I was 26 years old, had just graduated from seminary, newly ordained, and in my...
Reaching out to immigrants and refugees
In Acts 6, the Early Church faced a problem.
“Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.” (Acts 6:1)
This was a serious problem for many during this time, but for the disciples it was an opportunity. Suddenly, the disciples had an opportunity to develop new resources to better serve the new believers amongst them. In our days, we can say the same thing about immigrants and refugees. While many people consider this a problem, the Church should see this as an opportunity to serve and reach out to immigrants in the love of Jesus Christ.
There’s a mission field outside your front door
As the Church, one of our core desires is to engage in mission work—spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. But now, guess what: the mission field has moved from oversees right into our own neighborhoods. Many of the immigrants and refugees living with us in our communities come from countries where it’s unsafe for the Church to send missionaries. In Arabic and Muslim countries, it’s forbidden by law to share the Gospel with Muslims. Thus, ministry and evangelism in these countries are by far the most neglected mission fields. Some reports claim that as little as one percent of the world’s missionary force is working within these countries. Never during any time in history has the Christian Church seriously attempted to reach the hundreds of millions of Muslims living around the world. The great missionary Samuel Zwemer—known by many has The Apostle to Islam—once stated:
“One might suppose that the Church thought the Great Commission did not apply to Muslims.”
If only one percent of the world’s missionary force is working among Muslims, this mean there’s about one Christian missionary for every one million Muslims. To say it another way, the Church has more missionaries working among Alaska’s residents than in the entire Muslim world! With the increasing number of immigrants and refugees coming to the United States from Arabic and Muslim countries, something must change. But what can we as the Church do?
There is a message we must bring
As Christians, we needs to send a message of reconciliation to the newcomers among us similar to the one Paul wrote to those who were neglected in the church in Ephesus,
“…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household.” (Eph 2:19)
As the Church, we also need to develop resources and strategies to serve and reach out to the new immigrants and refugees and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. At our church in Richmond, VA, The Christian Arabic Church, we have a few goals for serving the immigrant and refugee population:
- To bear witness to the love and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
- To invite immigrants and refugees to worship with our congregation
- To bear witness to the ministry of reconciliation and peace
- To advocate for people who have been suffering for many years
- To welcome immigrants and refugees in such a way they can become an integral part of our community
- To invite those who are willing to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through various ministries and programs
- To equip and train leaders among immigrants and refugees to serve and witness to their own communities
In addition to providing Christian fellowship and worship, our church also assists with practical needs such as food, furniture, finding jobs, enrolling children in school, teaching ESL, and tutoring children in their schoolwork. Over the years, we have seen people’s lives change. We’ve seen many people accept Jesus Christ, be baptized, and became fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household.
Rev. Fakhri Yacoub is the pastor at The Christian Arabic Church of Richmond, VA—which is an ECO congregation. The Christian Arabic Church has 120 members with around 180 in attendance at weekly worship services. Originally from Egypt, Fakhri grew up in a Christian family. In 1996, he was ordained in the Presbytery of Cairo, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Egypt. That same year, just two weeks after he married his wife, they moved to Richmond to start a ministry for immigrants and refugees. Fakhri and his wife, Taragy, have three children.