Embracing the Stranger Next Door

It was estimated that last year over 50 million people were displaced from their homes, with around 19.5 million forced to live as refugees. These people have been driven from their homes by war, violence, persecution, and disasters.  They have lost their culture, friends, security, sense of community, and often their dignity.

These are people with names, dreams, and hopes. These are people just like you and me. These are people loved by God. And they are coming to our communities.  Every year refugees, students, and other internationals are coming to our communities.  They are becoming our neighbors.  God is bringing the nations to us, and the church has been called to take the Gospel to all peoples.

How can we embrace the nations and reach out to those from other cultures that God is bringing to our communities?

  • Smile and welcome them.  Grace and kindness work in any culture.
  • Open your eyes to those that God has brought to your community.  Take time to see the server at the restaurant, the cashier at the convenience store, the nurse at the hospital, the new person in your office, or the neighbor across the street who may look, dress, and speak a little different from you.
  • Consider adopting a refugee family through your small group or church family.  The Kentucky Baptist Convention Missions Mobilization Team can help you connect to families through partnering ministries.
  • Start a conversation.  It can be as simple as asking someone their name and where they are from.  Ask them about their family or homeland.  Inquire about religious beliefs in their country.
  • Be a good listener.  Seek to be a learner.  People tend to listen to others who really listen to them.
  • Pursue genuine friendship.  Many internationals would love a real friend in a new land.  You are called to share with folks in a relationship, not sell the Gospel.
  • Be an ambassador for Christ.  Let them see Christ in you.  A good ambassador knows when to talk and when to listen.
  • Practice hospitality.  Share your phone number if they need a friend’s help or guidance. Invite them over for tea or coffee.  Drive them to the doctor or help them at a grocery store.  Have them over for a meal at your home.
  • Pray for them.
  • Share your faith story.  Tell them what your life was like before Christ, how you came to Christ, and what Jesus means to your life now.  Try to work on being able to share this in two to four minutes.  Avoid church words like lost or saved, as unbelievers often do not understand the internal language of Christians.
  • Remember the goal is not to win debates, but to passionately share your faith.  Stand strong on what you believe in a loving manner.
  • Finally, be ready for the day when your new friend wants to know how they can have a relationship with God through Christ.  Be prepared to share in everyday language what sin is, who Jesus is, and what the Gospel is.

 “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).

How to Uniquely Involve the Uninvolved

Have you ever felt that only a small number of church members were doing the majority of the work?  It’s pretty common in churches, at least the ones I’ve been a part of, for us to depend upon the same few individuals to teach Sunday School, sing on the praise team, lead the men’s ministry, serve as deacons and coordinate the discipleship ministry.  When this happens, we are observing what is called the 80-20 rule or Pareto principle.

The Pareto principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian mathematician and economist,  states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the inputs or causes.  What if we’re observing the 80-20 rule in our churches because we don’t provide opportunities for the uninvolved 80% to be involved in ministry that utilizes their gifting, skills and experience?  Ephesians 4 teaches that believers have been gifted and should be equipped for the work of the ministry.  Ephesians 2 reminds us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  So, what if we’re not seeing more believers involved in ministry and missions because we’ve limited the ministry opportunities made available to them?

An example of this was recently seen when one of the international missionaries with whom we partner needed someone to come alongside them to help with the artificial insemination of dairy cattle on a Muslim island where a plaque had killed most all of the cattle population.   Several Kentucky farmers with the experience and knowledge stepped up to meet the need, and provided a Christian witness too! These farmers may not have volunteered to lead a VBS class or sing in the choir, but God had gifted them uniquely for “such a time as this”.

There are many unique missions opportunities that allow believers to find joy and fulfillment in serving because they’re using the talents and gifts God has equipped them with.  Christ followers want and need to serve – but not all are given the chance if ministry opportunities ONLY exist within a very narrow window of mission experiences.

Here are just a few of the many ways that Christ followers can use their passion, skills, talents and experience to be uniquely on mission.

