Cross-cultural ministry takes many forms. For this worker, it's often about living out his faith with integrity and simply loving the people around him. This is his account...
There are many types of relationship in which people intentionally influence each other: mentoring, counselling, consulting and coaching come to mind. There is a time and place for each.
For me, I am most comfortable modelling relationships where I simply do things alongside people, modelling life. My greatest role, then, is to abide in Christ and be led by the Holy Spirit.
I have come to believe that modelling relationships is also a transformative ministry, and a ministry that we see lived out in Jesus’ life.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a Han Chinese brother with whom I have spent a lot of time over the last five years. What he said is a testimony of how God can work through us in people's lives.
Below is my friend's story, as he shared it with me:
“I really appreciate the way you have walked alongside of me and invited me into your friendships with Uyghur people. I am thankful that you never tried to push your thoughts on me or tried to convince me to do things the way you do them. Because I did not feel pushed or judged, I have been able to simply observe you in the way you relate to your friends.
"What I notice is that they are never a project or an objective to you, but people you choose to love. You share your deepest things with them. I also notice that you set aside your own preferences to make them comfortable.
"I remember the first time we went to the countryside together and ate lunch with a farming family. They brought the food on dirty dishes out of a dirty kitchen, and I was trying to think how to make an excuse to decline the food. I looked and saw you smiling and eating everything. When I asked, you simply said: ‘I feel as if Jesus told me that I should eat and drink whatever they give me. Getting giardia (a stomach upset) a few times a year is a small price to pay for doing what God wants you to do.’
"I really did not feel judged, yet I knew that I, too, should eat and drink whatever they gave me. I cannot believe how things would be different for me if I would not have eaten meals at Uyghur farmers’ homes over the last few years. Some of my dearest friends would still be strangers if I had not learned this one lesson.
"I remember the first time I heard you telling a Uyghur person that you follow Jesus, and you were glad that they still felt okay to be your friend. You said that you were glad we can talk about things of faith without feeling pressured to change our identity. All of the tension just left the room, and everybody became free to express themselves. Suddenly people were curious about the choices you make. I cannot imagine how my life would be different if I didn't have the opportunity to share my story of faith with Uyghur friends I have come to love.
"My little church is only about 20 people, and I feel privileged to serve the Lord there. I never intended to promote a Uyghur ministry in my church; I simply started sharing about my Uyghur farming friends. Slowly my church sensed that God wanted them to do something for Uyghur people, but they were uncertain how to begin.
"Who would have thought they would look to me as an example? What qualifications do I have? I praise God that for some reason, He has led my church to foster relationships with Uyghurs, so that they might know about Jesus Christ and have meaningful relationships with other Han Chinese.
"Recently a Uyghur family in the countryside believed in Jesus. After this, their friends and neighbours kicked them out of their village. My church heard about this and invited this family to be a part of our fellowship.
"It is so encouraging to see them welcome a Uyghur family into our city, help them find work, and help them grow in faith. My little church is even helping the father take theology courses in Chinese, though his Chinese is not sufficient. People take turns helping him. It is really a blessing to see God at work in the lives of both Han and Uyghurs.”