Conversational English...and a BBQ
Summer interns like Emilie and Sarah reach out to international students.
Sarah and I wove our way through the aisles of the Wal-Mart near our condo complex. Together, we dodged the traffic of oncoming shoppers while we filled up our cart with all the ingredients essential for a good barbeque.
As we walked, we checked items off our mental list. Chicken. Watermelon. Chips. Coke. Next on our list were hamburgers and buns.
“How many hamburgers should we buy?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
You’d think that wouldn’t have been a question we needed to ask. It’s normal to be aware of how many people are coming to your barbeque. But we weren’t.
Every Wednesday this summer, all of the interns on our Orlando Summer Project take a break from coming to the office at the world headquarters of Campus Crusade. We spend the afternoon doing relational evangelism.
Relational evangelism means almost exactly what its name sounds like: building relationships with the purpose of presenting the message of salvation through Jesus.
However, the “relational” portion of this type of evangelism is crucial. These relationships are meant to be long-term connections, friendships where we show through actions that we care about someone, regardless of where they might be spiritually.
Our 20 interns divide up into 3 groups on Wednesdays, each doing relational evangelism in different places. One group works with children, and another works with the homeless. And then there’s our group.
Seven of us, myself included, spend Wednesday afternoons at the multi-cultural center of a local university. We participate in a class that helps international students become more fluent in conversational English.
During this class, international students who are studying to learn English meet in rooms lined along a narrow hallway. Each classroom also has volunteers (that’s us) who speak English fluently, and for an hour at a time, the students and English-speakers just talk to each other.
Culture, food, entertainment, home, family and hobbies are just a few of the many subjects that the students and volunteers cover with each other. When each hour-long class ends, all of the classroom doors open, and the hallway crowds with a diverse river of people and cultures.
During the past 7 weeks, we’ve talked to students from Thailand, France, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China, and more. We’ve learned about their families, how they came to America, what they hope to study, and a bit of who they hope to become.
Their classroom time ended last week, and all that remains is their test this Wednesday. Many of them are returning home to visit family overseas before the fall semester starts, and we decided to host a barbecue for the students we had gotten to know.
We hoped it would provide a more relaxed place to possibly talk about spiritual things, but even if it didn’t, we wanted the students to know we cared about them and wanted to get to know them.
We invited about 8 students, but we didn’t know how many would actually come. We prayed that God would send the students who were supposed to be there.
Standing at the meat section at Wal-Mart, Sarah and I finally decided to buy 16 hamburgers. This accounted for all the students we invited, and ourselves as well. After getting in line and completing our purchase, we drove to the Todd and Kris Gross’ house, 2 Campus Crusade staff members who offered to host the barbecue for us.
We prepared the food, and we waited. Ultimately, only one student we had met, a young woman named Lei from Asia, showed up. Though we’d hoped for more, we had prayed that God would send the students He wanted to be there, and we were very glad she could come.
We introduced her to Todd and Kris, she was excited to learn that they were fluent in her language, having spent many years living overseas.
Abhi, one of the summer project interns, said a quick prayer before our meal. This prompted Lei to ask a question about prayer, opening the door for a short spiritual conversation.
Though we’ll be leaving in a few weeks, it was encouraging to see Lei begin to ask questions. It was also encouraging to see a possible connection between her and Todd and Kris, a strong Christian couple, who might be able to continue to speak into her life in her own language.