From Liberia to Philadelphia – A True Story
From Gujarati Hindus, to Lao Buddhists, to Kurds, Sudanese and Somali’s—God is bringing the nations to Philadelphia and MetroGrace is responding. We understand the biblical privilege given to us to respond to the growing population of diaspora peoples coming here. Globalization, urbanization and migration have changed the complexity of reaching American cities for Christ, making cross-cultural mission not just a foreign mission practice any longer. We are in this together!
The difference between recent immigrants and previous generations is that many are from “unreached” places of our world. According to Mission Frontiers, “the Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.net) lists over 160 ethno-linguistic people groups considered ‘Least-Reached’ who now call the U.S. home. This includes 568,000 Iraqis, 111,000 Palestinians, 135,000 Bengali, 175,000 Thai (Central) and 331,000 Persians among the largest groups. Many of these people are from nations ‘closed’ to the gospel, such as Iran, Pakistan, and other countries of the ‘10/40 Window.’”
MetroGrace is asking: Who are these peoples? Where are they located? What role does MetroGrace, our Northern Atlantic Fellowship (NAF) and our Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC) play? And, how do we reach them for Christ in Philadelphia?
MetroGrace’s purpose is “Developing Urban Churches.” Our vision is to plant gospel-centered, community-based churches. What is so unique about Philadelphia is that recent immigrants are scattering throughout the city. They are integrating into all neighborhoods. Philadelphia is recognized as a “Gateway City”. Many are first generation immigrants. A surprising number of them have been here for several years and speak English. What does this mean for us?
1) Planting gospel-centered churches means proclaiming the good news and practicing good deeds among the nations; and,
2) These churches will be community-based, reaching out to all kinds of people who are living together, yet with their own respective needs.
There are some pockets of cultural concentration in Philadelphia, but that is not what characterizes this city. We are increasingly a shifting, cosmopolitan mosaic.
The churches we have already planted reflect this cosmopolitan nature – Daniel came to trust Jesus for salvation through the ministry of missionaries in River Cess, Liberia. Years of civil war had torn apart his country. When he was able, Daniel moved to Philadelphia to study international leadership. He connected with Crossroads Community Church, a MetroGrace church plant in the Holmesburg neighborhood, and began to serve. After more than a year of separation from his wife, he was able to bring her to the United States. Daniel’s heart for his people helped Crossroads connect with Gbalesh Town Community School that we now support with prayers and finances. Think of it, a newly developing and small urban church in Philadelphia is able to help provide a Christian education for children in one of the poorest places in the world.
Reth’s parents were refugees from Cambodia during the ravages of the Khmer Rouge. Their escape eventually brought them to the city. A church in West Philadelphia helped the new immigrants settle and Reth excelled in her new country. While attending college at LaSalle University she met a Christian man named James. She affirmed her faith and they connected with a MetroGrace church plant. They became a key couple, helping the fledgling church develop. After a while they were married and blessed with two children. James serves as an elder and Reth sings with the worship team. We continue to pray for Reth’s family as she shares the new life she’s found in her new land.
Missiologist and pastor, J.D. Payne points out that, “One of the greatest ironies in missions today is the fact that although we have a good understanding of the evangelical status of many of the world’s peoples in other nations, for the most part, we are ignorant regarding the evangelical status of the peoples of the world living in our backyards.” We simply don’t have good data at the city level to answer the questions regarding the diaspora. What we do have is often dated and the 2010 census did not ask the questions we need answered. For that reason MetroGrace will be training all new church-planting candidates and team members to adequately research their targeted neighborhood before even starting, so that they can discover and love all the people, including their diaspora neighbors, to Christ.
We believe that our newly developing strategic approach to planting churches in Philadelphia is critical. We need you to pray and to consider joining our team. We are always happy to share ways in which you can be involved. It might start with a weekend “exposure trip” to the city. Or, maybe you could join a short-term mission team from your church. Possibly you would be interested in a 6-8 week summer internship; or, a 2-year church-planting internship. Feel free to contact me, Kurt Miller, at email@example.com. We are waiting for you!