The following is a guest post by Stacey Wood. Stacey is a student here at the seminary, but more importantly, she is a local church member in the area. She first found out about ministering to international peoples in her city at church, and she shares how she began doing that as a regular church member. It’s a great read, and a bit challenging! I encourage you to share her story.
I want to share part of my story on how I began to engage internationals and how you can too. When I started at seminary in the Fall of 2013, sadly the thought of engaging the nations in Raleigh was not on my radar. The Lord began to soften my heart and open my eyes to the fact that the nations are coming to us and I needed to do something about it. At church one Sunday someone announced the opportunity to get involved in ministering to Muslims. This sparked my interest, but I didn’t know how to get started. You may be thinking the same thing. For example, you see a Muslim lady in line at the store and want to strike up a conversation but don’t know where to start.
Let me tell you about three ways I engage internationals here in Raleigh: eyebrow threading shops, ethnic restaurants, and mosques/temples.
First, let’s talk about eyebrow threading shops. International women work in these type of shops all over the triangle area. I’ll be honest it is a little painful and I have shed a tear or two along the way; or maybe I just have a low tolerance of pain! This has been a way for me to build relationships with these ladies. Inviting your friends to go with you is a great way to support the workers while giving them business and earning trust. Also, evangelism is not meant to be done in isolation. Find a partner that you can minister with. This is something I have learned, because I started doing this alone and realized the importance of evangelizing with a partner. Through my personal time at one local shop in the mall here, I have connected with Muslim and Hindu women. The Muslim lady had me into her home to meet her family and fixed me delicious Pakistani food. I also got invited to Navratri, which is a Hindu festival, by my Hindu friend.
An ethnic restaurant is another practical way to engage and build relationships with internationals. I don’t know about you, but I love food; especially international food. There are Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Turkish, and many other types of restaurants all over the city of Raleigh. Begin to frequent a restaurant and get to know the owner and other workers. This is a great way to build relationships with them.
Mosques or Temples
Third, I want to talk with you about going to mosques and temples to engage internationals. There are mosques and temples all over my area, and I am sure they are in yours too. In taking this avenue it is important to learn more about their culture first before going. For example, women will need to cover their heads and not shake hands with the men. This is just one example of how their culture is different from ours and the importance of contextualization. How I began to go into a mosque was through a friend of mine who had previous connections there. Through his connection I was able to come in and begin to build relationships with the ladies and their families. Every Friday night for a few months now I have been going to a mosque to build relationships and bridge our conversations to talk about the gospel. I love getting to sit with the women over a meal and talking about their families, where they came from, their struggles, but most importantly about the gospel. In visiting mosques and temples take the humble approach in desiring to learn from them. Ask them questions about their religion to understand why they believe what they believe. Often they will ask what you believe, which opens doors to have gospel conversations.
You can do it too.
Through these experiences over the past year the Lord has given me a love for Muslim peoples. Thank you for taking the time to hear my heart and story. I hope this has shown you how, as a local church member, you can do this and that you will only learn by doing it. That is what happened to me and it has changed my life. I know that it can be intimidating to start a conversation with someone that is different than you, but trust the Spirit to speak through you. I want to encourage and challenge you my sisters and brothers to be bold and intentional in engaging your neighbors.
Photo By Nagarjun Kandukuru