By Gabriel Stovall
BRONX, New York—Missionaries from all over the world took to Zoom to share their stories with Bible study members of Graffiti 2 church (the host church of Send Relief’s New York ministry center). But to the New Yorkers, some of what they shared didn’t feel foreign.
“Especially in a culture like South Bronx, becoming a believer here is a radical shift,” Graffiti 2 pastor Andrew Mann says. “There is no cultural Christianity, for sure. And it’s the same, especially on the international mission field. So even with things that were different, I felt like our people were able to connect and relate to some of these missionaries’ stories.”
“We didn’t know going in how long we would have to be on Zoom,” Graffiti 2’s WMU Director Kerri Johnson says. “We had no estimate because we had no way of knowing that we would be away from each other for more than a couple of weeks.”
Kerri used her relationships with missionaries to connect the Graffiti 2 family had a mixture of international and North American missionaries who were more than happy to share their stories with the church.
Some, like Kay Bennett from Send Relief’s New Orleans ministry center, were NAMB missionaries. Then there was a couple from New Mexico that ministers to employees in dairy farms. Many of those employees are foreign born and speak little English. They also heard from a husband-and-wife duo that shared about the excitement of serving on call through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
Other missionaries shared from remote parts of Africa, India, Thailand and other countries that, due to safety issues, could not be named.
“It was so impactful for them to hear from the ones who have seen and done things that we haven’t experienced here,” says Kerri. “When you’re talking about going into far, far deep Africa where there aren’t any grocery stores, that’s different. When you’re speaking of being threatened because you’re so different than the native residents there, that’s different. One of our missionaries who couldn’t tell their real names shared some of the stories about what young girls experienced there. And it was truly extreme stuff. I think those things hit home quite a bit to our kids who were watching.”
One young man, a member of Graffiti 2, peppered one of the international missionaries with questions about how they knew they were called to the foreign mission field and if it’s a place that Graffiti 2 members could go to help serve.
“You could see that there was a process going on in that young man’s brain,” Kerri says. “He was wanting to know more about serving in this way, and you never know what God can do with that.”
Graffiti 2 has resumed in-person Bible studies on Wednesday nights while still giving people a virtual-only option. But the sessions with missionaries were popular that both Kerri and Andrew want to host more. Kerri has already lined up another group of missionaries ready to share.
“I would think we would definitely revisit this,” she said. “Especially in a time when we’re not able to come together, which could happen again. It was fun, but it was encouraging to see the turnout and the interest, the people who wanted to support the missionaries and how it has challenged everyone to think beyond just what we’re used to when it comes to living on mission.”
Graffiti 2 Church is a Send Relief ministry center located in South Bronx. Go to https://www.sendrelief.org/ to learn more about how you can join Send Relief’s ministry efforts.