TUKO PAMOJA: WE ARE TOGETHER
Published by Calvin Seminary
We were in the church van on our way to the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago. As we discussed the blessings and challenges of our church’s growing ministry called New Americans, Sepa quoted Mahatma Gandhi: “Whatever you do for me but without me, you do against me.” Gandhi’s wisdom through Sepa is helpful as we seek a common life in Christ across cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic lines.
Our congregation partners with local resettlement agencies to welcome and support individuals and families arriving in the US as refugees. This ministry of mercy and hospitality has grown to include a Refugee Support Team (with sub-teams focused on educational support, housing assistance, transportation assistance, etc.), English as a Second Language classes, a worship service in basic English, a higher-education scholarship fund, and trauma healing Bible studies. We thank God for these opportunities to serve and empower these newest neighbors in the name of Christ.
But what began as an outreach has also become an “inreach.” As relationships deepen, we’re learning first-hand that God has sent New American sisters and brothers to Church of the Servant as bearers of God’s blessing. Scholars Jehu Hanciles and Afe Adogame remind us that every Christian migrant is a potential missionary. We believe God leads immigrants to the US for a purpose and these newest Americans are bringing new life into churches across the US. Are established American congregations open to this Spirit-led renewal?
When American churches insist on maintaining the position of benevolent host, we miss the gifts that emerge from mutual relationships across the barriers separating “us” and “them.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus assumes the roles of guest and host, receiving and offering hospitality (see Luke 24, the road to Emmaus). When those who have not lived through the immigrant experience enter into relationship with those who have, we encounter together the God of Jesus Christ who reveals Himself on the road and at the Table. We learn together the reality of our common displacement from the Garden and our common identity as pilgrims searching for home.
Church of the Servant is still learning to move beyond the language of “us” and “them” to see there is ultimately only “us” in Christ. We should never minimize difference, but neither should we label others in ways that reduce them to one aspect of their story. Maintaining a unity-indiversity honors our rich variety of experiences, embraces the full beauty of Christ’s body, and creates space so all gifts might build up the Church.
As your congregation discerns the Lord’s call to begin or continue a journey with New Americans, consider these guideposts:
-> BECOME INFORMED – Explore cultural intelligence (CQ) training and learn about the context from which people have been displaced.
-> FIND PARTNERS – Discover which organizations in your area are serving New Americans and ask how your congregation can become involved.
-> DON’T REDUCE PEOPLE – Appreciate the nuance of each person’s story. People are more than a geopolitical status.
-> PRIORITIZE THE RELATIONSHIP – Focus on building trusting relationships and not just fixing problems. Learn to receive hospitality as much as you give it. Love refugees as you love Jesus Christ who was also a refugee in Egypt (Matthew 2:16-18).
-> PRACTICE HUMILITY – Let the children lead you. They’re better at much of this than adults.
-> WHO HAS A VOICE? – Examine who gets a seat at the decision-making table. Do New Americans have agency in their own flourishing? Remember Gandhi’s quote.
By Sepa Nashale and Andrew Mead
Church of the Servant Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, MI
Visit Calvin Theological Seminary’s Campus
We can’t wait to host you on campus! Schedule your visit today, or, if you need more time to find a date that works for you, please request information so we can continue the conversation about supporting your calling!