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New Eyes After Birmingham

Susie Agnolutto had been going to the same laundromat for 20 years without experiencing anything more extraordinary than the clothes getting clean.

Then, this past summer, Susie and her husband Dario, the lead pastor of the Grace Brethren Church of Calvert County, went with four others to Birmingham, England to support Encompass Global Workers Bill and Beckie Kiddoo in their ministry to internationals and refugees.

For months the team prepared themselves for the trip by reading cross-cultural ministry books and walking through the newly revised Encompass training Mobilizing the Mobilizers, but they were still shocked by what they found when they arrived. Birmingham is one of England’s most diverse cities, with a culture that incorporates a manifold display of religions. While they were there, the team helped minister to Bill and Beckie’s international and refugee friends by leading retreats. They learned a great deal from their guests about what it is like to be a foreigner in a Western European country.

After their short time in Birmingham, the team returned to the States with full hearts and new eyes.

One of the reasons the team had made the trip was to develop a more globally-minded vision for their church. They believed the trip was a success, and they wondered as they settled back into their normal schedules how God was going to use their Birmingham experience for the GBC of Calvert County community.

It did not take long for God to show them.

One evening, after a busy day teaching middle school, Susie stopped by the laundromat with some clothes to wash, just as she always did.  There was a Korean woman working inside. With Birmingham fresh on her heart, Susie decided to strike up a conversation with the woman telling her she was on her way home from work.

The woman asked her where she worked, and Susie told her she was a middle school English teacher. The woman smiled and asked Susie if she was willing to teach her English. She said she had been living in the U.S. for nine years and never properly learned the language. Susie was shocked. Not long before, she was sitting thousands of miles away in one of the Kiddoo’s Conversational Clubs wondering if she could ever duplicate the ministry in the States, and this opportunity was right at home waiting for her.

Susie wasn’t alone in this experience. Debbie Haas, another school teacher and Birmingham team member, returned to the school where she had taught for years prepared for her typical routine to begin.  Right away, the school board approached Debbie and asked her if she would be interested in helping the school organize an ESL program for the Hispanic community. The program needed a facility and plenty of staff volunteers to take care of the kids during the classes. Debbie offered the use of the church building, and the public school board was surprisingly excited about the offer.

Not only was the Calvert County team equipped for ministry by their time in Birmingham, they brought back with them a new global vision. As Dario Agnolutto said, “We looked at all the opportunities around us when we returned and we knew that our seeing was not accidental.”

Is the Holy Spirit calling you to reach internationals in your community? You don’t have to travel to Birmingham; you can begin by simply reaching out right where you are. If you open your eyes and submit to the Lord’s leading for the sake of making His name known among the nations, you may be surprised what opportunities come your way.