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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Intercultural Ministries: Backyard Mission Field

By Gail Wood
June 29, 2014

Following their years as missionaries to Mexico, Steve and Sheri Woodward saw an opportunity and a need to be missionaries in their hometown of Amarillo, Texas.

They encourage others to do likewise, in any community.

“This is a way people can be involved in missions in their own backyard,” Woodward says. “And I’m talking world missions.”

Amarillo, with a healthy job market in the cattle business, has become a magnet for immigrants coming to the United States. To assist new arrivals in their transition, Woodward, now an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary, started teaching English eight years ago, reaching up to 100 adults a week.

A Bible study is part of every two-hour session. Ten volunteers from local churches teach in the Woodwards’ outreach ministry held at the Amigo Center, a building purchased by Steve and Sheri.

According to Steve Woodward, those who move to a new country and learn a new language are receptive to the gospel.

“They’re tremendously open,” he says. “There’s a tremendous need.” 

Woodward estimates 75 percent of those who enroll in his English as a second language class or citizenship class are Hispanic. But he also has taught students from Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Congo, Somalia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos.

Last summer, Woodward got word from AG world missionaries in Thailand that an Iranian couple was immigrating to Amarillo after fleeing from Iran to Thailand. The husband had been imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith.

“They were like a man and woman without a country,” Woodward says. “Now they want to start an Iranian church in Amarillo, reaching out to the Muslim community.”

Besides teaching English, part of Woodward’s ministry helps immigrants get settled during their transition time. Sometimes that includes helping them obtain a driver’s license, find a church, and sometimes even shop at a grocery store.

A new Hispanic church that now numbers 50 people attending Sunday services in the center started from one English class. Another new church plant of Congolese refugees meets at Amarillo First Assembly’s Family Life Center and has 100 attending.

“This has been a great outreach tool,” Woodward says. “It’s a tremendous way to build bridges with people of different cultures. When you see them every week, you get to know them and they get to know you.”

That connection leads often to friendships, and that sometimes leads to an invitation to dinner or to a family event. 

“Ministry flows through relationships,” Woodward says. “We build relationships so we can minister to these folks.”

About 500 refugees resettle in Amarillo each year, making it one of the largest refugee settlements in the nation for a city of its size (population 195,250).

 “I’m sure some of them are hearing the gospel for the first time,” Woodward says.

He has also instructed students who are Mandean, a gnostic religion that views Jesus as a deceiver and John the Baptist as a prophet.

“This is an unreached group,” Woodward says.

With the increasing number of immigrants coming to the United States, Woodward recognizes a growing need to reach the lost who are resettling from around the world. Those who hear the gospel and follow Christ then become a witness locally and to their homeland if they return, sharing the good news with friends and family.

Woodward teaches a six-hour training class to church groups on how to start an ESL outreach to immigrants.

“What an opportunity this is for our churches,” Woodward says.


GAIL WOOD is a freelance writer and author of Saved Twice.

 

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