For our students, seeing Sikhs and Muslims in cultural attire was an eye-opener to say the least.
It’s not the student’s fault, but more the comfortable world they live in. The Kenai Peninsula of Alaska, where most of them have spent their entire lives, is predominantly Caucasian. Most people are working class with very few ethnicities and/or foreign religions. Even though there is a strong need for evangelism, it’s not very obvious on a surface level.
The Kenai Peninsula is a conservative culture where everyone “believes in God” and is quite agreeable to most Christian rhetoric. Moving from religion and ethnicity to social class, the Peninsula is fairly rural and spread out. This provides for a pretty safe, comfortable environment. Most people who are down and out and truly struggling to survive, will make their way to Anchorage and live on the street there.
Considering their environment, our students received the full brunt of religious, ethnic, socioeconomic culture shock yesterday!
The students were quite excited to travel into Canada. Most of them had never been outside of the United States and they were ready to embrace the title of “International Traveler“! As we drove to where we’d be staying, moving through one of the largest East Indian populations in North America, they began to get a sense of just how small their world was.
Then we took on our first assignment of canvasing the Sikh and Muslim neighborhoods. The goal was to invite their children to a park program that we would be hosting with Community of Hope Church. As they went to each door, speaking with these Sikhs and Muslims; the culture shock deepened.
It was so exciting for me to see them feel how lost these people are; realizing that many of them have never heard the Gospel yet they live in North America.
The culture shock continued as we took on our second challenge of the day, hitting the streets with Nightshift Street Ministries. Our students took part in serving dinner and handing out clothing to some of the most hurting people in greater Vancouver.
Their reactions were varied because most of them didn’t like the experience. Though they all expressed how uncomfortable it was, when asked how good it was on a scale of 1 to 10, almost all the students stated a 10. Here’s a quote from the Nightshift’s website to further explain their mission and ministry.
“NightShift Street Ministries is a registered, not-for-profit society that has been serving people in Surrey, BC (Canada), since January 2004. Meals are prepared by local churches or donated through corporate sponsors and served by volunteers, who also offer friendship, hope, spiritual guidance, clothing and personal care kits to people in need. We operate 365 days a year, whatever the weather, because every day matters. It is our conviction that every man, woman and child deserves to be treated with love, respect and dignity, regardless of individual circumstances. We hope to bring healing, wholeness and freedom to those caught in the addictive cycle of poverty and addictions, and to support those seeking a way to exit the streets. By offering a continuum of services, there is consistency where otherwise there would be none.” (http://nightshiftministries.org/about/)
As I think through the numerous stories that I heard following the street project, I have far too much to write to be completely effective. Instead, I highly suggest watching the two embedded clips below. I’m sure you will get a full picture of what our students experienced.
When was the last time you remember experiencing culture shock?