More than 70 languages and cultures are represented in Texas Baptist churches around the state. Each of these churches helps Texas Baptists better reflect the diversity and breadth of God’s kingdom. The Intercultural Ministries team has created programs and grants to train and equip these churches to reach their unique people groups in Texas and beyond.
With funding from the Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Intercultural Ministries has created four unique opportunities for outreach. These groups include youth ministry, refugee assistance, church outreach grants and ministry training.
“The Mary Hill Davis offering is essential to Intercultural Ministries, because it helps us do a lot of the creative and innovative things that help our churches continue to grow and reach their communities,” Patty Lane, director of Intercultural Ministries, explained. “They are our lifeline to being able to assist congregations in their God-given potential.”
The biggest youth outreach for Intercultural Ministries is Camp Fusion. Camp Fusion hosts approximately 300 participants from over 18 different cultures each summer. Though they have had to switch to an online format this summer due to COVID-19, Lane explained that the camp still had a meaningful impact on the campers who attended. The camp is primarily run by young adults who participated in the camp when they were students.
“Once they can no longer be campers, they come back as part of the leadership team. The camp is very much directed by these young adults who have been a part of camp,” Lane explained. “We get to benefit from their in-depth knowledge and background [of being intercultural and attending the camp], and also see new leaders emerge who are able to strengthen any church they are a part of.”
In addition to the camp, there are also leadership training opportunities and workshops that take place throughout the year. Mark Heavener, Intercultural Ministries strategist, explained that the youth who attend the camp and trainings are usually second or third-generation immigrants, who are in the same stage as American students but often have very different cultural backgrounds and home lives than their peers.
“Camp Fusion and these trainings help impact intercultural youth who already live on the fringe of youth culture to experience God in a culturally relevant way. One parent sent me a note this year thanking us, ‘thank you for Building Jesus into my daughter’s heart,’” Mark Heavener, Intercultural Ministries strategist, said. “Young adults who have been through our youth leader training in high school and further develop as leaders with camp are stepping into roles of leadership in youth groups and developing or stepping into major roles in the English congregations in their churches.”
The Intercultural Ministries Team has created a service to help refugees in Dallas through Project: Start. This ministry was created when the Texas Baptists office relocated to Northwest Dallas near Vickery Meadow, a hub for refugees. Run by Helen Cingpi, the ministry serves as a connection between refugees and resources available to them throughout the Metroplex.
“We don’t create our own solutions, we find solutions that are already in the community. We noticed that some refugee families knew all the places to go and were well connected, and other refugees were really struggling and didn’t know where to find anything. So Project Start is really to help connect people to the resources that are there in the community. We are the bridge to help refugees get access to the resources,” Lane explained.
If they find that a particular area or resource is lacking, Project: Start connects with local Texas Baptists churches to establish a ministry that addresses that need.
To help churches reach their people group, Texas Baptists offers grants for outreach events through the Mary Hill Davis Fund. These grants give churches with limited resources the ability to meet unique circumstances where there is an opportunity for ministry. Lane explained that one such event was when a Bhutanese church noticed an influx of Bhutanese refugees entering their city in the fall. The church applied for a grant to throw a Christmas festival for the refugees. At the festival, church members were able to share with the refugees, many of whom had not encountered Christianity before, what Christmas was about and the importance of Christ’s birth. They were able to form relationships and connect with the refugee community through the festival.
The Intercultural Ministries Team also uses the offering funds to host trainings for specific language and culture groups. Lane explained that these trainings range from legal procedures for churches to sermon preparation to advice on immigration forms. Lane consults with the churches to see what issues their congregants are struggling with. The trainings are then led by experts in that field from the same culture as the churches at the meeting. For example, if Chinese churches are looking for information about building codes and taxes, Lane would ask an expert in that area to lead a training in Chinese for the pastors.
Lane explained that the Mary Hill Davis Offering helps the Intercultural Ministries team create unique, personalized trainings.
“If we didn’t have these funds, we would have to offer everything in a generic, pre-packaged form that probably wouldn’t really meet any peoples’ needs,” she said. “The Mary Hill Davis Offering helps us meet the needs of the churches in a very contextualized, language-specific, culturally specific way.”
The Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions supports missions and ministries across Texas. For more information, go to iamtexasmissions.org.