On a rainy Wednesday morning in Houston, we filtered into the church and were greeted warmly with coffee and donuts. A normal meeting on a normal day, but for an extraordinary purpose. As the newbie in the group (the All People Initiative’s cross-cultural administrator), I felt a little apprehensive about what I could bring to the table—I was joining a group of seasoned ministry leaders: Blaine Hooper and Heath Hayes, both pastors in the Houston area; Katie Arnold, who oversees the church planting efforts for the Texas-Oklahoma District; Tom Suchy, Andy Krause, Stephen Chandra and his wife Young-Ly all serve with ReachGlobal in Muslim-majority countries; Ben Johnson, director of Immigrant Hope; and Mark Lewis, director of ReachGlobal Crisis Response.
I took a deep breath as I prepared myself to listen and learn as much as I could. Greetings, introductions and casual conversations filled the room with a lightness that offered a little relief. Even though we came from different backgrounds and departments of the EFCA, one question brought us together this November: How can we minister well to the Afghan refugees coming to our country?
An incredibly diverse city
We settled into our chairs—some with notebooks or computers ready, others with a readiness for action written on their faces—and looked to Blaine Hooper, a church planter with the EFCA’s Texas-Oklahoma District, to hear his heart, vision and ministry.
In the heart of Houston, where 70 different languages are spoken and many cultures are represented, Blaine began working with a core group of 14 people to minister and plant a church focusing on reaching Afghan refugees.
As he shared his story, his passion was palpable. With personal connections to Afghanistan after serving with the United States military and family members who were Cuban refugees, there is no question that he is well-suited for this ministry. We did not need to be convinced of his desire to reach his new neighbors. What became evident toward the end of his presentation is that he couldn’t do this alone: not without extra human resources, materials and training for his core group.
Sometimes, often, in fact God works through others He puts in our path to help us fulfill our calling, like Moses in Exodus 17:8-13.
The Amalekites had attacked the Israelites and it was time for the Israelites to stand up and fight (Ex 17:8). Joshua was on the battlefield fighting and Moses, Aaron and Hur were at the top of the hill.
“Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword” (Exodus 17:11-13).
Moses couldn’t do what he was called to on his own. God surrounded him with people that would support him in his calling and prepared others to serve with him. Sometimes we are like Moses, sometimes we are like Aaron and Hur or Joshua: we need others and others need us.
An incredibly diverse commissioning
Around the table, representatives from the All People Initiative, Immigrant Hope, Crisis Response, Texas-Oklahoma District leadership and ReachGlobal were ready to hold up Blaine’s arms by offering human resources, training tools, finances, legal services, encouragement and partnership in the gospel.
Blaine’s vision and calling is clear: to share and show Christ’s love with all people. He made the point that so many Afghans were coming to the states to find security here. He asked a question that grabbed my attention: “What if our friends found safety but not eternal peace in Christ?”
Blaine has the desire and drive to serve, welcome and introduce our new neighbors to Jesus where they can find true peace and hope. But he still needed resources.
The room pulsed with energy and ideas as these strategic ministry minds came together. Stephen Chandra jumped in first, asking how his team could help. Katie Arnold was ready with a white board and a green marker to figure out what resources were available to fulfill the stated needs. Ideas were flowing from every direction as passion for one purpose united us. The highest priority was filling basic needs for the refugees, and we developed plans for volunteer coordination, communication and legal services. Additionally, Crisis Response and the All People Initiative offered a variety of resources for training the core group in cross-cultural ministry as well as trauma care.
What astounded me was the timing of it all and knowing that God is always working and never changing.
How did four missionaries who had served in Muslim-majority countries come to this table, ready to serve and offer their time, knowledge and expertise? For a few of them, it was because of the COVID-19 pandemic: they weren’t able to serve overseas right now, but they are able to serve here—assisting with training for leaders who want to minister to people coming out of Muslim countries and into the United States borders.
Immigrant Hope is equipped to expedite an office in Houston when the leadership and church is ready to be trained in legal services for refugees.
The All People Initiative—specifically Immigrant Mission—already has a number of resources and training materials available for churches to use as they launch into ministry to the influx of refugees, and the Crisis Response team was there to plug in with volunteers and help with funding as needed.
Blaine shared the needs he saw as well as his heart and vision as a church planter among refugees. The resources are there and available for him. We gathered around to hold his arms up.
In that moment, I saw the vision of “one EFCA” being lived out in front of me. All of us, from our different corners of EFCA ministry, came together to fulfill our mission. Blaine knew he needed help to plant this church and share the gospel with Afghan refugees in his community. For all the support they can offer, ministries like Immigrant Hope, the All People Initiative, Crisis Response and ReachGlobal need local church leaders, like Blaine, and their congregations to serve communities; so they stepped into partnership with him, building deeper relationships and fostering true collaboration.
This was only the beginning. We aren’t alone in the ministries we are developing, churches we are pastoring, leaders we are training or people that we are reaching. We have the support and resources that come with years and years of experience and training. We do not need to do this alone or feel overwhelmed by the calling that has been placed on our lives because together, we are one EFCA.
While a vibrant coalition of leaders and ministries from the EFCA gathered to support Blaine’s church and Afghan refugees across the country, we need your partnership in this work. As of December, upwards of 70,000 Afghan refugees have been given permission to live in the United States (at least temporarily), which means many communities around the country are welcoming new neighbors. Please consider getting involved to share the love of Christ with those in need and partner with us in this new opportunity to share the gospel.
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