How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:14, ESV
Many churches may face the issue of helping believers feel empowered to leave their comfort zones and engage in mission work. As Grace Polaris Church challenged members to join overseas mission teams through Encompass World Partners, they realized that local opportunities could serve as a training ground for future cross-cultural opportunities.
“Columbus seemed to be an ideal training ground because of the immense diversity within the city, as well as the proximity to many mid-western churches from the Charis Fellowship,” says Dustin Speaks, mobilization and college pastor at Grace Polaris Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Westerville, Ohio (Mike Yoder, lead pastor).
Within Columbus, the Northland neighborhood is immensely diverse. There are nearly 25,000 Somalis, 30,000 Nepalis, and other immigrants (Iraqi, Syrian, etc.) living within several square miles of each other.
“Encompass and Grace Polaris felt that this would be a beneficial neighborhood to train in for urban, cross-cultural ministry,” shares Speaks.
Speaks says that there are a few goals for Grace Polaris Church’s partnership with Encompass. Their first goal is to train and mobilize new cross-cultural workers for the nations. Their second goal is to establish a cross-cultural church planting effort in Columbus.
“We realize that both goals are big leaps for many people, so we are hoping to implement several specific opportunities that range in levels of investment,” Speaks says.
‘Encounter Columbus,’ the first option, is a three-day basic training. It gives the participant a chance to experience the nations in Columbus and engage with cross-cultural workers to learn techniques and practices for ministry. Participants will then go into diverse areas to build relationships and practice those skills. It’s a trip focused on increasing exposure and growing passion.
‘Explore Columbus,’ the next option, is a six-week summer internship focused on diving deeper into the training that Encompass provides all potential cross-cultural workers. Participants are partnered with a mentor and will make an impact by participating in ethnographic fact-finding, serving refugee communities, and building relationships.
One couple that felt God’s call to reach the lost and broken around the world was Matt and Kristy Krebs. They participated in Encounter Columbus, which proved to be a valuable opportunity that helped them take the next steps in their journey with international missions.
“Encounter Columbus is a great way to see a denomination of people in a way that you may not have before – lost and hopeless people in need of a savior,” says Kristy. “The time spent in the mosques learning about their beliefs and interacting with non-believers in their community helped me realize the intense bondage they experience on a daily basis.”
Grace Polaris Church and Encompass World Partners are still working on the last two aspects of training and mobilization, which would probably be a nine-month internship and finally joining a church planting team with a cross-cultural focus in Columbus.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Charis Fellowship (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches), click here.