In March, our Redeemer family sent two groups across the country on our annual Spring Break trips. These teams of college-age students and leaders leveraged their breaks to be instruments of God among people who don’t look or believe like them.
The team in New York wanted to share the Gospel across cultural and religious lines.
Students were able to attend seminars during the week designed to train them for evangelism in neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, considered by many to be the most diverse neighborhood in the world. Branson Long was particularly excited about the contextualization of the Gospel to Muslims. “They’re big on sacrifice and peace, so a couple biblical stories really resonate with them: the story of Adam and Eve (they sinned and God sacrificed animals to clothe them), and the story of Jesus (the Lamb of God, the living sacrifice, who was sacrificed for our sin).” He and the team hoped for a chance to use what they learned in conversations with nonbelievers in New York.
They would be given an opportunity the night before they left.
“We were walking around a mostly Muslim area and praying for the people we walked past. We sat down at a Bangladeshi restaurant and this guy was sitting next to me. I thought he seemed like someone nice to talk to, so I just asked him what he was eating because I’d never seen anything like it.”
“He explained how to eat it correctly and we just started talking. Well, one of the things we learned about Muslims is that they love talking about God. So we talked about random stuff, and then I just asked him, ‘What are your beliefs about God?’ and he told me. Then I asked him if it was okay if I shared with him what Christians believe.” Explaining Jesus as the Son of God and his atonement for our sin, Branson shared the Gospel. There wasn’t a conversion right away, but this man asked Branson to pray for him and to keep in touch, and since then he’s been connected to believers in New York.
The team saw first-hand that bridging these gaps with the Gospel, though a heavy task, isn’t as difficult as it seems.
Meanwhile, the team in Memphis hoped for a Gospel-centered impartiality.
Throughout the week, students joined up with local ministries involved with ex-convicts, refugee and underprivileged children, and the homeless to get right up close with the local culture. For Mandy McKamie, this served to give a face to the faceless. “It brings it down from a ten-thousand foot level to your level––this is a real person, these are real things people are going through, and the Lord just gave us opportunities to love them individually.”
They also visited the Civil Rights Museum and joined with a church to participate in a conversation about race with students from Howard University. For a mostly majority-cultured college ministry, issues that could often go unheard were brought to the microphone.
It was helpful for students to be taken out of their normal rhythms and have a week explicitly dedicated to serving minority cultures––but as Marcus Henderson pointed out, it’s not something that only happens twelve hours from Lubbock. “We don’t have to go anywhere to engage people who are different than us. Just go to class, go to the SUB, go to the library, do the things you normally do and engage people who are different. Just take what we learned in Memphis and engage people in what we already do.”
Despite the geographic and contextual mileage between New York and Memphis, their people have the same primary need as Lubbock’s, that is, a restored relationship with God through the Gospel of Christ. Both groups came back with a conviction to demonstrate God as the King of all people, to consider and repent of how we might recklessly communicate otherwise, and to go to the most ignored parts of our campus and our city with the Gospel.