“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages”
What a glorious sight! The day will come where Christians from around the globe will worship God in unison. Gone will be the differences among them. What if God was preparing your Church to mirror this glorious scene? What would you make of it?
Recently, many remote areas of the province of Quebec have seen a significant increase in newcomers from all over the planet to supply the shortage of manpower experienced by numerous SMEs. Churches that have long ministered in very homogeneous cultural contexts are faced with new challenges as well as great blessings. Leaders of Église Baptiste Évangélique de St-Georges, located in the Beauce region, have graciously shared their experience with us. Here are five things we can learn from newcomers.
1. We begin to think outside of our own four walls.
For a church like St-Georges, established over 60 years ago, internal issues sometimes make it hard to keep the focus on missions. However, God often leads His Church in preordained paths. This is what happened in the fall of 2017, when a couple of the church attended a picnic organized by the city to promote the integration of immigrants. There, they met a young Nicaraguan man who came to Quebec for work. Few months later, this young man attended the church with a group of ten fellow latinos. During the following weeks, the group, affectionately called “the amigos” by Pastor Sylvio Janelle, has continued to attend church. Leaders were reflecting on ways to reach people outside their church, but obviously, God preceded them! Since then, the St-Georges Church is constantly on the lookout for ways to tend and care for these newcomers’ physical and spiritual needs. “They have widened our horizons and helped us to think outside of our own four walls.”
2. Our hearts grow, our eyes are opened
As the relationship between the people of the St-George Church and the latinos increase, compassion grows in their hearts. These immigrants’ realities are not always rosy. The majority are men who have left their families behind in countries where life is difficult. These men must work long hours to meet their needs. Because they fear losing their jobs and sometimes do not understand French or prevailing law, some tolerate abuse. The arrival of newcomers at the Church has increased the believers awareness to what is happening elsewhere. When they are troubled by events in their home country or going through rough times, the congregation is there for them, supports them in prayer, and shares their afflictions. Being in contact with this community has definitely opened the eyes of believers to realities they had never been exposed to before.
The arrival of newcomers at the Church has increased the believers awareness to what is happening elsewhere. When they are troubled by events in their home country or going through rough times, the congregation is there for them, supports them in prayer, and shares their afflictions.
3. Our gifts emerge and drive us to action
The main obstacle to relationships between the Christians of St-Georges and their new amigos is the language barrier. Therefore, a group of five started to take Spanish lessons, investing time, energy, and funds in order to learn to communicate in their new friends’ mother tongue. Others also have had the privilege of practicing hospitality. Last year, twenty latinos took part in an Easter meal at the Janelles and also in a sugar shack activity organized by the Church. Also, some Church members are actively involved in different activities organized by the city to welcome new immigrants. The arrival of these workers gives each believer the opportunity to use their gifts to serve the Lord.
[Guillermo Bascunan] now presides a monthly service in Spanish. This is a great blessing for Church leaders who hope and pray for leaders to emerge from the latino community and to join St-Georges leadership.
4. We realise the need for diversity in leadership
In the spring of 2018, the elders of St-Georges were praying for God to send help. After reflexion and seeking each other’s acquaintances, the name of Guillermo Bascunan stood out. Having served for many years as an elder in the Chibougamau Church, Mr. Bascunan was now retired in Ste-Marie, only 45 minutes away from St-Georges. When presented with the newcomers’ needs, he did not hesitate to help out. He now presides a monthly service in Spanish. This is a great blessing for Church leaders who hope and pray for leaders to emerge from the latino community and to join St-Georges leadership.
5. We see God at work
Believers of St-Georges are excited to see that God does not just idly stand by. How can we not see God’s hand when a man from the Church marries a lawyer specialized in immigration? And when she sets up monthly clinics to offer free legal advice? Or, when a young woman from the congregation is offered a job consisting of welcoming immigrant workers to the area? The city even promotes the Church’s Spanish services. Christians in the Beauce region are greatly encouraged to see these evidences of God at work.
Tasting the blessing of welcoming different cultures in their midst, the Church in St-Georges is experiencing the beauty found in diversity. Together we are richer and stronger. This God-sent breath of fresh air has revitalized the Church who is now reaping the fruits of its increasing investment in missions.
* The second part of this article will be published soon. Stay tuned!