Reaching the Nations in Our Own Communities
The mission of POBLO is to share the Gospel message with the nations in our own communities. Since its inception, POBLO (People of the Book Lutheran Outreach) has planted 84 churches and trained 116 missionaries to work in the U.S and overseas. POBLO International was founded in 1993 in a suburb of Detroit with the largest concentration of Muslims in the U.S. and one of the largest Arab communities outside of the Middle East.
International Friendship Centers
The way in which POBLO reaches the immigrant population is through human care programs at the International Friendship Centers or through visits from the missionaries. Volunteers serve by teaching English, sewing, and computer classes and hosting social activities. The idea is to form friendships with the immigrants in order to gain their trust. In this way, they are more willing to listen with an open mind and open heart when the Good News is shared with them.
The Influence of Mayo Clinic
One of the unique situations that POBLO has in Rochester, MN is the effect that the Mayo Clinic has on the immigrant population. In the past, POBLO International Friendship Centers have mainly worked with Muslim students. However, in Rochester, we have seen a lot of Chinese students who are here either as research fellows at the Mayo Clinic or family members of a research fellow. These students are generally here on a short-term basis (one to two years). Because of the different population, we have had to adjust how we are reaching out to the students. We have added classes and activities that are beneficial or of interest to the population that we have. For example, we are now offering Medical English classes and an informal conversation hour in the late evenings. We have even had volunteers work one on one with students to help them pass different kinds of exams for work or to help them prepare for presentations.
The key to successfully reaching out to the immigrant population is to form relationships and really listen to them. Find out about them. What is their background? What is important to them? What is it that they want or need? In essence, just be a friend. One good way to form these relationships is through social activities like potlucks, game nights, holiday celebrations, etc. Recently, one of our volunteers invited his class to his house for a Mother’s Day dinner. Several of his students came and some even brought friends.
There have been many success stories about how the Holy Spirit has worked through a volunteer or a social activity to open the dialogue about the Gospel message. I will share just one. Over the Christmas holiday, Holy Cross Lutheran Church’s youth and confirmation groups hosted a Christmas cookie-decorating event for the POBLO students. The immigrants sat at tables with the youth and talked about Christmas traditions while decorating and eating Christmas cookies. The group even got the chance to sing/listen to some traditional Christmas Carols. There were about 20 Chinese and Taiwanese students who attended. At the event, Pastor Green briefly shared the Christmas story and the students were given a book about the Christmas story and a handout of local churches’ Christmas programs and services. About 10 students went to one of the Christmas programs, and on Christmas Eve, about 25 Chinese people showed up to one of the church services. Without the cookie-decorating event about 35 people would not have gone to church during the Christmas season. Did those 35 people become Christians? Not on that day, but there was a seed planted. Now the Holy Spirit will grow that seed.
It is important to remember that we are not responsible for converting people; that is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our job is simply to be a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to do His work. We need to show the love of Jesus through our actions, and let Him do the rest.
Kristine Murray is the Educational Center Program Director & Coordinator for POBLO International Ministries in Rochester, MN.