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NIGERIA: Churches Claim Jesus as Path to Prosperity

Source: Mission Network News, October 4, 2018

A recent article by [German new source] Deutsche Welle (DW) said megachurches in Nigeria are making money off believers and exploiting their faith by doing so.

“Within the Christian community, the Pentecostal denomination has really gotten a lot of traction… in some cases, that’s a great thing, and in other cases, some of their doctrines that are being taught… particularly about prosperity, is quite honestly, hindering the Church,” World Mission’s Greg Kelley says.

An article by [Nigerian news source] Punch in July reported that out of the 193.3 million people in the country, 152 million live off less than $2 a day. As people have become desperate to rise out of poverty, many have looked to churches and seen their ticket to prosperity.

Kelley says he believes God does bless his people financially and in every area of their lives, but “when the emphasis is upon materialism, we have a real problem, and unfortunately, that’s what’s going on in a segment within the Church in Nigeria. This emphasis on wealth and materialism is really debilitating the ability of the Church to gain the kind of momentum it needs and the kind of depth it needs.”

Instead of putting the focus on worshiping Jesus, Kelley says, the focus of these churches has turned to how a person can get wealthy. This shift in focus is not only affecting believers and the Church, but it’s tainting opportunities for ministry to others, specifically to Muslims.

» Read more.

» Listen to Conrad Mbewe: Combating Prosperity Teaching in Africa (The Missions Podcast, ABWE International). Jump to the 10-minute mark to hear the conversation about Africa. From The Africa Report, see also Spiritual Awakenings (how young, hip, and educated Africans are finding new meaning in the teachings of traditional religions).

WORLD: Do You Know the Basics of Animism?

Source: International Mission Board, September 21, 2018

Animists believe all life is spirit as opposed to matter. Humans have souls, as do animals, insects, plants, bodies of water, rocks, mountains, weather systems, and so on. All are both somewhat good and somewhat evil, but the relevant characteristic is power, not morality.

Souls—also referred to as spirits—are living beings with volition, moods, and the capacity to help or wreak havoc as they are wooed or offended. Spirits that do not inhabit a living being may exist in the form of a god, a personal force, or a ghost.

Animists believe earthly events have spiritual causes. Spirits influence the success or disaster of embodied human beings. Many spirits are easily offended and vindictive. Others feel threatened and defend themselves by harming humans. Upset spirits knock life off balance, causing trouble ranging from headaches to hurricanes.

For this reason, humans show respect to the spirits through ritual, custom, and offerings. Placating spirits restores balance and yields blessing. If cultivated, spirits can be powerful allies against malevolent beings.

It is true that animistic orientation is ancient—the oldest way of seeing the world since Adam’s walk with God. It has held the human imagination through time and remains fresh, renewing itself not only in isolated tribes but also among neopagan youth in the West.

» Full story includes a video, examples, and a biblical response. Looks like IMB is doing a whole series on world religions.

WORLD: Addressing Secularization

Source: Lausanne Global Initiative, September 2018

The Lausanne Global Secularization Initiative addresses the increasing secularization of society around the world, a trend closely tied to the globalization of culture, especially among urban youth.

The emerging Global Youth Culture, connected by consumerism, social media, and the entertainment industry, forms the largest global culture ever to exist. It spans the globe, embracing the same values, listening to the same music, subscribing to the same YouTube channels, and following the same influencers on social media.

This global culture is largely influenced by one predominant worldview—secular humanism—which affirms that God is irrelevant and man is at the center. In this relativistic culture, we are god and consumerism is our religion. This is a generation that does not look to the Church for answers but believes it to be a dead and empty tradition of the past. Either there is no God or, if he exists, he doesn’t interfere with our lives.

The Global Youth Culture presents a unique challenge to missions worldwide because of the large cultural gap that exists between the Church and secularized youth in society. This demographic is not limited to post-Christian regions like Europe or the USA. It is impacting cultures in urban centers of every region of the world, including the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

» Read more.

» Of course some secularizing societies are also experiencing renewal through immigration. See The Unexpected Trend Reviving Canadian Christianity (The Gospel Coalition).

