Guest Post :: How God Used Cultural Immersion Training as Ministry

Written by Jared Anderson

ReachGlobal Mexico City

On September 26th, 2014, I met the family that I would live with for the next year of my life. I had moved to Mexico City three days earlier in order to go through and help evaluate a yearlong missions immersion program called Avance, for the ReachGlobal Mexico City team. ReachGlobal wanted to know if Avance would be a good partner for a one-year missions training program. Avance focuses on incarnational ministry by working with local churches and ministries and cultural immersion by living with Mexican family. I remember the car ride to be dropped off with my family being one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life.

Paul, the Avance director, who was dropping me off was telling me about the family that I was going to live with. Then, I had to ask, “Do they speak English?”

“Well…”, he said. I didn’t hear anything after that. I knew immediately that lack of response meant “no”. This made me even more nervous– although I had studied Spanish in high school, I knew that my Spanish level was not near what I would need to have a real conversation. I felt utterly unprepared.

Immediately, the family helped me to feel comfortable. They included me in all their family activities, some of which I understood, and others that made no sense to me. They became my cultural guides. They helped me learn Spanish, made me the most delicious Mexican food, and patiently answered my questions like a parent answering the questions of a four-year-old just discovering the world. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there were also opportunities for ministry right there within the family.

Enrique is the oldest child in the family. He was a 19-year-old university student when I met him and didn’t really have an interest in the things of God. He went to church with his family, but only out of obligation. We ended up spending a lot of time together. We would have conversations about inconsequential things that created inside jokes (mostly having to do with my lack of ability to communicate in Spanish).

However, as I grew in the ability to communicate, the conversation got more substantial. I would recount my day to him, telling him about the things I had been doing in ministry that day or what I learned in our Avance training. Those turned into opportunities to share who God is. He started to come with me to a Bible study at the church plant that I was attending.

In March, about 6 months into my time with the family, my Mexican mamá stopped me as I came home. She told me that she had seen a change in Enrique’s life since I had been there. I was not expecting to hear anything of that sort. I did not know how to respond. I wasn’t exactly sure what I had done. At that moment, I realized that God was working through me without me even realizing it.

In January 2016, Enrique was baptized, and he has been actively involved in the Church that we attend together. He has been co-leading a community group with me in the church since last year.

In Avance, the leaders kept telling us that there would be discipleship opportunities in the families with which we lived. They called it a “ministry of presence”. Even though I arrived and felt completely unprepared, God used me just by being a part of their lives.

If you are interested in knowing more about the Avance program in Mexico City, as one of ReachGlobal’s ministry partners, please contact jared.anderson@efca.org. If you are a high school graduate looking for a way to invest your gap year in kingdom work, this is a great opportunity! The program begins in the fall, so be sure to apply soon.

Chain of Support

When Curt wondered if he had made a difference, he had to pause. Then, he had to throw out his preconceived ideas for gauging mission trip effectiveness.

It’s true that, during his three-month internship with ReachGlobal in Brazil, Curt had not sweated over the frame of a new church building. He hadn’t done any construction projects at all. And he had not gone out in the streets of Rio de Janeiro to evangelize nor had he led any Brazilians through a prayer to receive Christ — he hardly knew enough Portuguese for that.

But isn’t that what people do on mission trips — street evangelism and construction projects? Not always, Curt discovered. God’s story is bigger than that.

Supporting missionaries

Curt arrived in September 2010 expecting to support Jeff and Diane, ReachGlobal missionaries living in Rio, in their ministry efforts.

To both Curt’s surprise and theirs, Jeff and Diane discovered their visa renewals had been denied on the same day that Curt arrived to serve. They were given just 10 days to pack up and get out of the country. [Read Jeff’s account of this startling turn of events.]

It looked like Curt would be supporting them, but in an unexpected way.

More worried for Jeff and Diane than for himself, Curt reflects on the positive, saying, “Coincidentally, or perhaps it was a God thing, I happened to be in Rio for the next three months and could take care of their house, pay their bills, and keep their dogs alive [while they were gone].”

“Ministry happened pretty quickly,” Curt says. With only eight days to learn the ropes, Curt shadowed Jeff and Diane in their three English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in a public school in a slum, jumping in the next week to teach them on his own.

After the first week, Curt, recently certified to teach ESL, was asked by the school to take on an additional six English classes each week.

Supporting local churches

These English classes, along with a variety of other enrichment classes, were offered at the school through a local church in the same slum and a partner church in another part of Rio.

“[During the classes at the school, the church members] would invite the students to more classes at the local church on Saturdays. From there, they would invite the students and their families to the church services on Sundays,” Curt explains.

“Our church noticed a change in many of the teachers’ behaviors,” Curt says. “At the beginning of our volunteering, we always saw the teachers yelling at their students quite angrily and by the final weeks of the program, the teachers were hardly yelling at all. I think they saw some of our love and gentleness, and we were rubbing off on them.”

“The most important part of the ministry, though, and I may never see it [now that I’m back in the U.S.], is the influx of people attending the church in the slum and hopefully the community being transformed by Christ.”

Jeff had a chance to visit Rio for a few days in November, and he confirms, “The connection from the school to the local church was going great. The kids and sometimes their parents were making their way to the church and hearing the gospel message.”

“The local church is bursting at the seams with people, and the church is crying out for help to lead the people,” Jeff adds. “Another church outside of this [particular slum] area has joined the effort and is sending some of their people to serve at the inner city school.”

Supporting the world

Curt participated in a variety of other activities, as well, during his short stint in Brazil. He helped to prepare for a church planting conference and manned the camera at the event. He supported other missionaries and local Christians in their own ministries, offering encouragement, tutoring and even temporary housing.

After reflecting on what to share with the friends and family who had financially and prayerfully supported his trip, Curt realized, “The trip wasn’t about me and how I could change Brazil. I came on the trip to be used by God however He wanted me to be used, which I feel was to support the body of Christ already in place in Brazil.”

“The country is quickly becoming one of the more influential countries in the world,” Curt says. “It’s cool to think that supporting missionaries in Rio de Janeiro is helping to spread the gospel throughout the world.”

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PRAY
  • That the Brazilian Free Church and their partners would continue to make advances for God’s kingdom in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.
  • For the Lord to raise up more servants, like Curt, to serve in Brazil.
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