During missionary training, you are taught to share the gospel. After all, God has called us to share the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection in order to win souls for His kingdom. He has also called us to care for the poor, the destitute and the sojourner. We are meant to be our brother’s keepers.
The struggle between service and evangelism, within the mission community, is not new. This is a good tension. We are called to serve as well as tell. They work in concert to share God’s light with the world. This is why so many community inroads start with service. How can we be God’s hands and feet?
And is this is what led our ministry team, serving with the International Project in the Equip Missionary Training Program, to work with a West African community center in New York City. As part of our outreach, we volunteered to assist in an after school “homework help” program. This opportunity has allowed us to love and serve the kids of their community.
But this method of outreach required a paradigm shift for most of our team members. We had come to the city to boldly proclaim the gospel. Serving the children of a Muslim community meant exactly that, serving and not telling. It would have destroyed our relationship and testimony with the larger community to proselytize their children under the guise of helping with homework. This meant many hours of work that, at times, seemed more like babysitting and less like boldly proclaiming.
It was a wrestle that we sometimes struggled to wrap our heads around. Weren’t we supposed to be passionately telling everyone we meet engaging stories from the bible? We hadn’t planned on needing to understand common core long division. And yet here we were, being the hands and feet instead of the mouth.
This was a tough wrestle. And like many experiences here at Equip, it was a wrestle for which I am immensely thankful. It taught me the value of proclaiming Christ through my actions. It can be so much harder to live out Christ’s love, at times, than to tell about it. I got to see firsthand how this service affected the larger community we wanted to reach.
Naturally, people within their community center were a bit wary of our presence at first. Throughout the course of the year, our service opened up deeper relationships. We saw how our actions testified to Christ’s love. Our testimony was our service.
We hope and pray that this relationship between our ministry team and their community will bear greater fruit. We hope to see lives transformed by Christ’s amazing grace. Ultimately that isn’t up to us. This is God’s plan, not ours. We serve because He called us to do so.
I am thankful to be here in NYC for missionary training with International Project. I am thankful to be serving others in Christ’s name. I am thankful that God showed me its okay to wrestle with service and evangelism. Overall, I am simply thankful to be called and to be His.
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