I’d like to introduce you to four significant international women. They came from Asia, Europe, and South America and have lived here for thirteen to 30 years. Three were married when they arrived. Two have raised high-needs children. One was not yet a believer when she came. In these past years, they have become vital members of Tenth, ministering with Internationals Outreach. These women have served us with the diaconate, youth group, outreach activities, and as prayer warriors for all of us. But where did their story of connection to Tenth begin? What was their first point of contact?
For many internationals in years past, the first exposure to Tenth Internationals Outreach (formerly TIF) came because these women were seeking to fill specific needs. Practical English practice was one. At one time, if a person googled “Free English classes in Philadelphia,” Tenth would be one of the top hits, and our now-believing sister found exposure to the Bible and Christianity in the process. Because Tenth has had a reputation for ministering to internationals for many years, two of these sisters heard about Tenth in their home countries through other Christians! Both were looking for a trusted place to find good Bible teaching and help in transitioning to America. At Tenth, they shared in meals and got to know Philadelphia and its culture through group activities. Aside from the importance of shared faith, the most meaningful connection was finding friends—friends who cared deeply and were willing to provide guidance and practical help in this new culture.
That was many years ago. Connecting with international students and scholars, particularly those outside the faith, has changed. In Philadelphia, English classes abound, even available for free at the public library. “Conversation circles” for internationals made the finals in the Philadelphia Well City Challenge competition this year. Universities have figured out how to welcome internationals with social activities. Today, people from the same nation network through What’s App to find apartments, visa help, and even good deals for buying cars. Content that was once unique to Tenth is no longer.
We are thinking through how to best connect with internationals because we know the issues they face are ultimately reflections of the spiritual hunger God puts in each of our hearts. The programs and classes offered by the world cannot substitute for a connection with a person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. He fills loneliness with his constant presence, weariness with his strength, the need for a family with adoption, and the need for caring friends with the body of Christ. It is often a member of Tenth who first represents these blessings to internationals outside the faith.
How can we connect? One way may be through social media and platforms like MeetUp and Instagram. The Mercy section of the website is getting a facelift. We are seeking to fine-tune our events to the interests of today’s international visitors, starting with periodic lectures that teach specific skills. There is an afternoon worship service at 1 pm designed to welcome all nations. Most importantly, we spend more time in prayer, asking God for that open door for each one of us that will lead to new friends and spiritual conversations that address real needs.
We all rub shoulders with internationals every day. By God’s grace, connections are not far away. You can always invite friends to join you at Tenth events, like the beach trip on August 14. Becoming a conversational ESL tutor for an international has never been easier with flexible scheduling available. How can they find out about Internationals Outreach, Tenth, or the love of Christ we profess unless someone tells them? You just might be the connecting link.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Debbie Langford. © 2021 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org