Do you remember the question asked in Luke 10 by the lawyer to test our Lord Jesus Christ? He asked, “Who is my neighbor?” but he was not really searching for his neighbor’s identity. The parable Jesus told in response uncovered the fact that the lawyer was having a problem discerning the depth and the breadth and the width of God’s love for his people.
In July 2017, the congregation of Redeemer OPC in Atlanta, Georgia, began a ministry that caused them to probe the depth and breadth and width of God’s love as they endeavored to shine forth Christ to their new refugee neighbors. Redeemer OPC’s pastor, Zecharias Weldeyesus, is himself—along with his wife and five children—a political asylee from Eritrea. Under his leadership, Redeemer began reaching out to its new neighbors in Clarkston, Georgia, including calling Chris Cashen to serve as an evangelist there.
Clarkston is a small city about seven miles from Redeemer, on the edge of the sprawling metropolis of Atlanta. It has been referred to as the “Ellis Island of the South” because of the significant concentration of resettled people from all nations. Where do you start when reaching out to a city like that? Redeemer began by seeking to gather information about the field: who was already working in Clarkston, what their beliefs were, and how Redeemer’s vision would fit in with these existing ministries.
In September, the Cashens and folks from Redeemer joined an English as a Second Language (ESL) program held in an Atlanta PCA church. Later they began an after-school program two days each week for elementary school students at one of the many apartment complexes. The children receive help with homework, practice writing, sing songs, are taught Scripture, create crafts, and play games. On Monday evenings, they hold an ESL class at the same apartment complex. They are even beginning to schedule in-home visits with the ESL students to teach and establish more personal relationships.
Why would the church choose to begin this kind of ministry? All of this is intended to show forth the love of Christ, to establish sincere and lasting relationships with individuals and families, and to enable the sharing of the gospel. Redeemer is praying that the Lord would be pleased to plant an OPC church in the heart of Clarkston in the near future.
Diaconal and gospel ministry to refugees is certainly not limited to Clarkston, Georgia. Our new neighbors are being resettled across the United States. Resettlement agencies are always looking for help. Volunteering is an excellent way to be introduced to refugees and to begin to love your new neighbors. If you would like more information about starting a refugee ministry in your area, or would like to receive a periodic update regarding the Clarkston ministry, please contact Chris Cashen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the full article in the May 2018 Issue of New Horizons.