God commands us in Acts 13:47 to be a light unto others so that we can be a living testimony of our salvation. It is possible to accomplish this simply by following and sharing God's word in your everyday life. Some Christians may decide to take the verse a step further, and witness to areas outside of their home community.
This desire can be daunting because it forces many out of their comfort zone as they interact with unfamiliar cultures and surroundings. Luckily, booking a flight to a foreign country is not required to achieve the outreach you want.
One example is Immanuel Baptist Church's mission trips to Brooklyn, New York. These trips are perfect for those individuals who want to share their faith to others in new and diverse locations without having to leave the United States.
While it's not a foreign country, Brooklyn is New York's largest borough and is made up of people from all over the world. It's an area that exposes Christians to a variety of cultures and ideas that are hard to encounter in their own community.
"Brooklyn is really our entry into crossing cultures and sharing the gospel with them," said Immanuel's Next Step Pastor Brett Martin.
The mission trips to Brooklyn began after one of Immanuel's church members became stranded in the New York area while helping with disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy. Jamie Zelaya, a Brooklyn pastor, heard about their situation and took it upon himself to rescue and care for the relief team.
"It showed that there were people in New York who really were trying to share the love of Jesus," said mission trip leader, Jared Earnest.
From that realization, Immanuel decided to partner with Zelaya to help share the love of Jesus. As a result, the church sends three groups every year to Brooklyn with the goal of reaching others through consistency and conversation.
Zelaya focuses on sharing his ministry with a different ethnic or cultural group every year. He wants to reach the nations, and he believes that the best way to do that is by building relationships with the people in Brooklyn who represent various areas in the world.
"We talk a lot about hearing their story, sharing your story, and connecting that to God's story," explained Martin. He said that the members of the group would start conversations with others and follow-up with that by asking them out to coffee or inviting them to church.
The group revisits locations often and are consistent with the people they are trying to reach so that they can be better witnesses.
It allows Christians to boldly share their message without the threat of turning others away from God. The conversation and kindness displayed throughout the week invites non-believers to learn more about the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
College student Channing Baker reflected on her personal experience with those conversations. "It was so sad to hear their stories and all their struggles they are going through but it was a great experience to be able to share the gospel with them and just pray for them," she said.
Another benefit of the mission trip is that it promotes personal growth within those who participate and prevents them from becoming burnt out.
Each morning, Zelaya teaches the Bible. Practicing this ritual creates a greater hunger for God's word, and develops habits that endure beyond the mission trip. It also allows for time to reflect on the experiences of the day before and to pray for those who were encountered.
"Normally on missions you're pouring out to the point you feel worn out but we usually feel fulfilled, not only in what we're doing, but also filled ourselves and rested," Earnest said.
One of the core values of Immanuel's ministry is to "go after people," and a huge aspect of that is learning how to make conscious efforts to share the gospel. "That's the main thing that we want people to take away," said Martin.
The structure of the mission promotes that attitude in those who go on the trip. Earnest said he has even had individuals come back who only had only been on the Brooklyn mission, but were ready to take a large leap and witness outside of the country.
Earnest says it is "because they've been trained, not only in urban evangelism, but also in being spiritually built up, fed, and encouraged."