PAKISTAN: World Awaits Asia Bibi Verdict

Sources: Various

This week Supreme Court judges in Pakistan delayed ruling on the final appeal of Asia Bibi who has been on the country’s death row since 2009 on charges of blasphemy. The justices also warned media about commenting on or discussing the case until their detailed verdict is released, though they set no date for its release.

See an article from Mission Network News, as well as two sources it cites, a story from Pakistan source DAWN News and a description of how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to persecute Christians (Forgotten Missionaries International).

Readers may also be interested in an update on another high-profile religious liberty case we’ve followed. World Watch Monitor reports that Andrew Brunson’s legal appeal has been sent to Turkey’s highest court.

Thanks for continuing to pray for these Christians and those who persecute them as well as their countries and communities. Don’t forget, it’s almost that time of year again: International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is Sunday, November 4. Voice of the Martyrs is distributing an IDOP video highlighting Christians in Pakistan. See below.

NORTH KOREA: Five Surprising Facts

Source: Open Doors, October 8, 2018

North Korea is famously a difficult place for Christians to live and worship openly. The country has been No. 1 on Open Doors’ World Watch List—the annual list of the places in the world where it’s hardest to follow Jesus—for more than a decade. Tens of thousands of Christians are imprisoned or under arrest for their faith. And yet, that’s not the full story. Christianity and North Korea have a long relationship! So, here are five surprising facts about Christianity in North Korea and how this tightly controlled Communist nation has been impacted by the Christian faith.

» Read more or share this article with your friends.

Out of the Seats and into the Streets | Practical Mobilization

Out of the Seats and into the Streets An interview with mobilizer Jeannie Marie about her brand-new book

By Shane Bennett

My friend and colleague Jeannie Marie knocked it out of the park with her wise, warm, and winsome book, Across the Street and Around the World: Following Jesus to the Nations in Your Neighborhood… and Beyond. With engaging stories and practical insight, she points the way for normal people to make extraordinary contributions to God’s kingdom.

I am loving this book and expect it to become a significant tool in the mobilization toolbox. Jeannie graciously answered some questions for us about the book and her life and offered some suggestions for us as mobilizers. Read her thoughts, then grab a copy of her book.

Q: Who do you hope will read Across the Street and Around the World?
  • Ordinary believers who know they want to make a difference in the world, but just don’t know where to start.
  • Small groups who want to practice reaching out to internationals right in their city and need practical steps to know how to do it well.
  • Teams going overseas on short-term trips who need a good, comprehensive training tool that lays it all out in one place.
  • Pastors who hope to inspire their people to fall in love with God’s heart for the nations and need a simple resource anyone could read.
  • Jesus-following college students, millennials, and retirees trying to figure out if God could send them to the ends of the earth.
Q: What do you hope to see Across the Street and Around the World accomplish?

I’d like to do for discipleship and global church-planting conversations what When Helping Hurts did for poverty alleviation. That is, to help regular people with passion not mess it up too much—and do it well— because now they get the whole picture. And to see ordinary people with a global spark know how to light it up by taking a first step, then keep it going.

I’d love to see people trying things they’ve never tried before, right where they live, like having a refugee family over for dinner. And then a few of those people finding themselves on the other side of the world, speaking Urdu, eating chicken liver on a stick, talking to a rickshaw driver about Jesus.

And the visionary part of me? I imagine that Revelations 5:9 scene with all the peoples from every nation, tribe, and language worshipping the Lamb. I’d like to rub shoulders with the Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists who came to faith in Jesus Christ because somebody picked up this book and did it.

Q: What is your favorite part of the book?

I smile to myself when I re-read chapter ten. I like stories about people changing. I remember a short trip to Morocco in which I was wrapped in a colorful sheet they call a mulafa in the desert, returning to the white-picket fence suburbs to wrestle with such different worlds, then ended up living with my family in a bright green house in the middle of ten million Muslims in India. That was fun to write.

Q: What was most challenging thing to write about in this book?

