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Cross-Cultural Ministry from Home: Innovating during COVID-19

Cross-Cultural Ministry from Home: Innovating during COVID-19

FALL/WINTER 2020    |    5 MINUTE READ
KATELAND VERNON, STAFF WRITER


In March 2020, like many people, global workers Josie Ellis and Andrea Linn found themselves at a crossroads. They were both preparing to go to Spain, building their team of ministry partners while on homeland ministry assignment (HMA) when the pandemic broke out. With travel on hold for the indefinite future, they were unsure when they’d be able to resume serving in Spain.

That’s when Josie and Andrea received a unique opportunity: beginning their ministry online now, while they were still building their ministry partner team at home. The teachers they’d worked with on previous trips to Spain were overwhelmed and needed help. When they asked Josie and Andrea if they could help with a class to give them a break, the two global workers jumped at the chance to get involved before ever arriving in Spain. They think this new arrangement has the possibility to change how ministry is done in the future, and in a recent interview, they shared with us all about their experience and what God has been teaching them.

Where do you serve?

Josie: We’re based in two cultural centers, one downtown in an eastern city in Spain, and one in a largely Arabic-speaking city thirty minutes away by train. We also serve at a local church.

What does your ministry look like?

Josie: Right now, we’re teaching online Sunday school to children between the ages of nine and thirteen (along with the occasional five-year-old).

Andrea: When we’re in Spain, we’ll divide our time between teaching Sunday school at the church and serving at the cultural centers, which offer many programs for North African immigrants, including English and Spanish classes, activities for children, theater programs, bicycle and soccer clubs, crafts, homework club, and youth groups.

Josie: After the cultural centers gained traction, the leaders opened an Arabic church so the locals could invite their friends to hear God’s Word in their heart language. The people they had formed relationships with through their classes at the center, they could now invite to cookouts and church services. It’s the only church in the area that addresses the language barrier in this way.

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What kind of impact have you seen from teaching so far, whether during this season or previous missions service?

Josie: The biggest thing for me is relationships. It’s been great to notice that those relationships I formed in the past are still there and to see how the kids have gotten older. I’ve loved being able to be a part of their lives for so long and to tell them that God loves them and cares about them.

Andrea: I’ve only been to Spain one time, for three months. But when we started teaching the kids online, it was really special to me that they still recognized me. I think that speaks to how much we have valued relationship within the ministry we work with in Spain. Even though I haven’t seen the kids for a long time, and they’re all older and have new experiences under their belt and new people they’ve met, they still remembered me. And they were still open and willing to chat with us, sharing with us what’s going on during this really hard time. I think that was nice, too, just that consistency of, “I still get a chance to see you. You won’t forget me.” And we could dive back in where we left off. So I know that when we go back, our relationships will be a lot stronger because of it.

This whole situation has made me think, “Why haven’t we done this before?” Even after COVID, we can still keep connecting online. Distance isn’t the same thing it used to be, thanks to technology.

How has God used this unexpected time to prepare you for when you’re in Spain?

Andrea: I hope that when the kids look back on this that they can say, “We were able to connect with people from around the world.” That’s something that we’ll always be able to share. It would have been very easy to look at this time and have a lot of questions. To say, “The world is shutting down. It’s on pause. Is this the right next step? Did I misunderstand what was supposed to happen? Am I doing the right thing?” Instead, it gave us an outlet to say, “Even in this moment of hardship, God is still opening doors and giving us an opportunity to be a part of the ministry He wants us to be a part of.” There’s a lot of reassurance that comes with that.

Josie: If I would have been just doing HMA during this time of COVID, I could have felt very discouraged. I could have thought, “It’s taking forever to get to Spain. Everything’s slowed down, and nothing’s going the way we thought it would go.” But I have this sense of hope, because I’m getting to do what I love. I’m getting to be there with my students, and I’m getting to talk to them. So there’s that new hope of, “Okay, we can go through this. We can keep going so that we can get there and be there with them in person.” I’ve loved the experience of getting to sit with them and let them know that we care. When we get there, the students will already know we care. They know we’re excited about coming. And that’s given me hope.

Has this given you some new insights into aspects of ministry you didn’t realize would be part of life in Spain?

Josie: It’s been interesting looking into the lives of the people that are there full-time and being able to realize that right now, we’re the relief crew. We’re coming in and saying, “We’re going to help out and take some of the weight off of your shoulders so that you can have some breathing room.”

Andrea: That’s the good thing about the team that is there. Everybody was so willing to help out and so willing to jump in and lend a hand, and I’m excited because we can do that now for them, too. I won’t be going alone. I love that Josie is going, too. And that it won’t just be us. There’s a whole team there that has been serving for a while and are willing to help us, mentor us, guide us, and teach us. And, on the flipside, we also have that back home with WGM. Through all of this quarantine, there’s always been somebody from WGM checking up on us. So it’s been really nice to know that we have that support on all sides.

Josie: I’ve been putting myself in the mindset of, “It’s going to be hard sometimes.” But also knowing that I love this. And I still love doing it. Whether online or in-person, it doesn’t matter—I’m still passionate about it.

ACTION STEPS

PRAY: Lift up the global workers who have been navigating schedules that are out of their control. Pray for God to direct their steps and provide unique opportunities for them. And pray for global workers currently on HMA, that they will be surrounded by a team of partners who are passionate about their ministry.

GO: If you’re not sure what to do next, try thinking about your situation from a new perspective. Is there room for innovation? If you’re planning to serve with a team—or currently do—ask them what needs you could meet right where you are, even from home.

GIVE: Our global workers are always looking to invite people to their team who are excited about what God is doing around the world. Visit Josie's giving page and Andrea's giving page to see how you can partner with Josie and Andrea today!


Global Worker Bios:

Josie Ellis fell in love with Spain while serving there one summer. She plans to return for a longer period of time to continue working with an organization that provides education to North African immigrants in the areas of language and necessary skills.

Andrea Linn realized she wanted to serve in Spain after a three-month internship there. She has a heart for making the transition to a new culture easier for refugees and immigrants and looks forward to returning to Spain as soon as possible.

The Call (Fall/Winter 2020)

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