Cross-Cultural Missions: Show His Love Unconditionally and Consistently

serious immigrant boy

Yasin is only 9, but he’s been around long enough to know.           

Long enough to know that Jesus is important. “If I were a superhero, I’d be Victory Man—like ‘victory in Jesus.’”           

Long enough to know that if the church people show up to do a Backyard Bible Club at his Atlanta-area apartment complex, he should call all the children in the neighborhood to come.           

But don’t assume Yasin really knows.          

“I want you to paint a cross on my arm,” he says determinedly and loud enough that everyone could hear him after all the girls have asked for hearts and flowers and butterflies and the boys have asked for tiger stripes.           

I dip into the brown paint and start a simple cross, painting slowly on purpose. “You were talking about Jesus’ cross earlier,” I say. “What do you know about Jesus?”           

“I know that He was a really good man. I know that He died on a cross.”

In Yasin’s mind, that’s where it stops.

But thankfully for him, he’s in a blessed place—an apartment complex filled with a kaleidoscope of nationalities, single parents, chicken-factory workers, Hindu priests, abstract artists, political refugees. A place where dozens of languages are spoken, but one, in particular, is speaking louder than the others in recent days—love.

As Yasin is getting his cross, students from an Alabama church are singing songs about Jesus with South Asian children, painting the nails of Indian and African American girls, and chatting with Nepali refugee parents. One teenage girl holds a little girl on each hip, clumsily engaging in a game of freeze tag. It’s not the first time the church has been in the complex loving on the people there and it won’t be the last.

The consistency speaks volumes to Yasin’s neighborhood.

It’s an opportunity Christ followers have cropping up in communities all across the nation, the fact that the world is in our backyard and we can visit more than once—for free.

In Acts 17, Paul said God made “from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place” so that they might feel their way toward God and find Him.

That truth is still working itself out in the United States in 2019.

Refugees from hard-to-reach countries are pouring in and moving into our neighborhoods. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin, but it starts with just being willing to love and love consistently.

Make Connections

They will know us by our love. And often they will know Him that way too. Do what you do with respect, but do it with the goal of showing genuine love. Don’t assume they know what love is. Don’t assume they know who Jesus is. And don’t assume that, even if they do, they associate the 2 without someone showing them.

Yasin and others are slowly making that connection.

Later that day at his apartment complex, a South Asian boy walks up and says, “I want my arm painted.”

“What do you want on it?”

He thinks about that for a minute. “Jesus.”

I start to paint. “Do you know who Jesus is?”

He timidly shakes his head—he doesn’t know.           

But he knows he should know. And he knows the people who come from the church love him.

And that’s a great, great start.

Grace Thornton is a writer who lived in England and the Middle East and traveled extensively into different contexts to meet people and tell the stories of what God is doing in their lives. She is the author of Unshakable Pursuit: Chasing the God Who Chases Us.

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