How to inspire people to identify and surrender their cultural expectations about things like prayer, church, and even their own religious labels so they can step into someone else’s space with just Jesus on their arm and not a lot of other expectations. It’s tough to describe such a radical theological shift gently without offending traditions people hold dear—and at the same time not use a lot of big, theological words that lose people’s interest.

Q: In your opinion, what five things that will make the biggest difference in reaching the world?
  1. People who spend so much time with Jesus, they know his voice and do what he says.
  2. People who pray. For real. For hours, because they enjoy it and see God doing things.
  3. People who take thousands of small steps in an intentional direction towards the pain, the poverty, and the people with least access to Jesus.
  4. People who plant themselves in strategic places surrounded by millions who don’t have access to Jesus. They learn the language, cry the tears, and bleed the blood, until they can train up local people to reach their own.
  5. People who figure out strategies such as how to foster movements in urban poor cities, how to mine the potential of social media and cell phones, and how to adapt our good news messages to each new generation.
Q: Have you ever seen a mobilizer be really annoying? How can we avoid that?

Mobilizers who only talk about their specific group, trip, or organization without customizing the message (or even totally dropping it) based on who is in front of them feel stale to me. We could listen to people first and find out their passions, interests, and experience. Then, if it makes sense, connect them to a story we could imagine them living.

Here’s a fun way to make the conversation all about them. We can ask them to take this quick quiz on their phone: What Kind of Global Goer Are You? Then, if they’re a Bleeding Heart, a Strategic Thinker or an Adventurous Traveler (see chapter ten!) we can tailor our message and invitation to fit the way they’re wired.

Q: Any tips for getting our pastors to read Across the Street and Around the World?

Put a copy of the book in their hands and tell them it will get their people out of the church seats and into the streets, right where they live. Tell them it’ll guide ordinary believers to take a few first steps, starting soon and starting small right where they live.

As their people start putting a face that’s a friend on the big word “nations,” they’ll start going into the city, and a few will venture across the sea. The people they shepherd will grow closer to Jesus in the process—and influence the world.

You can point out the small group plan at the back of the book and all the useful tools at AcrosstheStreetandAroundtheWorld.com, like sermon-series plans and an all-church global challenge where the whole church eats beans and rice for a week while they send a team to love on refugees.

Q: What’s the next book coming from the Jeannie Marie keyboard?

This two-and-a-half-year-old baby just got born yesterday, and you’re already asking about the next one?! Actually, I live so far in the future inside of my head that book two and three are already written in my mind.

Dress for Heaven shows how to practically live out the way heaven is meant to be, where God is in charge right here on earth, in different spheres of our life: career, family, marriage, purpose, play, and such. If you write and tell me what you think about book number one, I’ll tell you about book number three!

Q: Toward the end of the book, you lay bare the American dream. Talk about your journey of surrender.

While reading the audiobook in the studio, I kept stopping the sound engineer during chapter eleven. I could only read a line at a time in parts because I would start choking up with tears because I lived it. Like when my rich uncle died at a ripe old age and God advanced some of my parents’ treasure in heaven ahead of time through him after they’d followed Jesus for fifty years around the globe. When I finally gave up my beloved dining room table to move overseas. And when God changed the address of people I knew living in foreign countries and gave them an address in heaven.

Surrendering the American dream gets real and personal. A good mobilizer lives it out so we help other people get a feel for the story they might get to live, too.

A Word from Shane

I almost never use this Practical Mobilization column to sell stuff, but I’m asking you to buy this book. If our tribe helps the book go big in its launch week, we’ll contribute to its broader success, help build momentum, and encourage both Jeannie and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, to produce and distribute more good resources like this. Thanks.

BOOK: Seven Thorny Questions for Church Mission Leaders

Source: InterVarsity Press

Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy, by Sharon R. Hoover. IVP Praxis, 2018. 193 pages.

Should we prioritize evangelism or works of service? Local ministries or global missions? What’s more important: giving our money or giving our time? Crisis response or building sustainable, long-term ministries? And what do we make of short-term missions? Will we focus more on discipling those we serve or developing those doing the serving? What’s our attitude toward risk—will we embrace it or avoid it?

