Since coming to Melbourne as a missionary in 2007 the Lord has developed a love in my heart for this city as well as a burden for its spiritual need. There are quite a few things that make Melbourne unique compared to cities in the US and most other Countries for that matter, but the greatest difference to me is its diversity. This fascination with the different cultures may have to do with the fact that I grew up in a small town and didn’t have the opportunity to interact with many other nationalities, but even those from larger areas would be struck by the amount of Countries represented here.
I was reminded of that cultural diversity on Tuesday while attending an english practice group, which is created for those who recently immigrated to Australia and wanted to work on their english. In a group of ten people there where at least eight different nationalities: Italian, Syrian, Turkish, Lebanese, Indonesian, Maltese, American, and of course Australian. The wonderful thing about this group was hearing many of those people share their story and excitedly tell us about their home Country.
The many nationalities gives an opportunity to learn about and experience a vast amount of cultures, experiences that offer not only enlightenment and education but excitement and fun as well. There is also a spiritual side to the diversity because those different backgrounds create obstacles to the good news of Christ and missionaries (particularly from the US). The Gospel can definitely save anyone but cross cultural communication, cultural differences, current national situation such as the war in Iraq, and very different religious background can make sharing Christ quite hard.
The Lord has allowed me to learn some lessons during my time in Melbourne about developing relationships with those from other Countries and ministering to this beautiful but spiritually discouraging diversity. While the list below is by no means exhaustive, I pray it can encourage some of you who are sharing the Gospel with other cultures. Please feel free to become part of the conversation and add your thoughts in the comments section below.
1. Remember that America doesn’t always do the right thing
2. Be willing to laugh about the mistakes your Country makes instead of defending them
3. Learn about their culture instead of teaching your own (how do you do it?)
4. Ask short direct questions and let them do most of the talking
5. Get a basic idea of their history and bring up important historical events
6. Show them pictures of your family and learn about theirs
7. Listen to their story (what did they do in the other Country? why did they come?)
Sharing the Gospel:
1. Research the religious background of their Country
2. Ask what they think about Jesus (culturally what is your view?)
3. While listening to their story look for opportunities to share the Gospel
4. Ask about religious holidays or festivals they take part in
5. Ask questions about their cultures religious background
6. When answering their questions about American history or culture refer to Christ
7. Use religious phrases such as “God bless you” or “I will pray for you” to start a conversation about the Gospel