Throw away stereotypes of missionaries. Those sharing the Gospel in hard places are not necessarily theologians, doctors, nurses, teachers or pastors. Many are coffee shop owners, tour guides, engineers and artists living the Gospel as they work and build friendships.
Justin Thomas, 39, is a musician and professional photographer who also sells real estate. His wife Lindsay, 36, is an artist.
As soon as fundraising is complete, the Thomases will move to Liverpool, England, to teach art and photography at Heritage Institute of Languages, a school founded with asylum seekers and refugees in mind. It is a new outreach of World Horizons, an organization that runs 86 businesses as missions in places “not yet prayed for, churches not yet planted and cross-cultural workers not yet sent.”
The nationally accredited school offers Farsi, Spanish and business classes for people from around the world. Classes are free for refugees. The school builds community through art and music. Students, instructors and asylum seekers mingle in the school’s coffee shop.
More than 1,000 asylum seekers have already taken classes. Another 200 are on the waiting list.
The Thomases will join a staff that is equipping and reaching the nations with the Gospel.
“The Lord has used art in my life to heal,” Lindsay said. “Color and brush strokes say something. I believe art can help heal some of their wounds as well.”
Justin will use photography and video skills to share stories and document lives of refugees. He’ll also document pop-up art shows in closed countries.
“We want to build bridges across cultures and languages,” Justin said. “We want to connect these people with the Liverpool community through things that are similar: music and art. We hope to have weekly meetings at our coffee shop. People can come practice language and get to know one another.”
In Liverpool, refugees receive a stipend equivalent to $6.50 a day for expenses. Since they can’t rent apartments, most live in hostels, tents and refugee camps. It often takes two years to see a judge. They seek friendships and support.
Looking back at how God brought Lindsay and Justin to this place is a bit surreal.
Lindsay’s first prayer was simply, “I don’t know if You’re real, but if You are, show me the way to You.”
He did. She began reading the Bible. Her first Bible study was Perspectives, an intensive, 15-week study of God’s mission plan for all people since the beginning of time.
God led them to Liverpool one step at a time—conversations with speakers at Perspectives, time with missionaries already serving on the field, more mission classes and Bible studies.
They met Andrew Fuller, International Director of World Horizons, at a Perspectives meeting, where he told them about opening the school in Liverpool. Now Justin, Lindsay and their 4-year-old daughter Gabriella are eager to settle in the picturesque, seaside town famous as the birthplace of The Beatles.
Their ministry plan is simply one conversation at a time with the person in front of them. Telling stories. Building friendships. Sharing the truth about Jesus.