Written by Rome Fall student, Kelsey Briggs! Photos by student Kellie Goff.
It’s very hard for me to sum up how this experience has shaped me as a person and has also shaped my view of cross-cultural ministry. Throughout my time here, I have learned so much about who God is and who I am, and how those two things in tandem could possibly make a small difference in the world we are living in.
The ministry of this program was extremely effective. I tend to stray from short-term missions because I feel that often times it can be damaging and done in a way that benefits the participants far more than the people they are seeking to serve. However, in the case of teaching English and being at the refugee center, I think the ministry was effective for a variety of reasons. First, we were coming alongside a pre-existing ministry to help them serve, and I think this is important. Second, some of the people said to me that sometimes at the refugee center it can get monotonous to set up and take down every week, but having a fresh face made the experience a little more fun. So in that sense, we were also able to encourage the people already invested in the ministry there. Additionally, I personally feel that I was able to form relationships with several of the people I met that will last. So I think in all these senses the ministry was very effective. I learned from Valeria that you should not be afraid to invest in people, and love deeply. Personally, these experiences are incredibly valuable and I will carry them with me for a long time. I see in my own life and in my faith as well challenges to live differently.
My participation in this program has opened my heart to love where it seems impossible. Some of my best friends in Italy were refugees, and trust me we were an unlikely motley crew walking down the street. One American girl. One Indonesian teenager. Two Afghani boys. And one Tajik boy. Our conversations consisted of Italian, Dari, English and another language, laughter. Because I participated in this program, I had the opportunity to let these people impact my life and learned so much. First, God transcends human boundaries, he goes beyond what is possible to build love in places that seem unlikely. For this, I am thankful, because I learned never to discredit anyone, and never pass by a relationship that seems unlikely. God is beyond what is likely.
Because I learned this, my views on culture and cross-cultural ministry have changed too. First and foremost, I think God is above culture, so we may not always understand people’s culture, but none-the-less God works in mysterious ways. I realized culture makes up not just how we talk, or walk or live, but what we talk about, what we value, how we choose to communicate and more. I think it is extremely important to pay careful attention to these things, especially in the context of cross-cultural ministry as being adaptable to them can open great doors to connect with the people around you. I don’t think we need to change or water down the gospel, but awareness is helpful because it opens a space for greater understanding of the gospel within the person’s context.
Through my missions mentor, and experience abroad, I feel challenged not to settle. I want to dive deeply into my faith and into ministry. I think for me this means taking steps to make that happen, balanced with trusting that God is beginning a work in me that he will not stop until it is complete. I have learned so much from this time and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.