God has given our people a wide variety of gifts and passions, but how will we steward them? No church can do it all. In a book that just came out this week, church mission leader Sharon Hoover takes on seven thorny questions that often divide Christians and churches and have probably led to gridlock at some point in your church. She provides tools and examples to help you find your place on each spectrum and understand the values and perspectives of those who might be on the other side. The author’s succinct summations of the shifting and competing trends that have led to some of these tensions are particularly helpful.

» Learn more or pick up the paperback from Amazon (or elsewhere) for US$13.00, and slightly less for the Kindle edition. See also the publisher’s website.

E-BOOK: Sharing the Gospel with Asian Atheists

Source: Brigada Today item, September 16, 2018

You’ve no doubt been following the crackdown on religion in China. In the face of all this persecution, Chinese Christians are becoming all the more bold in their willingness to speak out about Christ, while at the same time clarifying that they have no desire to overthrow the government. In fact, they are testifying that Christians pray for their leaders and try to be good citizens. Either way, in times like these, some find it easier to bring up issues of faith with their Asian friends. But how do we begin with an Asian friend who has atheistic world view? Our good friends at 10/40 Connections [Chad and Leslie Segraves] have made it easier for all of us by putting together this free e-book, about 50 pages long.

» Download Saving Face and All the Rest: Share the Gospel with Asian Atheists (PDF).

MOBILE APP: 10/10 Prayer and Fasting

Source: 10/10 Prayer and Fasting

A partnership of Christians desiring to see God draw Muslims to himself has an audacious goal: mobilize believers who will join together to pray 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for ten years, asking God for at least ten percent of the Muslim world to be saved by 2028.

What do you think? You in?

Earlier this year they released a mobile prayer app—10/10 Prayer and Fasting—which, if you turn on notifications, will send you a short prayer request each day and remind you to pray. Registration required.

» Learn more or get the app (Google Play). Thanks to Encountering the World of Islam for reminding us of this one.

EVENT: Hindu World Prayer Focus

Source: World Christian

The second annual Hindu World Prayer Focus, coinciding with the Hindu Festival of Lights (Diwali), is scheduled to take place October 28 to November 11. Copies of a 32-page booklet are being distributed globally and available in the US from WorldChristian.com for US$3 (with discounts for multiple copies). This is a great chance to help your church or group learn about and pray for the world’s more than one billion Hindus.

» To learn more, visit the international website.

» Also see Modeling Prayer for Hindu Background Believers (IMB).

EVENTS: Coming up in October

Source: Missions Catalyst Events Calendar

October 1 to February 10, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (online).

October 2 to December 20, Serving Others Through Listening Well (online). Part of Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills. Provided by International Training Partners.

October 3-5, The Patronage Symposium (Beirut, Lebanon). Exploring the gospel in patron-client contexts.

October 4, Welcoming the Stranger (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

October 5, Quarterly Update (online). A survey of trends affecting the unreached. From Justin Long.

October 12-14, EMS National Conference (Dallas, TX, USA). From the Evangelical Missiological Society.

October 17-18, Mission Agency Consultation (Albuquerque, NM, USA). Provided by Sixteen:Fifteen.

October 18, Stewarding the Purpose Inside Your People (online). Webinar from Missio Nexus.

October 11-12, Support Raising Bootcamp (Rogers, AR, USA). Provided by Support Raising Solutions.

October 18-20, B4T Expo (Kansas City, MO, USA). Business for transformation. Sponsored by OPEN USA (formerly NexusB4T).

October 19-20, Missions Fest Seattle (Bellevue, WA, USA). Free annual community missions event.

October 19-20, MissionFest Toronto (Milton, ON, Canada). Free annual community missions event.

October 19-20, Check-IT-Out Fall Conference (Charlotte, NC, USA). For IT and software professionals and students on technology in missions/translation.

October 21-26, ABIDE (Joplin, MO, USA). Debriefing and reentry help for returning missionaries.

October 22 to November 17, COMPASS Prefield Training (Palmer Lake, CO, USA). Provided by Missionary Training International multiple times a year.

October 27, Heart for Muslims conference (New York, NY, USA).

