|LONDON (BP) -- "Jesus will keep you from going straight to hell!"
The Caribbean lady shouted until her voice went hoarse, parting the multicultural sea exiting a London mall as she stood preaching in the doorway.
Young girls with covered heads gawked at her as they passed by. What was that look? Wonder? Fear? Revulsion?
It was hard to say.
Looking at them, they'd come from everywhere, possibly places where most Americans can't go. I wondered if this moment was the first time they had heard the name of Jesus here in London or in their home countries -- and if so, what they thought of Him now.
There was only one way to find out.
Asking is a part of my job as a writer in Europe for the International Mission Board. But this week the questions were being posed as part of an ethnographic research class from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
We were student researchers, there to help the IMB's London team find unreached people groups -- identify where they live, eat, shop and worship. In the morning, our professor prepped us on research procedures and cross-cultural issues; in the afternoons we went out to practice what we had learned.
The residents of London's Stratford community where the Olympic Park is located are so diverse you could grab the first 20 people you saw and few, if any, would be of the same ethnicity. As people groups, they're splintered, largely choosing not to live in enclaves for social, financial and political reasons.
Add to that the fact that they walk with their heads down, constantly buffeted in their neighborhoods by street preachers and charity solicitors, and a student researcher has got a challenge.
"Hi, I'm a student doing research, and I just wanted to ask you three quick ..."
"I'm sorry, I have no time," one lady said, even though she was sitting alone in her shop on the street with no customers.
It's easy when you read about the IMB's varied initiatives to go straight to the hands-on work, or use the statistics and strategy without thinking about where they came from. Continued...