Last week I posted The Shocking Truth about Short-Term Missions. I highlighted a few things to consider changing about our approach. If one of our objectives is to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the nations, then we should pay attention to all the internationals that are right here in our communities.
A USA Today article from November 2012 states that 764,495 international students were in the United States in 2011. China sent 194,024 students in 2011. Saudi Arabia jumped by 50% from the previous year to 34,139.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 there were 24.4 million foreign-born persons in the U.S labor force.
Since 2000, the U.S. has admitted over 500,000 refugees. (Immigration Policy Center)
Add those numbers together, and about one out of every 12 persons living in the United States in 2011 was foreign-born.
Why do we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year “going” on mission to the over the other side of the world when we have millions of people from all around the world right here in our neighborhoods?
If we have the same mindset here at home that we have when we go on a short-term mission trip, we will engage foreign-born people living in the United States will the same zeal and focus.
Ways to engage foreign-born people living in the United States:
- ESL Many come to this country without knowing much English. Spouses of foreign-born workers are a good example of those looking for a way to learn English and about the culture. Seek out churches and organizations that offer ESL to the community. You do not need to know the other person’s language to teach ESL. You simply need to know English! Danielle taught ESL for a few years and made many wonderful friendships, including the three women in the picture above.
- Befriend internationals in your neighborhood. Depending on where you live, you might have internationals living all around you. Do you know them? Have you invited them into your home? Most foreigners will never enter an American’s home during their time in the U.S. simply because they were not invited. Experiencing each other’s favorite meals is a great way to get acquainted.
- Refugee support. I wrote a blog – I Had a God-Ordained Pedicure a few weeks ago about the Bhutanese refugees here in Austin, Texas. Refugees experience even more culture shock because they have so many extra unknowns. All you need is compassion to engage this group of foreign-born people living in our communities.
- University International Student programs. An example is university programs that arrange for American families to “adopt” an international student. Danielle and I are part of a program through Navigators International Student Ministry that match families with Chinese business students.
Just like relationships with any American neighbor, co-worker, or acquaintance begin with inviting internationals into your life. Some might be a part of your life for a short time. Others might become life-long friends.
Either way, you do not need to always go to the other side of the world to share your faith in Jesus Christ with someone from another country or culture.
Do we have any excuse to not “Go then and make disciples of all nations…?”
Do you have some other suggestions about how to engage internationals living here in the U.S?