‘Proximity makes all the difference’: How one M.Div. student moved neighborhoods for gospel outreach
Lauren Pratt | November 12, 2018
*Ray didn’t expect to see so many Indian families at the park when he and his wife, Lauren, visited one Friday evening in Morrisville.
As nearly 100 parents and children gathered in the park that night, the couldn’t believe that they were really just in North Carolina. The two had recently moved back from serving in India for seven years and were back in the states to receive further education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
“I was thinking, ‘Lord, this is not a coincidence. You placed us here,’” said Ray.
Ten months later, he and his wife find themselves planting their lives in Morrisville, North Carolina, about 40 minutes from the seminary, so that they can minister in closer proximity to Hindu people. The couple works as strategy coordinators with a ministry called Global Gates Network.
“The vision of Global Gates, our motto, is reaching the ends of the earth through global, gateway cities,” said Ray, “because the hope is that [by] reaching people who have migrated here, we actually can be able to reach their homeland.”
Along with this task, Ray partners with The Summit Church, his home church, to promote the Dwell program. Dwell is an opportunity that allows students and church members to move into strategic neighborhoods for one year in order to share the gospel with their neighbors. It’s an opportunity that is especially helpful to those looking to be missionaries overseas in understanding what it looks like to live in a context where many of the neighbors may be from all over the world.
Ray and Lauren are hoping to see churches planted among the people with whom they live as they share the gospel and disciple Indian believers. While patience and processing with Hindus are key in their journey to becoming a follower of Christ, Ray and Lauren are already seeing encouraging beginnings to their ministry in Morrisville.
Lauren met a woman at her child’s preschool who had been a believer for years and asked to be discipled by her. Ray recalled another instance where Lauren met another Indian woman with whom she was able to share her testimony. The woman replied, “I really like Jesus. I’ve started learning more about Jesus lately. We should talk about it more.”
With Hindus, the issue is not an openness to discuss religion but a willingness to give up deep-rooted ties that link family and beliefs so closely. Two barriers can occur when it comes to working with high-caste, Hindu families who move to the United States, said Ray. One barrier is that they become apathetic to spiritual beliefs and practices. On the opposite end, some Hindus in the diaspora develop a more passionate attachment to their religious traditions because of the need to pass them down to their children.
As the Lord intersects Ray and Lauren with various Indian families, proximity is certainly no coincidence in this process.
“Proximity makes all the difference,” said Ray, noting that this type of incarnational ministry has also developed his gospel witness, whether through a full gospel presentation or a quick word that identifies he is a follower of Christ.
As Ray thinks back on how his seminary education has developed him for ministry, the ways are numerous. His international church planting course helped him understand the different church planting models, including apostolic church planting, which he is actively a part of in his work with Global Gates.
“I think my theology’s been so much more developed because of the classes I get to take,” he said.
His view of evangelism has grown as he’s understood that sharing the full redemptive plan of God from Genesis to Revelation is vastly important for someone who has little to no knowledge of the Bible. Not only has it shaped him internally, but Ray believes this time of training should shape students externally through the way they serve.
“For seminary students, we’ve got to think there’s a problem if we’re going through all our seminary years and we’re not involved in some kind of practical ministry,” said Ray, explaining that serving will not happen spontaneously after graduation, but it is something that is developed.
“It’s got to be who you are, and if your schedule is not allowing you to do those things, you’ve got to rethink your schedule,” he said.
Ray said he and Lauren regularly ask people to pray that God would lead them to people who are searching for the truth.
“We pray, and we ask people to pray for us, that God would lead us to the good soil and lead us to persons of peace, lead us to the people where he’s already at work in their lives, there’s something stirring,” he said. “I feel like he’s been answering that prayer lately.”
*Last name removed for security purposes
*Photo courtesy of IMB at https://www.imb.org/?p=17565
From our local community to the outermost parts of the world, Southeastern students and alumni are reaching people with the gospel by fulfilling the Great Commission. Using the model of Acts 1:8, we want to highlight these stories of how our Southeastern family is serving in North Carolina, North America and around the world. Acts 1:8 Stories create a collective and consistent way to tell the story of Southeastern, one person at a time. From local pastors to missionaries among the unreached, God is doing a great work among students and alumni. Where are they now and where are they going? We can’t wait for you to find out!