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Former Midwestern student ministers at United Nations

NEW YORK (BP)–Less than two blocks from Emily Elliott’s office in Manhattan sat the United Nations’ building complex — and with it an opportunity to reach the world with the Gospel through the 191 nations represented there by more than 14,000 diplomats and support staff.

As a 2004-05 semester missionary with the North American Mission Board, Elliott served with Christian Ministries to the United Nations, a 30-year-old-plus ministry that seeks to minister to and evangelize the people who work at the international organization.

Ambassadors from all over the world come to New York to represent their native countries. The goal of the ministry, Elliott said, is to send them back to their home countries as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

“The ministry’s main focus is the ambassadors and diplomats,” Elliott said in a telephone interview. “Those will be the people who reach their nations.”

The former Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student said one of the most eye-opening experiences about the worldwide reach of the ministry came at one of their annual prayer breakfasts for diplomats.

“Sitting there at the International Prayer Breakfast listening to them present the Gospel, having Scripture read, knowing God hears each one who was sitting there, and then being involved in the Africa Union prayer breakfast and hearing [ministry director and NAMB missionary] Ken Welborn’s report when he got back of the different nations represented there, I had the realization that our God is a big God,” Elliott said. “And that He can move in the hearts of anyone that He wants to.”

According to Elliott, her individual efforts focused more on ministering to the administrative and support staff at the United Nations, known as the Secretariat. During her time in New York, she led two weekly women’s Bible studies and was able to see some fruit from her labors.

She recalled one woman who had been brought to one of the studies by her coworkers. Elliott had the opportunity to talk to her personally and share the Gospel. Later the woman prayed to receive Christ and began attending both weekly studies.

Elliott said the woman’s enthusiasm and spiritual growth is encouraging as the woman now brings someone to each study.

“It’s neat to watch God work in someone’s life and see her hunger for His Word.”

In addition to the United Nations’ ministry, Elliott also taught English as a Second Language to West Africans in Brooklyn, a people group she ministered to as an International Mission Board journeyman from 2000-02 before attending Midwestern.

Through those classes she was able to build relationships and share the Gospel with a few of the students.

Of the many things she has learned during her stay in New York City, she said she has learned the most about prayer.

“One of the things I’ve been learning is that we do not have because we do not ask. We ask amiss to spend it on our pleasures,” said Elliott, drawing from the weekly Bible studies she led through the Gospel of John. “God’s waiting to answer our prayers and all we have to do is ask.”

She said her experiences in New York City, which she described as a “hard, hard place,” have also opened her eyes to the vast differences in culture.

“It’s been a challenge. The feel of this place is completely different than most places I’ve lived,” said Elliott, who grew up in the Midwest.

She said that in the Midwest, even though many are merely “cultural Christians,” God is at least welcomed.

The spiritual climate in New York City is filled with religious diversity, Elliot said, and a negative view of Christians.

“When they think of Christians, they think of a Bible-thumper, a fundamentalist, instead of someone who loves those around us,” Elliott said.

Citing the loneliness of the city, Elliott said Christians have the opportunity to demonstrate the special love of Jesus Christ toward each other and the watching world.

“If you could be most alone in a big crowd, I think that’s here,” Elliott said. “You’re always surrounded by people, but not always people you know necessarily.”

She said it’s important that Christians show the world — the nations — the “true community” of the church.

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  • Cory Miller