By Faith Morgan
Neighbors have grown accustomed to seeing Erin Gordon and her two young daughters decorating the sidewalks outside their suburban Dallas home with colorful chalk drawings. This is more than a creative pass time—it’s a ministry outreach.
“We live right by the high school, and a lot of the kids are walking home from high school, or busses full of younger kids are getting dropped off by our house, and so we strategically try to get outside when other people are going to be outside and meet neighbors that way,” said Gordon of her family’s artistic pursuits.
Chalk art is just one of the many ways Gordon, her husband, Jon, and their two daughters are intentionally interacting with the diverse residents of their neighborhood. Indian, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, Dominican, Nigerian, Pakistani, Nicaraguan, Azerbaijani—this Texas community looks more like Lady Liberty’s melting pot than John Wayne’s old west.
“When we first moved to this area in 2006, we lived in one of the first houses in the community, and so when neighbors first started coming in, we just noticed, one after one, they were not born here,” said Gordon. “There’s a reason we’re supposed to be here, and I think we discovered that as we started to meet our neighbors.
“I grew up in Los Angeles in a diverse community and a very diverse school that was only 20 percent white, so I’m used to being the minority,” Gordon noted. The Gordon family’s efforts are part of a growing trend in stateside people-group ministry among Southern Baptists.
“In many ways, we know more about villages in Tibet and Burma than we know about unreached people groups here in the U.S.,” said Dr. Bryan Galloway, the Senior Research Analyst with the IMB’s Global Research and leader of the North America initiative of PeopleGroups.info (a primary partnership of the IMB and the North American Mission Board). He noted that while people are often eager to board a plane and minister to unreached groups overseas, they’re sometimes oblivious to the fact that those same people groups are often living just across town—or even across the street.
In an effort to reach the nations right outside their door, the Gordons—along with family friends Brian and Molly Taylor and their two daughters—began hosting regular neighborhood block parties with the goal of building relationships and starting conversations about the gospel. For their Valentine’s Day block party this year, the families hung paper hearts decorated with all of the attributes of love from 1 Corinthians 13.
“They took notice of it and discussed it,” said Gordon. “They would read them and say, ‘Oh, keep no record of wrong? That’s really hard for me.’ So we just had these built-in talking points.
“We have seen how much they desire to have friends and to fit in,” she said. “They want to have someone to listen to them and teach them the culture and help them at the grocery store.”
As stay-at-home moms, Gordon and Molly Taylor are uniquely able to minister to the immigrant wives in the neighborhood. “The men move here and are able to work, and the women feel trapped because they don’t have the necessary paperwork to get a job legally,” Gordon said. So they launched quarterly craft parties that they call “Pinterest with a Purpose” to get the ladies out of their homes and fellowshipping with neighbors.
“We get together and learn a new skill or craft, and then we use that for a cause,” Gordon explained. “At the very first party, we made some little dresses and sent them to an orphanage in Kenya.” The crafts have a second cause, too—every project has a gospel tie-in.
“We always have a Bible verse theme, and I always talk with them at the beginning about the purpose of it and what we’re going to do. I share something that God puts on my heart, and then we make our craft,” said Gordon. “At first, I thought I might offend somebody, but they’re interested to hear what I’m going to say. Every time we’ve had conversations about the Bible, they’ve always come back asking more questions. They are so engaged, and they often say, ‘I called my mom in India and told her about this.’ So when you reach internationals here, you’re also reaching them in their home country, and a lot of these are unreached people groups that would be difficult to get to.”
And even beyond their skills as chalk artists, the two young Gordon girls (ages 3 and 5) are also deeply involved in the ministry. “My husband and I prayerwalk and ride our bikes through the neighborhood with the girls, and pray for the neighbors as we’re going about our day,” explained Gordon. The girls even help their parents explain the gospel to their international friends.
“Sometimes, when we’re sharing with them, we get a little too Christian-y in our language, and we don’t even realize that we’re speaking a little bit over their heads when it’s all such new information. My 5-year-old, Claire, will say, ‘What Mommy is saying is…’ and then she’ll say it, and they understand,” said Gordon. “We can sit there for 20 minutes trying to explain the resurrection, and she comes in the room and says it in a minute, and they get it. She’s definitely learning how to use her words to share the gospel with others.”
“I think Christians often leave sharing the gospel and mission work to people who feel called into ministry and to the missions pastors, but I think we forget that, as Christians, we are called to love God, to love people and then make disciples,” said Gordon. “We love these neighbors, and they have become such good friends. Our hope is one day we are able to call these neighbors not only friends but our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Refugees and internationals come to North America seeking security, opportunity and prosperity. Genuine friendships offered by the church can help refugees and internationals get familiar with their surroundings and stay safe in their new home. Learn more about how to engage refugee and international communities.
Published October 12, 2017