October 28 to November 11, 15 Days of Prayer for the Hindu World (global).

October 30 to November 27, Using Mobile Phones in Missions (online). Mentored course to leverage ministry outreach using phones. Provided by Mission Media U.

» View the complete calendar. Please let us know about mistakes or omissions. For more details, contact the event organizers.

IRAN: Former Taliban Executioner Finds Peace

Source: Mission Network News, September 12, 2018

Nazanin Baghestani, the program response supervisor for Mohabat TV, a ministry of Heart4Iran, shares how one night their team received a notable call. The man on the other end of the line wanted more information about Jesus. He told them he used to execute people as a member of the Taliban. He was restless and couldn’t sleep. He would wake with nightmares and couldn’t breathe.

“It took awhile for him to actually realize that Jesus could help him,” Baghestani explains. “This was hard for him to understand. So while we’d talked with him [and] counseled him [he needed more time]. And eventually one night, after we’d prayed and talked with him and read the Word, he slept. And that night he said ‘that was the first night I could sleep in peace.’ And so he found himself actually trying to forgive himself.”

The former Taliban member was excited and continued talking with the counselors and team members at Mohabat TV. Now Baghestani says he is a changed person. Thanks to Jesus’ redemptive work, this man is experiencing freedom in Christ and peace from his sins.

The story is incredible, but it is not the only one.

» Read more.

» See also a report from another broadcast ministry, SAT-7, telling the story of a transformed man, now a pastor, whom God has used to create their first discipleship series for Tajik viewers. (I like the part about the Korean Tae Kwando instructor!)

CHINA: Praying for the Uyghurs

Source: Frontiers USA, September 10, 2018

In August 2016, Xinjiang’s newly-appointed Communist party secretary began instituting hardline policies and passing regulations to strip Uyghurs of even the most basic religious rights and cultural freedoms. Long beards and face veils are now prohibited. Even the act of praying raises suspicion.

In recent crackdowns, as many as one million Uyghurs have been detained. They’re sent to mass internment camps—heavily guarded centers with fortified doors and barbed wire. Inside the internment camps, detainees must withstand unhealthy living conditions, poor nutrition, violence, and torture.

The Communist regime denies the existence of internment camps. Officials insist they’re political education centers, established to fight against religious extremism and terrorism.

Critics, however, say the camps reflect a state policy of cultural genocide and an attempt to erase the cultural identity of 12-15 million Uyghurs.

We praise God for the hundreds of Uyghurs who—in the midst of a living hell—have found eternal hope in Jesus Christ and have placed their faith in him. These faithful believers are suffering.

Please join us in praying for the Uyghurs.

» Read full story. Readers might also appreciate Bob Blincoe’s short but stirring article about what our Spanish-speaking friends call los pueblos abandonados, the abandoned (or unreached) peoples.

» Justin Long’s recent weekly roundups include many links to informative stories about events in China. Take a look.

INDIA: Hindu Extremists Accelerate Clampdown on Christians in Uttar Pradesh

Source: Morning Star News, September 17, 2018

Under the influence of Hindu extremists, police and media campaigns against Christians in Uttar Pradesh state, India has mushroomed since one such attack sent a pastor into hiding last month, sources said.

After false media reports of large-scale, fraudulent conversions of Hindus by pastor Durga Prasad Yadav in Jaunpur District went viral in July, followed by false police charges, there have been multiple area reports of disrupted worship meetings, pastors, and evangelists arrested, and Christian leaders fleeing their homes to avoid arrest.

At least 12 pastors have gone into hiding since [September 13]. Pastor Yadav also remains in hiding, but attendance at his church’s worship services has nearly doubled since Hindu extremists began targeting him and others using state and media machinery.

» Read full story.

EAST ASIA: A Short History of Sharing the Gospel through Medical Work

Source: OMF Billions, September 6, 2018

In the 1970s David, a former Malay soldier with leprosy, received care from an OMF nurse in Thailand [and later said,] “when Minka put my stinking foot on her lap to treat my ulcer, then I knew what the love of God was.”

