WALKING ACROSS THE STREET TO REACH THE WORLD: SOUTHERN BAPTISTS' MINISTRY TO IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
One of the things I love about New England is the mosaic of cultures that I encounter. I can walk into any business or locale in my town of Billerica, Mass., and hear a myriad of languages being spoken and see a tapestry of humanity represented. This is one of the things I appreciate about the BCNE as well. The churches in our convention are a testament to what the Kingdom of God should look like in its diversity. The nations are indeed here in New England.
That's why my wife Debora and I were excited to attend the second annual Reach the Nations Conference hosted by the International Mission Board at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Earlier this year the BCNE promoted this event through their On-Mission News email, and because of Cooperative Program giving, the BCNE was able to cover the registration for this event. Southern Baptists from all across the nation came to hear the biblical call to support and work with immigrants, refugees and international students, as well as the nuts and bolts of doing so.
The main text for the weekend was Acts 17:24-27, which states that it is no accident that God has brought the nations to our cities and neighborhoods. God has brought us neighbors as refugees and immigrants: first, so that we may love them as we love ourselves; and second, to reach them for the gospel.
In the keynote speeches, the universal theme was that the Church has the responsibility of loving people, regardless of how they got here or what their legal status may be. During one of the keynotes, Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., summed up the theme of the whole conference stating “How you treat the immigrant, how you treat the refugee is how you treat [Jesus].”
Through breakout sessions and peer discussion, we had the opportunity to see what other churches are doing to reach people in their communities. In addition, we had the opportunity to explore some very practical knowledge of how to start immigrant/refugee ministries, how churches can partner with immigration centers, the workings of the refugee resettlement process and many other topics.
As a Southern Baptist pastor, it makes me proud to see all that our denomination is doing to help people seeking a new beginning or new opportunities in the U.S. Initiatives that provide education, resettlement assistance and basic needs are already active and thriving through the work of Southern Baptists. Southern Baptist churches are answering the call to care for the “least of these” and advancing the Kingdom of God in ways that are making a true impact. Please continue to pray for those who come into our borders, and do not miss the opportunity to show the love of Christ to those who come to our country either for new opportunities, education or to be free from tyranny.
If you would like to know more about this conference and how Southern Baptists are reaching the nations next door, you can go to www.reachingthenations.net/resources for more information. Please plan to attend the next Reach the Nations conference Sept. 14-15, 2018, at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Joe Hoyle is associate pastor at New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Mass.