How Refugees Revive the American Church
Today’s post is written by a former CAMA Services worker and current pastor of refugee ministries at a U.S. Alliance church. This article was originally published on The Alliance website.
When my husband, Robert*, and I returned to my hometown from our overseas work with CAMA, we thought we would be there temporarily. However, we felt burdened for the refugees who had just started arriving in the city. Because resettlement had recently started bringing families from nine countries in Africa and the Middle East, significant infrastructure development was needed to support these new neighbors.
The community had to come together to provide resources for English language learning, education, housing, employment, transportation, legal services, and more. To meet this need, Robert and I, with the support of our Alliance church, started a network to bring people and resources together to empower these families to thrive.
The local government, schools, business leaders, nonprofits, and 35 faith communities have worked together to make our city a long-term haven for refugees. About 200 have been resettled in our community so far. We now welcome new families once a month and walk alongside them as friends and guides through this difficult journey.
A Little Taste of Heaven
We also recently started an international prayer gathering where we get to share Jesus’ love and truth with our new neighbors.
About 80 people meet every Sunday afternoon in a large home that provides transitional housing for refugees so our friends who would feel uncomfortable in a church are at ease. We make it clear that we are exalting Jesus, but we want to limit the barriers that might prevent them from attending a traditional church.
We start by sharing a meal and a story from Scripture using orality methods. Afterward, we sing worship songs in up to nine different languages. We then gather for powerful times of prayer, encouraging people to pray in their mother tongue. It feels like a little taste of heaven every week.
God is answering the prayers from this gathering in amazing ways. One boy had a significant health problem that required surgery. We gathered around him and prayed that God would heal him and the doctors would be shocked by what they found. When he went to his pre-op exam, the surgeon said his other doctors must have made a mistake because he didn’t need surgery. The doctor compared the original X-rays with the current ones and was perplexed because the issue had completely resolved.
“I was healed!” the boy exclaimed. “The doctor was so confused. It was exactly what we prayed!”
Reviving the American Church
Some of our dearest friends are strong believers who are refugees from Congo. They were forced to flee their home country 17 years ago and lived in a third country for 16 years. They are still unsure whether certain family members are alive.
But even during their years as refugees, they prayed, “Take us to the place where You can use us and where You want us to be Your witnesses.” They have been a bright light for Jesus in this community since the moment they arrived one and a half years ago.
The mom prays for three hours daily. She is one of the greatest prayer warriors I have ever known. When I pray with this woman, it’s like being swept into the presence of Jesus. She is also a powerful worship leader, and we’ve all grown from her leadership in the celebratory style of African worship.
This family is now the first to meet new families at the airport, and they are bold in sharing Christ with anyone they meet. This is what we need in the American church.
We often have the view that we in the West are the missionaries—the ones who proclaim the gospel to the nations. This family and other refugee friends have turned that perspective upside-down. God is using them as missionaries in America. We have so much to learn from these brothers and sisters.
God is using the diaspora movement for His purposes. Will you pray with us? Pray that:
- He will raise up other churches across our country to engage with refugees in their communities;
- Christ will powerfully reveal Himself through dreams and visions, healings, and answered prayers; and
- He will empower refugee believers, give them boldness, and show them how He wants to use them as His witnesses in America.