To experience cross-cultural missions work, one doesn’t have to travel out of the country. In some places, an individual can minister in more than one culture simply by walking across the street. For Huntington University student Beth Waterman, an internship in New York City -- one of the most culturally and religiously diverse cities of the world -- proved to be a life changing experience.
The Practical Research through Immersion and Ministry Evaluation (PRIME) is a seven-month internship opportunity for ministry students at Huntington College. The experience offers each student long-term, hands-on, real-life opportunities to experience full-time ministry and be mentored by experienced ministry leaders.
From May until December, Waterman, a senior educational ministries major from Sharpsville, Ind., lived in Queens, N.Y., working with a Christian organization called Urban Impact. She taught English to immigrants at various locations throughout the greater New York City area.
“Through teaching English we tried to find open doors to start Bible studies, which could eventually lead to starting new churches,” Waterman said.
Waterman used different subjects, such as American culture or holidays, to teach English. She suggested that using these types of themes and ideas gave potential for discussing religion and presenting the gospel.
Throughout the summer at Urban Impact, Waterman took charge of new, short-term mission teams that visited each week. She helped them set up park outreaches and Bible schools for kids.
She also served a community of West Africans in Brooklyn. She walked around the neighborhood inviting people to come to ESL (English as Second Language) classes. There are currently about 30 Muslims enrolled in the class, according to Urban Impact Director Larry Holcomb.
Every Wednesday night, Beth led a Bible study for Muslim women. She became close friends with one woman whom she visited twice each week throughout her stay in Queens.
“We discussed differences in religion. She’d take out the Koran, and I’d take out the Bible,” Waterman reflected.
"While serving as an Urban Impact intern, Beth helped us establish and strengthen international ministries in ways that will have eternal impact on many parts of the world," said Holcomb.
Living conditions in Queens were much different than those she enjoyed in Huntington. Waterman lived with eight other Christian workers in a house owned by Urban Impact in Queens. Every Wednesday morning she took the subway into Manhattan to work at St Paul’s House, a homeless center for men located near the infamous Hell’s Kitchen area of Midtown Manhattan.
Waterman admitted that these experiences provided the most significant amount of spiritual growth in her life so far. “My job was like standing in an open field and having to picture a super-highway. It took planning, organization, motivation and prayer. As soon as I would hit the point where I’d say ‘I can’t take any more of this,’ a breakthrough would happen. I learned that ministry takes patience and perseverance.”
During her service with Urban Impact, Waterman helped to lay foundations for future outreach. She helped the organization start churches in minority areas of New York City, including places populated by Jews, Muslims and immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Africa and Asia.
Urban Impact is an independent missions organization cooperating with Southern Baptist Convention, New Hope New York, New Hope Church and other partnering churches and individuals.