The World Religions in American (WRIA) experience is the latest in our lineup of camps at LWBC. Now in its second year, the experience takes teams of upper high school and college students into the heart of Chicago for first hand encounters with the beliefs and practices of four key religious groups, including: Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Catholicism. The primary purpose of WRIA is to exalt Christ and His gospel, and so to strengthen the faith of those who participate. Along the way we learn how to build bridges of respect that enable Christians to share the gospel effectively with those of other faiths.
Students don’t simply study these religions, instead they experience them, visiting places of worship, eating native meals, and receiving an introduction to each faith from indigenous teachers (an imam, a rabbi, etc). The experience is rounded off with a debrief by Christian missionaries who examine each religion biblically, and share how they reach followers with the gospel.
This year we visited the beautiful Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (a Hindu temple), observed Friday prayers at the Muslim Community Center (a mosque), listened to Sabbath prayers at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel (an orthodox Jewish synagogue), and observed Mass at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
One of the highlights was our visit to the South Asian Friendship Center in the heart of “Little India”. There we participated in an outreach to Hindus that was permeated with Hindu culture (music, incense, saffron robes) as a means of contextualizing the gospel. Undoubtedly the highlight of the trip came as we were hosted in the homes of families from the synagogue for their Friday evening Shabbat meal. These visits gave students opportunity to ask questions about Judaism and to experience various sabbath laws (no flushing, no turning lights on, no driving, etc), and to answer questions about Christianity.
There was a time when most Americans would have had little direct contact with any religion other than Christianity. But those days are long gone, and young people in particular are being steeped in philosophies whose roots reach back to these other faiths. WRIA answers a growing need to train and equip young believers to understand the claims of the gospel and the uniqueness of Christ, and to do so in a manner that makes the “teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2.10).
Lord willing, the 2015 WRIA will be held August 5-10. We have received enough inquiries that we are also exploring an abbreviated version for adults. If you would like more information, please contact Dave Hart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-634-4373 ext 25.