Extending (God’s) Grace to African Immigrants in our Neighborhood
When I landed in Johnson City in May 2009, fleeing different threats in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, I knew that God had opened the door so that I could be safe away for some time. Little did I know that He had a bigger plan beyond what I had thought!
After a few months in Johnson City, I learned that over fifteen hundred immigrants from Liberia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, and Zambia lived here, the majority being from Liberia. Like every person who finds themselves in a new culture and environment, these immigrants were struggling to adapt to the new way of life. This resulted in frustration that affected their spiritual, emotional, relational and social life. With the purpose of helping them to deal efficiently with their frustrations, I participated in the launching of the first African immigrants’ church in Johnson City. That’s when I grasped first-hand the multiple challenges they were undergoing daily and, with my pastoral background, the Lord began to touch my heart with compassion for them.
But I, too, had my own struggles related to the long and complicated asylum procedures, and I felt that I wouldn’t have enough energy to fully invest myself in others’ lives. It is only when I started attending the GFC Mission Equip class that God opened my mind to understand that the presence of African immigrants in Johnson City was not a random happening. He was in it, He, whose thoughts are nothing like our thoughts and whose ways are far beyond anything we can imagine (Isa. 55:8). I now believe that God has used my own difficulties to prepare me to encourage these immigrants to know that, despite all the challenges, there is hope for those who put their trust in Him.
For the past six years it has been a privilege for me to be part of a body of believers whose vision is to “build a community to reach a community,” and who exemplify this vision in a practical way. As we know, Grace Fellowship Church has been partnering fruitfully with the Mountain View Elementary School since 2010 where many African immigrants’ kids go. With this partnership there has been a need to reach these immigrants families, with a special focus on those who live in the Swadley Road neighborhood. GFC has approved me as one of its Outreach Partners for this task.
To best accomplish this work I have moved into an apartment among them as their neighbor. This bridges the gap to the local community. I believe that when GFCers become intentionally friends to African immigrants’ families they can make a difference in the lives of these families. When it comes to meeting new people most of us always ask, “How will I start?” The truth is: we are not alone in this endeavor, the Lord is with us. Let’s do faithfully our part and leave the outcome in His hand.
Pray for me and for the team I’ll work with that this ministry would bear lasting fruits that will glorify God.
God’s blessing is evident through Benjamin in these few short months of his ministry to local immigrants! Since this ministry is connected to, but independent from GFC, we strongly encourage you to consider becoming a financial supporter for Benjamin. If you'd like to support the ministry to African Immigrants, please go to Allegro Solutions and when asked for Account Designation put: TN-Ksn.BBK. You may also send a check to the address listed on that site, with the same designation. To request to be added to Benjamin's periodic e-newsletter, you may email him here.
Posted on Fri, January 8, 2016
by Benjamin Kisoni filed under