Evangelism Begins in Friendship
Guest Blogger, Marty Wellington
Our family moved to the Kansas prairie 13 years ago to escape the fast pace of Kansas City life and to re-connect with our college alma mater – Kansas State University. The university is located in a 50,000 something community nestled in the beautiful Flint Hills – rolling hills of tallgrass prairie growing above limestone encrusted hills. However, despite its rural setting, this oasis attracts people from all over the world.
Once our new home was completed, we felt led to make it a place to serve others, show hospitality and seek opportunities to make it open to others. Through our church family, we learned about a wonderful organization called Helping International Students (H.I.S) created specifically to help connect community members with international students attending the university. On many occasions, we were privileged to open our home to hundreds of international students through fall parties and hayrides and other activities as our family personally connected more one-on-one with students and their families.
When international students first arrive, they need assistance with the basics – furniture, transportation, and overcoming language and cultural barriers. Many reach out to the H.I.S. organization to find assistance in these areas and at the beginning of each semester H.I.S. enlists more than 25 local churches and scores of individuals to help with their annual furniture giveaway. They also offer these international students a way to connect with Americans through the friendship program with most of these friends being found through local churches. Over the years, our family has participated in this wonderful program and found it a fantastic way to reach beyond ourselves to explore new friendships and learn about a new culture. It provides a way for children to experience people from other countries and also learn that we're all really not that different. Open dialogue ensues on a variety of topics and invariably discussions turn to matters of faith and what Christianity is all about. It becomes an exciting way to engage in evangelism on a global scale without even leaving the U.S.
Our family has had many wonderful experiences over the years and all of them have been with Muslim men and families. As God brought these Muslim students into our lives, we were initially wary and uncertain about how to make them our friends and certainly about how to share our Christian faith with them. We wondered how we would be received and whether we would be rejected. However, we found our fears to be unfounded. Every Muslim we befriended was open to us and grateful for our friendship. We learned to trust ourselves more and more to God and to the work He wanted to perform within our relationships and within our own spiritual lives.
Our most important and long-term relationship was with an Iraqi family from Baghdad. That relationship lasted nearly three years and as we shared meals, played with their children, and shared our faith, our two families found connectedness in a mixed-up world that too many times seeks to divide and judge and misunderstand. Three years later, we still communicate with this family and another we know in Afghanistan. Time is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another individual because it tells them, “You're important to me. I am available to you.” It's one of the most basic of kindnesses, yet it speaks volumes to those around us who are hungry for companionship, affirmation, and those who are seeking something more in this life. Yes, it takes time to be a friend. But God calls us to always reach out to others – it's our mission and our duty to share our faith and the joy of our salvation with those around us.
Until very recently, our family was not aware of the Pocket Testament League and the wealth of evangelism tools that are available through this wonderful organization. Now, we are excited, awaiting our first shipment of pocket-sized Gospels of John that we can share with our newest international friends! What a blessing!