Henry Martyn once said, “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to him, the more intensely missionary we must become.”
Henry was in agreement with the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, who, just before ascending back to His Father’s side, said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
If you love Jesus you’ll love whom He loves. And He has told us that He loves people in “Samaria.” That was a cultural and geographical designation for the first century Jews to whom originally He spoke these words. But you and I have a “Samaria” full of people Jesus loves as well.
How do you identify your Samaria and the people who fill it? They are the folks who are near or at least within proximity of you geographically—maybe right next door or within proximity of your neighborhood, work or school circles, social circles, etc. While they are near to you geographically you probably don’t naturally know them on a personal basis because they are different from you culturally. Their first language may be something other than English. They may wear clothing that looks foreign to you. They may seem to have different standards of personal hygiene. They value things differently than you. You know they are there. But they are different. There is no visible line between you, but there is a cultural line that takes intention to cross.
That is how the Samaritans seemed to the Jews who lived in Jerusalem and Judea. They were different. They had a mixed cultural and ethnic background. They had a different religion. They were distinct politically. But they were just beyond the natural and social circle of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. The geographical distance wasn’t the real barrier to reaching these people for Jesus—fear, pride, prejudice, and comfort were.
The same barriers may exist in your heart today. They not only separate you from these people, they distance you from Jesus.
Take a few moments and ask God to help you answer this question: Who are some people within my community that fit this description? Write down something that helps you identify them.
Now, ask God to give you an opportunity to have a simple conversation or interaction with someone who qualifies as a part of your Samaria. When that prayer is answered by an opportunity that stands before you, write down when and how it came about. At this stage it isn’t necessarily about bearing witness to them necessarily, but about simply overcoming the fear of interacting with them.
Here are some hints:
- Is there a university or college near you? Do they have a population of international students? Is there an office that oversees their experience in America? Are there programs to help them during their time here?
- Are there places within your community or one near you that has an influx of refugees arriving from other parts of the world? Can you name what countries they originate from? Are there ethnic groceries or shops you could visit to converse with one or two of them?
- Do you have ethnic restaurants that provide authentic (not Americanized) ethnic foods? Have you taken the time to talk with the owners and workers? To ask about their story and lives? To complement them on their food and service
- Are there TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs in your area? They are always looking for native English speakers to have conversation with their students. Can you volunteer?