Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Mission Field In Our Backyard

When I first heard the words "Missions Trip" and "Clarkston, Georgia" in the same sentence I almost said no. When I thought of missions I always thought of the other side of the world, ministering to people who 'need me' or 'need help.' But in doing that I overlooked the thousand of people in my own 'backyard.' People that had never heard the gospel.

Clarkston is known as the, 'Most diverse square mile' because of all the different people groups that live there. People that our government has allowed to be located there as refugees. Most of the people you encounter there are from war-torn countries or have been oppressed by their government, trying to escape and many of those who come here are randomly selected to live in the states, where they are given barely enough to get by and left on their own after a few months.

I had the privilege, alone with three other ladies from my church to spend a week in Clarkston, and it was nothing like we had expected. On most missions trips you are going into a single culture and a certain group of people, but in Clarkston we were immersed numerous cultures, and numerous languages.

One of our assignments while we were there was to teach English classes (ESL) to Internationals within the apartment complex in which we stayed. We would split up into groups of two or three and go into the apartments and have one-on-one classes. My group was assigned to the home of and Ethiopian couple and their son, who had not been there very long and were quite eager to learn English. We would teach English by building on what others had taught before us, and sought to shine a light and share our story when possible.

The children in the community were fearless, and had never met a stranger (or so it seemed). As soon as we stepped out of the car that first day we were swarmed with curious faces and small hands grabbed our and drug us toward the playground or a bench to talk. They would melt your heart with one smile.

Most of the children we interacted with were from Eritrea, Somalia, Nepal, and numerous other places around the world.

And they always had a smile for you

But you had better watch out if they saw that you had long hair, because it didn't matter if it was up in a pony tail or not, they would take it down and put as many tiny braids in it was you would let them.

We also worked with interns while we were down there, they had the same goal as us down there except instead of just being there a week the interns lived in the apartments for the summer and facilitated a lot the ministry's going on down there.

One of their big missions was to go out into other apartment complexes and find refugee families, because the ministry desires to help them but unless they know where they are there is no way to reach them.

In order to find refugees we again split up into groups and would go door to door in the apartment complexes and 'search' for them, and would take a survey or who was an American and who was a refugee, what their needs were, etc.

During this survey we encountered people from Nepal, Jerusalem, Ethiopia, Somalia and many other countries.
One major thing that stuck out to me during out time in Georgia, was that the second largest Hindu temple in the states is in Georgia.

We think that since we are in the states we are safe from influences of other religions or that we are mostly Christians. When in reality we have temples to other gods in our own 'backyard.' Beautiful white structures, but on the inside is feels dark and empty.
Like this temple so beautiful and put together on the outside and yet filled with darkness within, as are so many people we interact with everyday. We can all look like we have it together but what's really on the inside? Is there darkness or light?

What are we doing to reach those in our own backyard? It doesn't have to be in Georgia or another state, it's your neighbor next door, or someone at work. Are you setting a Godly example to those around you? Do you care about those close to you enough to tell them of the reason for the hope that is in you? What is your story? And are you ready to share it with whoever asks?

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