Cross Cultural Reports
Each year our second year students spend part of their summer on a cross cultural placement. Read on to find out how Andrew, Bruno and Valerie spent theirs.
I spent my cross-cultural placement volunteering at the Grace and Peace Community Church Summer Camp in South Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a dark and dangerous city, but no amount of social reform has brought light to its streets. Philadelphia needs gospel light! Summer Camp is a wonderful opportunity to sow gospel seed in a small corner of South Philly amongst young children. During camp, we studied the lives of Joseph, Elijah, David, and others who trusted God during suffering but ultimately Jesus who suffered unjustly whilst entrusting himself to a faithful God. It was a humbling experience to point boys and girls to Jesus.
Camp is a challenging ministry because Philadelphia is hot, and kids misbehave. I felt that I was running on fumes. However, these challenges reminded me that dependence on God is crucial in gospel ministry. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God gave us the strength we needed to start each day and though kids misbehaved, God was at work in those moments. Often, fruitful conversations occur through one-to-one conversations with a child about their behaviour and how the gospel can transform their hearts.
Camp is a rewarding ministry. Bessie was a quiet 4-year-old who had never seen a Bible before camp. One of the volunteers spent lots of time with her; playing with her and caring for her. Gradually Bessie came out of her shell, began to trust her leader and asked questions about Jesus. It was a reminder that relationships are crucial in gospel ministry. It was a privilege to serve with Grace and Peace Community Church. Pray that God will continue to strengthen and sustain them in their gospel efforts and his glory in Philadelphia.
Thirty years later, there I was, making the same descent of stairs in the local Roman Catholic church where I had grown up in. Since I had no contact with God and did not believe in him when I left Portugal as a young adult, the sole thing that had crossed my mind at that moment was God’s greatness and mercy towards me. Agnostic at heart, I was completely oblivious to what was to come and who I would be: a born-again Christian, in my last year in Irish Baptist College with pastoral aspirations. I was caught up in a traditional family baptism in Lisbon, but my heart was set to go to the south of Portugal, where my cross-cultural experience would be. Pastor Mark and his wonderful wife Judith welcomed me to the International Evangelical Church of the Algarve. I was joined by Stephen Smith, the pastor of my Portuguese church in Northern Ireland. I engaged in a variety of activities there, including evangelism in the neighbourhood, church visits, and preaching two sermons. It was fascinating to interact with the Portuguese community, who are stoic and have strong defence mechanisms. However, by highlighting the value of a connection with God and dismantling the stronghold of catholic religious traditions, we were successful in conveying the Gospel and speaking to their hearts. I was profoundly moved by this entire experience, and like the apostle Paul in Acts 16:9–10, I can now clearly hear the cries of the Portuguese people, "Come and help me." And I believe, deep in my heart, that this is my mission.
This summer as part of my cross-cultural placement I went to Shankill Community Fellowship ‘Street Light Week’. This was a Holiday Bible Club organised for the whole family. David had gathered quite a team of helpers from all parts of Northern Ireland.
We had a busy but very encouraging week. Daily activities in the community included door to door work, painting nursery garden sheds and playing football at the ‘Men’s Shed’. We tried to engage with the local community at every opportunity.
The main event was the Holiday Bible Club each evening. There was a programme arranged for each part of the family. I was involved with the parents/carers. We had tea and coffee to welcome them, always trying to have conversations about the good news and sharing our testimony. On the last night we had a barbeque for everyone. At the end of the evening, I had a long conversation with a man who had come every evening. He had lots of questions and I pray he might think over what he heard. There was another couple that I spoke to who had a previous church connection. Will you continue to pray for the people that God would move in their hearts and draw them to Himself?