Medical mission like this has always been part of OMF’s work. Founder James Hudson Taylor grew up working in his father’s chemist’s shop and later took medical training in preparation for service in China. There he found treating people physically also brought opportunities to share about Jesus, the healer of souls.

So in 1866 when the Lammermuir set sail, Hudson Taylor and the first China Inland Mission workers carried with them medicines and equipment so they could set up a hospital and dispensary.

In 1913 Canadian Jessie McDonald became the CIM’s first female doctor. She joined the veteran missionary doctor Whitfield Guinness at Keifeng hospital and served there for 26 years. The CIM hospital was the only medical facility in the area and patients traveled far to be treated. McDonald made a point of treating all patients equally, including in 1939 Japanese soldiers wounded when invading the city.

In 1956 the CIM opened Manorom Hospital, the first medical facility in Central Thailand. The hospital developed particular expertise in treating leprosy. This was widespread in the area and meant social isolation for the patients. However the hospital and its remote clinics welcomed them, even with their sores that no one else would touch, and so they began to feel valued and loved. Through the work the leprosy patients also heard about Jesus and soon a church was formed. In fact, this church was the very first in Central Thailand. Shortly after another church whose members were physically healthy developed. Despite fear of the disease initially separating the members, within a generation the two churches united, showing the reality of the gospel in their lives. Today several leaders of the united church are former leprosy patients.

Today there are around 100 OMF workers serving across East Asia as doctors, surgeons, dentists, and in a whole range of other medical roles. Praise God for the witness of medical mission past and present!

» Full story with pictures. Also read A Gospel-Driven Response to Disability, or check out another article taking a long look at history, this one from our friends at IMB: 10 Ways Missions Has Influenced Africa.

» Want to use your medical skills in missions? Visit MedicalMissions.com and consider attending the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, November 8-10. It’s an annual event.

USA: Social Justice and the Gospel

Sources: Various, via Pat Noble

Have you read the newly published statement Social Justice and the Gospel? More than 8,000 have signed it. Whether or not we agree or agree completely, I hope we can agree that the conversation is thought-provoking and necessary. Here are a few responses that made my short list of must-reads:

Also read Worship and Justice: Spirituality that Embodies and Mobilizes for Justice. Thanks to Global Christian Worship for pointing me to this. Check out an infographic from MissioNexus on networks. I thought it was very informative for making a case for the church being involved in social justice.

One more thing. I am presently in Florida waiting for my grandson to be born and had the opportunity to hang out at this cool place that’s all about fighting hunger. Have you heard of them?

New Flavors on Your Local College Campus | Practical Mobilization

New Flavors on Your Local College Campus

By Shane Bennett

In the US, where I live, as the first crisp mornings of autumn begin to dawn, so does the increasingly pervasive presence of pumpkin spice. I’m no historian, but I think this started with pumpkin pie, a yummy dessert that previously only showed its tasty face at Thanksgiving. Now pretty much anything that can be sold will come in a pumpkin-spice option between September and Christmas.

Autumn also brings spice of a different sort. International students from all over the planet bring flavor to our nation’s campuses. What a gift they are! A chance to connect with people from places we’ll never go. The opportunity to learn about cultures from insiders. Sometimes, deep conversations with people who have never met someone who loves Jesus.

Intrigued about reaching out to international students, but feel you have nothing to contribute? Consider this: You live somewhere, right? You speak the local language, right? You know where to get decent food for relatively cheap, right?

Those are the raw materials. Add some curiosity, compassion, and the most precious of all resources, time, and you’re ready to go.

Where to Look

It’s not like hunting mushrooms or good deals at the mall, but let’s face it: international students are probably not going to simply show up unbidden at your door. If they’ve come thousands of miles to our towns, though, a couple phone calls and a 20-minute car drive are probably not too much to ask of us.

Here are three ways to start:

1. International Students Incorporated.

Go to isionline.org to see if they have staff at a nearby school. These guys are great and may have set up connecting events you can attend. They may also be able to introduce you to people who’ve befriended students for years and are happy to welcome newbies to the work.

2. Christian student groups.

Check out campus fellowships like Cru and InterVarsity as well as churches near campus to see if they have connecting points.