  1. Athletes are needed to help with sports camps (football, basketball, archery, etc). 
  2. Help is needed with literacy classes or after school tutoring
  3. Farmers are needed to help with artificial insemination of cattle & crop production
  4. Business and leadership classes for professionals in other countries
  5. Cooking and food service help is needed in disaster relief work
  6. Business owners can help with the development of micro-businesses that provide income for indigenous church planters and missionaries
  7. Volunteers can learn how to install and repair wells that provide remote villages with fresh water
  8. Those with construction experience are needed to provide ramps or make repairs for the handicapped and elderly
  9. Plumbers and electricians have skills that can be utilized internationally or here at home as a witness
  10. Skilled chainsaw and heavy equipment operators are needed in disaster relief work
  11. Car mechanics could provide assistance to single mothers and the elderly
  12. Medical professionals can serve through clinics in remote villages or in areas of poverty here in the U.S.
  13. Small motor repair courses can be used as a ministry in many cities throughout the world
  14. Woodworking, leather or metal work may provide income for church planters in many places if they are trained and provided start-up resources
  15. Retirees have years of experience to offer and should prayerfully consider using their unique skills and gifts for an extended period of time
  16. Students should consider giving a month or a summer to serve in a mission opportunity related to their major or degree program

Every skill or talent can be used for God’s honor if we give it to Him through missions opportunities.  The next time you observe the Pareto principle happening in your church, let me challenge you to consider how a unique missions opportunity would involve that unengaged believer to use his passion, gifts and talents.

Kentucky Missionaries Impacting their Community for Christ

Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, on the southern edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest and the northern end of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, is scenic McCreary County, Kentucky, a county with numerous gorges, waterfalls, rock shelters, and natural stone arches.

Kentucky missionaries Grant & Gina Hasty serve in this beautiful area.  Grant is the founding pastor of Crossroads Community Baptist Church and, along with wife Gina, they direct a “free” restaurant called The Lord’s Café.

Crossroads CBC began when a small group of individuals met in the Hasty’s living room on September 5, 2010 for Bible study.  From this small group, the church was birthed.  Today they meet at the former “Blue Heron Restaurant” building, where they gather on Sunday mornings for coffee, Bible study, and worship, and on Wednesday evenings for Bible study and dinner.

Although rich in beauty, McCreary County is poor economically, and poor spiritually.  Considered by some statistics to be the poorest county in Kentucky and in the United States, McCreary County has a 41% poverty rate, which is more than double the 15.5% national poverty rate.  23.8% of the people affiliate with a religion, while only 5% are reported as actual attenders.

Grant & Gina, along with new self-funded staff members Josh & Bobbi Chesser, are helping to make a difference in the physical and spiritual lives of families in this area.  Less than a year after the church was planted, The Lord’s Café was begun, and the first lunch was served on June 6, 2011.  Each year over 17,000 free hot lunches are served, every “customer” is prayed with, and the gospel is continually spoken and lived out.  On Wednesday of each week they also have a Grocery Giveaway Day, with over 100 families receiving free groceries.

In May 2017, Crossroads secured 13 acres of land to develop into a new area of ministry called The Light Community.  Their God-sized vision is to build 20 tiny homes that will be a safe-haven for individuals and small families to regain traction in life.  These may include individuals that have gone through rehab and need a place to get traction, families that need a safe home environment, or families that have experienced burn-out.

The goal for The Light Community is to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ, and to not be a “shelter” but a place to live and to care for1`.  The desire is for the families to work, either on the farm or to find jobs where they can make a living for themselves.  The farm currently has horses, goats, a mini-pony, a mini-donkey, and chickens.  They hope to have a crafting center, a blacksmith shop, and other items as resale for artisans.

A chapel, made from reclaimed lumber, has been erected on the property and, when finished, will be used for a place of serenity and prayer, and small group Bible studies.

What can I do?

Life on mission at Crossroads depends on volunteers and mission teams.  Over the past seven and a half years, God has allowed this ministry to impact lives in the area.  They have on-going ministries throughout the year, and are seeking individuals, churches, or businesses to come alongside.  Whatever gift, skill, or talent you have, more than likely Crossroads has a place for you to serve.  For more information to http://www.crossroadscommunitybc.org/.