Gary and Elizabeth Gibson have been on a unique journey for the past year and a half. After sensing the call of God to full-time ministry, they left their home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Gary enrolled in the Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism (AFCOE) training program where he learned the importance of befriending people to reach them for Christ. As the training concluded they prayerfully filled out an application to serve with Adventist Frontier Missions, and during the orientation last summer officially answered the call to disciple the Celtic people of the British Isles.
The British Isles are steeped in moral relativism, secularism and humanism. Among the 10 million people living in Scotland and Ireland, alcohol and drug use are widespread. Even children are promiscuous and morality in the media is non-existent. Between 1966 and 2006 numbers of churchgoers dropped from over 1,230,000 to 504,000, illustrating how Christianity has lost its practical relevance. Many have experienced first-hand physical and/or sexual abuse by religious leaders. There is apathy toward established religion, but there is interest in the idea of Jesus.
Through the centuries, Satan has used the animosity and hatred between the two Christian factions in the British Isles to make people suspicious of God. Coupled with the recent religious scandals, the Celtic people question how the followers of a God of love could do such heinous acts.
You might be wondering how we can hope to share Jesus with people who show no interest in Him, who have been hurt by religious organizations and consider themselves completely secular with no need for God. That’s a good question! We think you’ll find the approach we’re planning applicable to your interactions with friends and neighbors as well.
Our first task after will be to study cultural perspectives. We need to learn the British ways of transacting business, conducting ourselves in public and socializing with others. By learning these things, we’ll be able to build friendships and establish trusting relationships.
How will we meet these friends? By becoming involved in our community. We will attend concerts and performances and play organized games at the park. We will join interest groups—perhaps a book club, a gym, a choir, a playgroup for our children. We will seek out these opportunities by reading the local newspaper or looking online.
Through time, when asked or when it is appropriate, we will share small pieces of information. For instance, if a friend mentions struggles with diabetes we can guide the conversation into healthful living ideas, like eating more vegetables and fewer sweets and processed foods. When someone is going through a hard time, we can bring over a loaf of bread or a pot of vegetarian soup and offer to pray for them.
These gestures will cultivate trust and, we believe, will open doors for more opportunities. Eventually we’d like to offer vegetarian cooking classes, addiction or depression recovery programs, parenting classes and more. We also plan to set up a lending library.
Above all, we aim to communicate God’s love to the Celtic people through our interactions with each other, with the friends we will make, and by our example. We believe that “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).
For more information go to www.afmonline.org and click “Missionaries” then click “In Training.”