My Story: The Little Temple around the Corner

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Today we’re geared up to welcome Lucy Tol, a summer intern with Global Frontier Mission. Check out the amazing stuff God’s doing at GFM on their Go. Serve. Love page!

Today, for the first time in my life, I stepped inside a Hindu temple.

The first thing I noticed was the air. Thick and heavy, like a weight on your chest. I don’t know for sure whether it was spiritual oppression, the power of suggestion, or simply the smell of incense that made it difficult to breathe. The temple sprawled out like a museum display, with little deities grinning out of marble boxes like painted dolls. Waxen candles glittered from dark corners of the room. Fervent worshippers, their eyes closed in prayer, muttered and moaned in unfamiliar tongues. Somewhere behind me, a bell clanged. I jumped and turned, tearing my gaze away from the smiles of statues in glittering gold.

Sometime later, the door opened and an Indian woman entered the room, with a little girl with long dark braids following close behind. The mother hurriedly bowed at each altar before motioning for her daughter to imitate. Cheerfully, the girl bowed her knees and touched her head to the floor, a child’s display of submission, before skipping outside the door into the waiting sunlight.

Watching this child and the others in supplication before idols, I was struck by several emotions. Discomfort, for one. And a deep, deep sadness, one that cut through the unease of the moment. I was witnessing beautiful people bow before beautiful shrines that only held nothingness–or worse–never knowing of a greater Power that doesn’t dwell in marble boxes.

Every nation, tribe, and tongue–at my doorstep

Those like the little girl make up a vast population of unreached people groups that have literally made their home here in Richmond. Mostly hailing from the 10/40 window, this population receives little to no global workers who love Jesus. They have possibly never heard the gospel and have likely never been invited to a Christian home. Over the last ten years, many of these immigrants have been drawn to Richmond (yes, as in Virginia) for its affordability and location on the East Coast. This creates a veritable cultural bazaar where many nations can meet, interact…and hear about the hope that we have.

Did you know Richmond was so diverse? I know I didn’t! There are 121 nations in the area and in our apartment alone, there is a thriving Indian community that is incredibly hospitable. I’ve already met one neighbor, Jorani*, and can’t wait to befriend her. Also, an elderly Burmese couple just opened an Asian marketplace in walking distance to my apartment. They’ve already offered to stock some of my favorite fruits! Pray that doors will be opened for further conversations (and amazing Asian food)!

Here in Richmond, we’re in the heart of diversity, so my work this summer will be quite colorful. International friendships, prayer walking, English as a second language, and refugee resources are a handful of the ways we’re excited to love on these groups. What we’re doing is exciting, offensive to some, and completely dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit and continued prayer.

Don’t Let this Be Just Your Summer

But what this isn’t just for a feel-good summer. It’s for all of us. And it’s for all of life. There are places with incredible diversity all across the United States. It just takes some intentionality to get involved with the foreign-born community.

So what if we all began befriending and investing in the nations that are in our cities? Start with praying for them with me. But don’t stop there. What if we keep pushing ourselves out of the comfortable and into the colorful, into engaging with them?

Need ideas? Maybe you find an ESL program you can help teach at. Or perhaps you identify an ethnic restaurant or shop where you can interact with the employees and be a student of their culture. Or connect with a Refugee Resettlement agency in your area. (Get more ideas in this post!)

The first step is doing something.

In all this, I’m so conscious of all the weird fears I’m overcoming. But Jesus is worthy of worship from people of every nation, tribe, and tongue. So how will I live in light of that reality?

Like this post? You might like

Start Here: Expanding Your Heart for the Nations Right Where You’re At, Ideas #1-10

The Generation Who Can: Reaching the Unreached with the News They Can’t Live Without

FREE PRINTABLE INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Ways to Pray for Unreached People Groups

Go. Serve. Love’s page for Global Frontier Missions


*names changed for privacy

2 thoughts on “My Story: The Little Temple around the Corner

  1. David Armstrong says:

    Getting involved with the people God has brought from all over the world to my neighborhood is the most tangible practical opportunity I know of to impact the world. Any of us can do that in some way. Being a neighbor, taking the time to talk and letting my mower sit for 10 minutes in the yard, greeting someone I don’t yet know. Yes, it feels awkward when I do it. Yes, my mind is saying “you don’t have time”. But my heart is saying “Isn’t that why God brought them to your neighborhood?”

    In the process I’ve become the go-to person for fixing garage doors and garage door openers. Their instruction booklets are even hard to understand for a native English speaker. Imagine how hard it is for my neighbors who learned English as their 3rd or 4th language.

    • Janel says:

      David, I love these practical examples of how easy it can be to connect as a neighbor–and yet how essential. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not.” So thankful you’re taking the time on relationships that matter right next door. And raising their garage doors!

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