Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finding Community, Making Real Connections

Nathan Vitatoe, Advance Volunteer
The Call, October-December 2016

Finding Community, Making Real Connections
I walked through the door, and I was immediately met with the delicious aroma of good food lingering in the air. Bright tables and chairs were coupled with the familiar sound of rapid conversations in Spanish. I had stopped by a local Mexican restaurant to see if they would be interested in having me volunteer once a week to teach an English as a Second Language class before they opened for the day. 

When my family and I first stepped back onto U.S. soil after serving North African immigrants in Spain for two years, I wasn’t sure how God was going to use us for cross-cultural ministry. However, we felt His presence and a peace about the decision to return and focus on bi-vocational ministry in WGM’s Advance Volunteer Network. The Lord has continued to expand our heart for the pilgrims of the world, this time in our own backyard of southern Ohio. There is a benefit to ministering to Spanish speakers in their own language, but many opportunities exist in communities all across our country in English. Your church might already have an outreach to immigrants that you could join. 

One of the main lessons that the Lord has taught me through working with immigrants in Europe and the U.S. is that in order to build a relationship where we can share the hope we have in Jesus, the connections that we make have to be genuine. This valuable principle of authenticity in ministry has stuck with my wife, Kenzie, and me as we approach every new ministry opportunity. Even as we began to plan for our vision trip to Spain, we utilized as a team the booklet Before You Pack Your Bag, Prepare Your Heart by Cindy Judge, which was very helpful to us.  

As travelers of the gospel, we demonstrate our love for Spanish-speaking immigrants through genuine friendship and an interest in helping prepare them for day-to-day life. Our Hispanic friends can feel isolated, both linguistically and culturally. The friendships that we have developed have opened doors to share the most important aspect of our lives, our faith and hope in Jesus Christ our Savior. 

Community isn’t something we necessarily create; it’s something that we find as we naturally connect with others. We just need to take the step—without expecting anything in return—when the Holy Spirit urges us to share the love of Christ.

ACT: Talk to your church missions department or pastoral staff about ways you can champion outreach to the pilgrims in your area or join an established ministry. It will be a personally stretching but rewarding experience.
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