By Shar Walker
“Living in a refugee camp feels hopeless. I was born in a refugee camp. I grew up in the refugee camp. I’m going to die in the refugee camp. That’s how I viewed my life.”
The ginger smell of the Nepalese tea was a comforting presence amidst the aroma of harsh realities of Samuel Rai’s life.
Samuel grew up in the largest refugee camp in Nepal for 15 years before his family began the long process to come to the United States. Six months after the family arrived in 2009, Samuel started living with an American family from his church.
During his two years with this family, he learned the nuances of western culture. He lived in one world as a refugee in Nepal, and now he was dubiously navigating the choppy waters of learning another cultural context.
“It’s tough being a refugee because you’re going through so many cultural changes,” Samuel says in between sips of tea.
But even in those challenging times, God was already shaping Samuel to reach the nations and to train others to do the same.
Reaching the nations in Clarkston
In July 2018, Samuel, his wife and their son moved to Clarkston, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, to partner with the Clarkston Send Relief Ministry Center and Clarkston International Bible Church (CIBC) to “glorify God by making disciples locally and globally.”
If you walked into the local grocery store or some of the apartment complexes in the area, you will see the shades of the nations. Clarkston has been used as a refugee resettlement location for years, and Samuel and his family have seen this as an opportunity to steward their experiences by laboring to advance God’s kingdom in an ethnically and culturally diverse context.
“God has brought the nations here in this state,” says Samuel. “If I were in Nepal, I wouldn’t be able to meet people from China and Africa, but here we can meet people from all over the world.
One of the reasons we believe God brought the nations here is so that we can learn cross-cultural ministry in our city.”
Samuel and his family are passionate about reaching the nations with the gospel and discipling them to love God, love others and to multiply their ministry where they live, work and play. Because he knows what it is like to be a refugee, he is specifically passionate about reaching refugees in Clarkston with the gospel. Not only does he want to have a global impact, but he wants to “be with the nations to reach the nations.” To live with the nations and to engage multiple nationalities, Samuel and his family chose to live in an apartment complex where the vast majority of residents are refugees.
“The biggest need for refugees is friends. They need someone to be with them,” he says.
Samuel tries to reflect the life and ministry of Jesus and the togetherness He had with those He served. He reclined, conversed and dined with the men and women He was reaching. He was with His neighbors.
To reach their neighbors, Samuel and CIBC host Tuesday night neighborhood cafés. They offer free tea and coffee, snacks and fun with international music playing in the background. The Lord has opened doors for them to build relationships, hear people’s stories and share the good news and hope of Jesus. In addition to the Tuesday night neighborhood cafés, they have movie nights, tutoring sessions and soccer games as other ways to build relationships with their neighbors.
Along with reaching their neighbors with the gospel, Samuel trains men and women to do cross-cultural ministry in their neighborhoods and abroad.
“When you think of international ministry, don’t simply think outside of the country. If you want to send someone outside of the country, send them to us first. Let us train and teach them, so that when they go overseas, they will not feel weird or awkward,” says Samuel.
With the download of a book or a quick Google search, we have countless information about various people groups, but Samuel wants to train men and women not just by intellectual under- standing but through experiential learning. He wants teams to learn more deeply how to reach the nations with the gospel while they are among the nations themselves. His training combines learning through formal teaching and experience.
Teams are invited to Samuel’s diverse neighborhood and get to experience what it is like to be among a cornucopia of nationalities. During these training sessions, you’ll also find Samuel and his wife teaching by doing. They have groups eat on the floor and enjoy fresh rice and curry with their hands. They train teams in major world religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, and teach how to share the gospel in these contexts.
“Cross-cultural ministry is a big word, and it’s messy—if you’re going to be a teacher of cross- culture, you have to experience cross-culture,” Samuel says.
Having been a refugee and having lived in the United States for over a decade, God has written Samuel’s story so that he is uniquely positioned to teach and train others how to communicate God’s Word effectively across cultures. From the refugee camp of Nepal to Clarkston, Samuel continues to use his gifts to advance God’s kingdom and train God’s people to endure in the good work of spreading the gospel.
Shar Walker writes for On Mission magazine.
Published June 18, 2019