"Jeff, do you and your church really want to make the most impact in terms of reaching the Middle East with the gospel?"
"The most effective thing you can do is reach the people from those countries who live in Dallas. If you do, they will reach their friends and family in-country, and share the gospel with their friends and families on an unprecedented scale!"
This was news to me, but it came from a ministry partner's director whom we trust, who really understands global missions, who had devoted the majority of his life to translation of the scriptures into modern Persian, and who had spent decades equipping and training recent Muslim converts to go back and lead underground churches in the Middle East - in places where conversion to Christianity buys you at best loss of friends, family, and businesses and at worst costs you jail time or your life.
“...And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere--in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” Acts 1:8 (NLT).
Africa? Haiti? The Middle East? These are some of the places that you've heard about Watermark teams visiting. And the call to go “to the ends of the earth” is thousands of years old and is just as compelling today! This is why we have an international focus to reach the unreached with the gospel.
The Reality of the Locality
However, the reality is that we live in an age of "globalization" where products, people, ideas, culture, and capital are transferred across the world in real time. Previously unreached people groups are now moving to the United States with breakneck speed and regularity. While oceans and thousands of miles used to separate us from difficult-to-reach people across the globe, now many of those same people groups are represented in our neighborhoods, in our apartment complexes, or within a short walk - right here in North Texas.
Did you realize that Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlements? The DFW metroplex has been described as the new "Ellis Island," and some reports indicate that DFW receives more refugees than any other area in the U.S.. Meanwhile, 44% of the nearly three million people in DFW are first- or second-generation immigrants, and 239 languages are spoken in the North Texas area.
That’s across our cities. But even here at Watermark and within our ministries, we have many who are foreign-born and/or have connections to various people groups. Take a visit over to our QuestCare Clinic, for instance, and in a single afternoon you could easily meet folks from Western Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia!
So as we look at this exciting opportunity, what are we thinking about, and how can you be involved?
Our Connected Members
We want to be more intentional about identifying and developing our members who are already connected to these people groups, and come alongside them to reach those groups here in Dallas with the gospel and discipleship.
We have hundreds at Watermark who have participated in Unashamed Weekends, been trained in evangelism, participated in international discipleship trips, or have been equipped through other discipleship training. So we believe there is an army ready to deploy to reach the “ends of the earth” here in Dallas. If you’re interested in helping us put this structure and strategy together, let us know.
International Christian Fellowship now estimates 21,000 international college students are in DFW, from all over the world. These young adults leave their homes to study in the United States. As you can imagine, they struggle to adapt to a new culture and language as they seek to develop friendships. Though these young people will likely return to be leaders in their home countries, most will never enter an American home.
This is a missed opportunity. Organizations like International Students Inc., Bridges International (from Cru), and others connect people with these students to build relationships and share the love of Christ.
If refugee ministries seem daunting, don’t forget that you can simply be the hands and feet of Christ wherever you are. And I bet that wherever you are, there are pockets of international restaurants, grocery stores, and other elements of an international community.
Where I live, for example, is very near Little Korea, a thriving community of bustling shops, eateries, grocery stores, and services designed for the Korean community. These are excellent places to eat, hang out, and build relationships. By becoming a regular at a local restaurant, you can build relationships with the owners and their staff. Or regularly visit the other establishments near your house where workers are foreign-born, and you never know what new friends you might make!
With the influx of corporate headquarters and large manufacturers in the Metroplex, you will find your own neighborhood is becoming much more diverse. On my street alone are neighbors from the Near East and Far East, the Latin world, and many points in between. We have friends who come from just as many different faith backgrounds - and we have an opportunity to demonstrate and proclaim the gospel as we build friendships.
The ends of the earth are here… what will you do with the opportunity?
As we develop various approaches to reach our international neighbors, let us know if you're interested in joining us!