3. Not-so-Christian groups.

Do what my friend Grace did. Show up at events sponsored by a school’s Muslim Student Association. This is gutsy, but odds are pretty good you’ll meet some Muslim students.

What to Do 1. Food.

Some time ago, a school near us had a focus on recruiting students from Turkey. We connected with a couple of them and invited them over for dinner. Mulling over the menu, we settled on Turkish food. On the one hand, who does this? Makes someone their own kind of food? It will never be as good as their mom’s version! On the other hand, they hadn’t had it for several months. Maybe anything that comes close would be nice. Not a morsel remained at the end of the meal!

Feeding people is such a broad avenue to their hearts. Any kind of food. A little time on Google will help you avoid what isn’t kosher in their culture. You can do this. And if you can’t, Appleby’s or Cracker Barrel probably can!

2. Fun.

Because conversation may be awkward in the early stages, I like to have something fun to occupy the initial weird spaces. Pick an activity you do not excel at (and for me that list is long). Miniature golf and bowling are two that provide little windows for conversation and ample opportunities for people to laugh at me. A visit to nearby natural beauty spots can work as well.

3. Photos.

“Can you show me pictures of where you live?” demonstrates your curiosity and care. Showing true interest in someone’s life is an amazing way to bless them. Start with questions that are easy to answer, and if you have the time and common language, aim for deeper topics. You probably know this, but asking questions that can’t be answered with yes, no, or a list will elicit longer and more narrative answers. We want to hear their story and share ours.

What to Watch Out for 1. Messiness.

Whenever people from different cultures try to interact, there’s bound to be misunderstanding. And not just language. We approach some of the basic aspects of life differently: time, money, relationships, and more. Below the surface stuff gets crazy. This is all complicated by the varying status roles of student and host and by the fact that each person is trying to adjust to the other while the other is trying to adjust to them. (Maybe it’s better to just stay home and watch TV?)

2. Busyness.

If you initiate a relationship with an international student, be prepared for them to be very busy. This might be because they’re crazy smart, pursuing two master’s degrees simultaneously, and carrying the weight of their family’s hopes and dreams in their book bag.

On the other hand, they might not yet believe you really want them to hang out and busyness is the safest excuse. In many cultures normal people refuse the first one or two invitations out of politeness and accepted protocol.

Don’t give up too soon. This is a bit of a dance and varies according to at least eighteen invisible factors. Our only hope is practice and the Holy Spirit.

But let’s say you’ve met a friend and set a time for them to come to your house. You’re golden—right up until you’re not. You still need to watch out for a few more things:

3. No shows.

Maybe your friend panicked. Maybe they told you “no” in ways that for all the world sounded like “yes” to you. Maybe they just forgot. Say a prayer, eat the food, lick your wounds, and try again.

4. Bonus shows.

Your wife sends you to pick up your two international student friends for dinner at your house. You arrive to see five—no, six—guys standing at the curb! You brought the Suburban, so you’re good to go. Discreetly text your wife and ask her to super-size the rice!

5. Picky eaters.

You know the rules, right? Eat what’s set before you. That’s what sharp cross-cultural people do. We can’t really enforce that in the other direction. Sometimes there are doubts, concerns, and issues that can’t be spoken which will cause people not to eat your food. And though this is hard to believe, maybe pumpkin spice just doesn’t work for them!


If all this sounds like kindergarten to you, great! Could I encourage you to advocate for international student outreach at your church, with your home group or Bible study? We’ve been given a rare and wonderful gift. We have a chance to act like Jesus and provide acceptance, care, and grace to people who are outsiders in our midst. Let’s not miss it.

Subversive Mobilization: A Sneak Peek at October

Jeannie Marie, a friend and colleague, has written a wonderful and winsome book called Across the Street and Around the World. Next month I’ll interview Jeannie and invite you to get your hands on this great new resource.

Before its official launch on October 2, however, you can pre-order the book, get some cool bonus material, and begin to scheme with me about how we might use it.

Jeannie’s the real deal. And if you’ve chosen to read more than one Missions Catalyst article, you’re probably going to love this book.