By Andrew H.; Team Leader
The Vision of People Teams
People Teams has been a ministry of BR-KC for over eight years. What started with David Elliot in a small upstairs apartment in North KC has continued through Rich Casebolt and now to Andrew H. to touch the lives of hundreds of internationals. The ministry has also involved hundreds of Americans from our churches in great commission work to the Glory of God. God led BR-KC to be on the forefront of refugee ministry before it had the global attention that it now does in the media and in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Each cross-cultural ministry avenue has taught us a lesson that I want to pass on to you for reflection: Americans are not the saviors, Jesus is. A few years of ethnic mapping and creating the Prayer Guide revealed that the spiritual needs of the internationals in our city are far beyond what one church can meet. Thousands of Muslims, Hindi’s, and Buddhists live in Kansas City and this knowledge drives us to our knees in recognition that we are powerless to meet the great need we see, but God is saving people one by one in His miraculous ways. Cultural tours with Connection Point on Wednesdays during the summers have been another good way to gain awareness of the spiritual needs in KC.
Relationship Is Important
We believe that we shouldn’t just meet needs but invite internationals into relationship. Most of us see the physical needs of refugees and assume that our role is to give them something and their role is to receive. Hand-outs are appreciated, but what they need most is a relationship with someone who is local, and the time required for that can be somewhat costly, but the fruit is very rewarding. The volunteers who have made lasting connections beyond just a hand-out have been blessed and have had more opportunities among that people group, which is very exciting. Because of the growth that stems from the relationships that are developed, most of our programs involve spending relational time with the refugees. Many volunteers have maintained these relationships over the past few years. Many refugees live in Kansas City for a decade before being invited to an American’s home. Simple outings have produced deep discussions about life where the hope of the Gospel can be communicated. This is not a program, but it is a very important ministry happening in our city.
Empowering Others For Ministry
We are passionate about empowering others to do the ministry, not just doing it all ourselves. Over the past two years we have worked with Congolese teens from a local church through soccer, Bible Study, and swimming. Now, some are catching the vision to share the Gospel with others in our community. The photo is of one of a group from FBC Cameron, MO and the Congolese who just finished going door to door in the neighborhood sharing Christ together. Seeing two cultures unite to share Christ is very powerful, and we need to recognize that other cultures can do Great Commission work as well, often more effectively than people who grew up in America.
Opportunities for Belonging and Connecting
Sometimes people have to belong before they believe. The newly formed Somali girls group is a time for art projects and fun for teen girls as they also learn stories about women in the Bible. Somali girls are usually sheltered by suspicious and protective parents, but they have surprisingly been granted permission to attend. One girl commented, “This group is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” It is an act of God that this group exists.
Cross-cultural relationships and miniistry is a long game. Basketball and Bible Study with the teens began as a ministry for Christian kids from many cultures in January 2016. When Muslim and other inner-city kids started coming, we realized that God wanted to reach them also. At the time, most who attended were in 8th grade. Now, a gym of 30-40 eleventh-graders have heard lots of the Bible and have interacted with a dozen basketball-loving volunteer mentors. None of the Muslims have converted, but the lives of these friends are in God’s Hands, and only He knows the impact of caring Christians trying to love them over the course of a few years.
Stretching, Growing and Learning
Operating in another culture is a constant learning process. I often feel like the boys in the movie The Sandlot; after trying three or four times to retrieve the baseball signed by Babe Ruth from the neighbor’s English Mastiff, one boy realizes, “We’ve been going about this all wrong.” I often feel that way. Learning from the experience of others and getting helpful training is vital for effective ministry. The Refugee Simulation Experience has been a good way to train volunteers, and I hope to have another one in March 2019. It will be a 3 hour experience where groups can walk through the journey of a refugee coming to Kansas City through an interactive drama. As people navigate this Refugee Stimulation experience, they will have the opportunity to make tough decisions and experience some artificial trauma that refugees often face. This along with other training resources are important elements of our training for volunteers. Ultimately, the Word of God and trying to obey God’s Spirit is the best guidance, but it makes sense to get training wherever we can. I believe that God has a plan and a purpose for the future of People Teams in Kansas City over the next few years, and I am excited to see volunteers mobilized to see God’s Kingdom come among the Nations in Kansas City.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2018 Book of Reports.