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Most countries do not lay out a red carpet for the gospel. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” 1 Corinthians 1:18. Encompass workers must enter these places creatively. Christians can’t enter creative access countries on a religious visa or openly proclaim the gospel there. It’s dangerous, illegal or both. To make disciples in these places, you need to create relational bridges.
In order for authentic connections to occur there must be a real desire or experience on which those connections are firmly grounded. Something that is already in you connects with something that is in another person. It is a bridge because the possibility of exchange can occur. For the Church, this exchange is Christ. As the Spirit of God opens spiritual eyes to see and ears to hear, believers can use a bridge to be listened to and understood.
In Southeast Asia, Encompass Global Workers invest in these relational bridges using their passions and talents. Instead of entering with roles like “pastor” or “church planter”, many of them work with educational institutions or with businesses such as, consulting, design, and coffee. These jobs are the spiritual soil where they make disciples.
At a university nearby the Encompass team, one of the Global Workers taught a class on mono-theistic religions of the world. The class provided the opportunity to discuss Christianity with the students, and one in particular was enamored by how many misunderstandings he had regarding Jesus. After class, the student opened up and shared his bad run-ins with false teachers claiming to be Christians.
In this culture, the teacher/student relationship is highly valued allowing relational bridges to be built naturally. It would have been unlikely for this student to have shared his experience with the Encompass teammate if they were just strangers. Teaching has proven to be a way for connections develop, where new opportunities for planting seeds of the gospel exist.
Another Encompass teammate helped open a café and bakery that uses its space to offer workshops, Bible studies, and counseling services, serving as a great place for relational bridges to form. Many gatherings are planned through the café, providing a safe environment for people to connect with each other, especially those who are hurting.
In this community, many people struggle with psychological and emotional issues. Asking for help only increases the shame these individuals already feel. Additionally, there are not many available options to find encouragement and healing. The café provides space for our team to reach out to these people, forming many relational bridges to communicate the gospel.
Although connections are typically formed through passions, talents, or vocations, sometimes a relational bridge is founded on a common experience.
One of the believing families in Southeast Asia has a son in college with Down Syndrome. Where they live offers very little community awareness and care for those with special needs. Usually, children with disabilities are also seen as shameful. Parents are burdened with the decisions to abort their babies or abandon them for fear of shame from the community. This Encompass family is using their faith formed by walking with God through raising a son with Down Syndrome to connect with young parents facing similar challenges with their children. Families are impacted by the love, value, and closeness of relationship so clearly displayed. Nick Vujicic, a very successful Christian motivational speaker who was born without any limbs, visited the community where the Encompass family lives. They said it was amazing to see the people’s reaction to Nick’s talk. All the people seemed to have the epiphany that perhaps those with special needs are indeed human and extending affection to them will not transfer shame to me. Nick’s talk allowed the Encompass team to sow further seeds of truth into their relationships.
All of these creative platforms have built substantial relational bridges for the Encompass Teams in Southeast Asia. The teams continue to earn their right to be listened to, and they deliver the Gospel message from a place of connection praying that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of the people they minister to the joys of Christ.
Are you faithfully making these kind of connections where you are? How are you creatively building relational bridges in your circles? Never underestimate the ways God will use you to make disciples of all nations. No matter where you are in the world, making those connections is essential for the Great Commission. And to what end? To the praise of His glorious grace!
Encompass World Partners’ Mobilization Team seeks to mobilize and equip people and churches who are following Jesus into the missional work he’s doing to make disciples of all nations. You can contact Encompass’ mobilization team at firstname.lastname@example.org.