STORIES OF CHRISTIANS ENGAGING IMMIGRATION ISSUES
Josh Martin initially thought that God was calling him to serve as a missionary overseas, seeking to share the gospel in a primarily Muslim context. As he studied missions and intercultural studies in graduate school, Josh moved into a low-income apartment complex where most of his neighbors were immigrants. There, he has had the opportunity to interact with neighbors from more than a dozen different countries of origin. As a number of doors closed for him to go overseas immediately upon graduation, Josh realized that God had provided him opportunities share his faith in cross-cultural contexts within his neighborhood in the U.S. One Somali Muslim neighbor asked Josh if he knew where he could get a copy of the Jesus film, which he had heard about in his refugee camp in Ethiopia. Josh formed a close friendship with a family from Iraq. He began teaching English classes with World Relief, where he has students from all over the world. While he may still go overseas one day, Josh says he has realized that God could use him to reflect his love to people right within his own community.
(Source: Matthew Soerens, Director of Church Mobilization, World Relief)
A friend of mine name Tyler… pastors in Arizona. Amid the massive influx of immigrant into his community (many of whom are illegal) and surrounded by the milieu of legislative discussions in his state, Tyler and the church he leads have decided to engage this issue with gospel perspective and to serve these people with gospel compassion.
Together, they began providing food and clothing to migrant workers through a variety of different ministries. These ministries paved the way for personal relationships to develop with migrant men, women, and children, opening other doors for members of the church not just to love but to learn from these workers and their families. In Tyler’s words, “It wasn’t long before our people began donating more than food—they started to donate their lives.” This eventually led to the construction of a community center in a Latino neighborhood that is now filled weekly with English classes, after-school programs, life-skills training, and Bible studies. In addition, the church Tyler pastors began partnering with a Latino church to start a center that protects people who in the past would end up either abused by employers or working without compensation.
The church’s work among Latinos then carried over into an awareness of Somali Bantu and Uzbek refugees living in the surrounding community. Consequently, hundreds of church members now serve these refugees, welcoming them at the airport, tutoring them, teaching life and business skills, and organizing ways to financially support refugee-owned restaurants.
In all of this, Tyler says, “We have enjoyed hundreds of opportunities to engage in conversations about Jesus…, and we’re seeing God change lives.
(Source: David Platt, “Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans, and Pornography”, Tyndale House, 2015, page 207-208)
DON AND CAROL ANN WEBB
The first time Cesar Virto met his neighbors Don and Carol Ann Webb, they called the police on him. The second time, they introduced him to Jesus.
“I would not be at LifeWay without them,” says Cesar, who is now a bilingual customer service representative at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn.
Cesar was in elementary school when his family moved to the small town of Guin, a community of 2,500 in northwest Alabama. Carol Ann and Don lived a few houses away.
Like many young boys, Cesar got into a bit of mischief. He and his brother liked to play in an empty house the Webbs owned across the street.
“He and his brother were breaking windows in the house,” Carol Ann said. “We were afraid they were going to get hurt.”
That first encounter led to an unlikely friendship between the couple and Cesar.
“It was a blessing, and we didn’t even know it,” Don said.
The next summer, Cesar appeared on Don and Carol Ann’s doorstep, asking if he could mow their lawn or do some other odd jobs. Before long, he was a regular at the Webbs’ house. He’d come over on Saturdays for breakfast and work around the house most of the day.
Read more at http://www.bpnews.net/44361/couple-offers-undocumented-youth-new-life
(Source: Bob Smietana, Baptist Press, March 11, 2015)
Several years ago, as Elmbrook Church’s leaders assessed their outreach to the neighbors surrounding their suburban Milwaukee location, they sought to answer two questions: If our church were to disappear, would the community beyond our congregation weep? And what were the gaps in services to the under-resourced in their community that their church could help to fill?
Aware of a growing Latino immigrant population in nearby Waukesha, the church tasked Paco Cojon with finding answers to these questions. Cojon was a recent immigrant himself. His wife, Jenni, whom he had met in his home country of Guatemala while he was in seminary and she was a missionary, had filed an immigration petition so that they could move together to her hometown in Wisconsin.
After spending a year befriending and listening to members of Waukesha’s Latino community, Cojon reported back to the Elmbrook Church leadership that, at that point, few of Waukesha’s Latinos would likely even notice if the church were to close its doors. Cojon also discovered a significant gap in services to the immigrant community in Waukesha: there was nowhere to turn for affordable, competent immigration legal advice. He heard multiple stories of individuals who had spent immense sums of money on attorneys (or sometimes non-attorney “consultants”) to try to resolve their legal status issues or to be reunited with family members abroad—often with no results.
Read more at http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2014/november-online-only/clear-and-present-mission.html?paging=off
(Source: Matthew Soerens, Leadership Journal, November 2014)
In 1995, Thi Mitsamphanh, age 13, attended the All Nations Camp at Linden Valley Baptist Conference Center. During the camp, he heard a pastor preach a ‘‘message of hope, forgiveness, and life found only in a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus.’’ At the end of the sermon, Thi decided to surrender his life to the Lord and start a relationship with Him.
As his faith and love for Jesus grew, he always remembered the pastor from camp but never saw him again. He wanted to thank him for sharing that sermon, but all of his attempts to find him failed. Thi resided in the Nashville area after coming to the United States at the age of four with his parents from Laos. After graduation from seminary, he started the International Baptist Church in Memphis in 2007, where he served for ten years before returning to Nashville to become the pastor of the International Community Church in Smyrna.
During the summer of 2018, Thi and his wife went to Bangkok, Thailand to visit some relatives. While he was there, he felt God’s calling to serve in the city. He recalled that LifePoint Church in Smyrna had planted a church in Bangkok, but that church had been without a pastor for more than a year. Time passed by, and Thi was then called to be the teaching pastor at the Bangkok campus in Thailand. On one occasion, his story about the camp he attended in 1995 was mentioned during a video testimony at a church conference in Memphis, and Estriberto Britton, the pastor who gave the sermon at camp, heard Thi’s story. He had no idea that Thi had given his life to Christ that day, and he knew he had to reconnect with him somehow. Later in an exhibit area at West Jackson Baptist Church, Pastor Britton saw Thi––he walked over to him, and they both hugged and wept. Thi expressed that he had been looking for Pastor Britton since he was 13, and he knew this was a reunion that the Lord had orchestrated for both of them. Thi later left the U.S to start a new experience in Thailand, but he accomplished one thing before leaving––meeting with Pastor Britton, the man who was an essential part of his journey with the Lord.
In 2007, Hau Kai became a refugee after fleeing Myanmar, a country known for persecuting the Christian church and detaining Christians across the region. According to Kai, Christians were constantly persecuted by the government and were not allowed to build churches, congregate, or worship. On one occasion, Kai witnessed how military officials burned down a church and a Christian village near to where he lived.
Hau Kai was also a pastor of a small Christian community in Rangoon, where he constantly tried to build a church, despite government regulations. One day, while he was away, a military intelligence group came to arrest the parishioners and deacons of the community. They took them to a military camp, interrogated them, and beat them. As Kai became a primary target of the government because he was a pastor, he decided to flee the city.
After months of hiding in the jungle near the Malaysian border, a group of Christian missionaries from South Korea helped him apply for refugee status with UNHCR. In 2010, he was granted permission to move to Texas, where he was welcomed by a team from World Relief North Texas. As he started to settle in the United States, his caseworker helped him fill out paperwork that would allow him to find a job and navigate legal proceedings. Years later, Hau Kai became an American citizen and is now a pastor of a church in North Texas.