You CAN get there from here

“Where do you want to go?” the old farmer responded. He leaned a little farther out from his car window and listened again to the hitch-hiker’s question. “No, no,” he replied at last with a wry smile, “No, I’m sorry: you can’t get there from here”.

As with hitch-hiking, so with sharing the gospel: sometimes we find ourselves rather lost. We may know our destination is to share the gospel, but how to reach that point with some people is quite a puzzle. We’re uncertain how to express the gospel in ways they will understand and how to make good opportunities for doing so.

Of course, we become most easily lost when we venture into new and unfamiliar territory and in Australia today, cross-cultural outreach among our ethnic population is just that. How on earth do you share the gospel with the elderly Ukranian lady up the road who doesn’t speak English, or with the Thai Buddhist who owns the local vegetarian restaurant?

No hitch-hiker would ever believe a line like “You can’t get there from here” and in sharing the gospel we must hold onto the same sort of common sense. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to believe that the challenge of ethnic outreach in Australia is just too hard (especially if we’ve made attempts which have failed). There are problems; there are barriers of culture and language to get around—but like the hitch-hiker, we must remember that it’s simply a matter of getting ourselves on the right path. Some paths may be poorly sign-posted or long and circuitous, but they are there, despite how lost we initially feel or how impossible the task may seem.

If you’re feeling lost, teaching English is a good place to start. Some friends and I have been doing so in people’s homes for some years now. We teach individuals or small groups and charge nothing for the service. They may be people with minimal knowledge of English or who need further help with it. Such teaching may not otherwise be available to those with time-consuming jobs or insufficient money for formal courses. Lessons are held once a week (or so) for as many months or years as are needed. As well as teaching English we can help with questions about Australian life and culture or help in practical ways such as filling out government forms with them.

The value of teaching English in this way lies in its potential for guiding us out of our initial disorientation. Firstly it allows us to learn much about a language and culture very different from our own. This will help us greatly in knowing how to explain the gospel in ways which will be adequately understood. Secondly it opens up good opportunities for doing so as relationships of trust and acceptance are built up. These opportunities might not come in the context of the lessons themselves but can develop in natural ways as relationships develop and as people see the character of Christ lived out before them.

Ultimately one may gain acceptance throughout their wider ethnic community and have opportunities for sharing the gospel, and the ability to do so well, which are available to few other Christians.

Ethnic outreach isn’t easy but the paths are there. Teaching English can prove strategic in taking us toward our destination of sharing the love of Christ with all people.

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