Reflections on International Ministry
Lee Leadbetter | August 01, 2020
Dee Pierce has served joyfully and faithfully on the University of Tennesee RUF International ministry team for the past several years. She's participated in countless events, led ESL classes, and, along with her husband Mark, hosted many students in their home. Dee shared the following reflection recently on her role in the global-local ministry that RUF-I is engaged in among the nations at UT:
"As my understanding of God’s world and His intentions have evolved, I’ve realized it’s not an option for my circle of friends to include only natural born Americans — however convenient or comfortable that may sometimes be. Instead, I now thrive on relationships with people from all over the world. I believe Jesus has specifically called me to show His love to temporary and permanent immigrants by teaching English and exploring American culture. My students also fill a void left by family members who no longer live in Knoxville. So I look forward to simple pleasures such as sharing meals and taking walks with international friends. I draw a sense of purpose from the Lord’s prayer which says... ”Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.” I believe with all my heart, soul, and spirit that diversity and inclusion are God’s will for the people of this earth. And I thank Him for directing me toward RUF-International where I’m blessed to share His gifts of curiosity, knowledge and hospitality with our global community."
Endless analysis leads to paralysis, right? Yes - but it's also healthy and needed sometimes for individuals, organizations and communities to self-reflect. At a recent Ministry Team meeting, we recalled together that RUF International is neither a party planning business nor an educational institution, and not even a service organization. We do host parties (lots of them!); we do teach in order to help our international friends learn more about English, American culture, and Christianity; and we do make serving our friends from around the world a high priority.
But more essentially than any of those things, RUF-I is the Church going to the campus to make disciples of the nations. And the way we do this matters. We don't use deception or manipulation to get guests to come and listen to us talk about Jesus. We don't require internationals to attend a Bible study in order to experience Christian hospitality. And we don't cut our international friends off if they show no interest in becoming Christians. We seek to meet and welcome each of them as image-bearers of the Creator with a "no strings attached" kind of love. And we also prayerfully and patiently look for opportunities to explore the Gospel and its impact on our own lives with them. It's exciting to see how the Lord uses things like a Winter Game Night in a local home to forge the bonds of friendship, and how He uses providing a free quality meal on a busy Thursday night as a tangible expression of his love for the peoples of the world. And, of course, it's thrilling to watch the Gospel of grace, at times, powerfully at work drawing hearts and minds into new or deeper fellowship with Jesus the Savior.