Cross-Cultural Ministry in an Unusual Location

Drinking tea and telling Bible stories was Cynthia Martin’s favorite thing to do while on the missions field in Central and South America. It still is, but now she sips tea with refugees in Las Vegas, Nevada. “The days I spend with them aren’t any different [from] ministry on the international field,” she said. “I feel right at home.”

Cynthia believes it’s no accident that refugees show up at her door at Safely Home Refugee Ministry. Approximately 300 vetted refugees from all around the world have resettled in Las Vegas during the past year. In accordance with Acts 17:26, sometimes God brings unreached peoples who may not otherwise encounter the gospel to a place they where they can hear it.

Cynthia said, “It is common for refugees to ask why we are so open and loving to them. They’ve never experienced that before. The answer to that question opens an opportunity to share our testimony.”

After 30 years of serving in cross-cultural ministry, Cynthia has learned that presence and friendship traverse all cultural barriers. The risk to show love and spend quality time is hard for Americans who tend to be project-oriented. Establishing a genuine relationship and providing a ministry of presence is crucial. Cynthia said no one should fear “doing something wrong” while ministering to a refugee.

“If you end a visit having laughed a lot and learned a couple of words in a new language, you are well on your way to a special relationship.”

Here are some ways Cynthia suggested to assist in establishing a cross-cultural relationship:

  • Be a friend.
  • Listen.
  • Teach English through conversation. Start with drawing stick figures of the family (mother, father, sister, brother, etc.).
  • Take them to the grocery store. Most refugees are accustomed to outdoor markets.
  • Learn about their religion. Pray for God to reveal bridges to the gospel.
  • Celebrate birthdays and holidays.
  • Pray with them.

Editor’s Note—Cynthia and Tom Martin’s last day with NAMB was December 31, 2020. After 30 years of ministry in faraway places, they decided to return to their native Mississippi to be closer to family.

Global short-term mission trips have generated cross-cultural friendships for Karen O’Kelley Allen as well as connections through her Ewe R Blessed Facebook page.

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