where He wants me and I get to sit back and just enjoy the ride.

This “labor of love” (which, I repeat, has been all CHRIST IN ME) has been yielding such encouraging fruit that I want to implore YOU to do the same. The United States is home to approximately 41 million immigrants, so I’m sure somewhere in your city there are internationals.

Many have come here for the American Dream, many have come for education, many have come to flee harsh conditions in their countries…but have you ever considered the unique opportunity this presents for the gospel? Many countries that suppress the gospel are now showing up in our own backyard.  A question we should all be asking ourselves is,

How can I engage the internationals in my community?

The following suggestions have allowed me to intentionally meet internationals in the past year:

Change your place of business.  Are there any Hispanic grocery stores where you live?  What about Asian markets?  Why not go in and look around. Be a learner.  Do they carry a product that you’ve never seen before?  Ask questions.  And more questions.  Then go back frequently and develop a relationship with the employees.  Most internationals love to share their culture and history.

Be aware of your children’s classmates.  Pop in to visit your child for lunch at school.  Introduce yourself to his/her classmates and learn their names.  Invite the girls or boys from your child’s class over for a class party.  Most schools and communities are becoming diverse and being connected to your child’s school is a great bridge into relationships with people you normally wouldn’t connect with.

Go to your local community college and offer to tutor/ host a discussion group with international students.  This is a huge need that you can meet just by having English as your native language.  No, you do NOT need to be able to speak another language to do this.  This is a great way to build a relationship and learn a ton about a different culture.  You can check out what we’re doing here:  www.ifnova.org

Start an ESL (English as a Second Language) Ministry at your Church. Are you clueless about where to begin?  It’s okay; I was too.  The good news is NAMB and the National Literacy Missions Partnership work together to produce training material to get you started.  THIS LINK will get you in contact with someone from your state who will train you to reach the internationals in your city by teaching them English.

Pray and watch.  God wants us to ask Him to do a mighty work.  He can set up amazing encounters that we could never conjure up ourselves.  Pray for opportunities and for the boldness to seize the opportunities. Then worship Him when He shows up with answered prayer.

Flourish Instagram.002Reaching out to internationals in your city will be a labor of love that may at times be inconvenient. But take heart. HIS love will fuel you and you will find that giving yourself away to the Author of Love is not only deeply satisfying, but ultimately what you were born again for.

Is engaging with the internationals in your community on your radar? What would you add to the list?

Published February 6, 2015