After 18 years of working with the Eastern District, I’m transitioning. Actually, it’s more like a slide step as I will still be working under the Eastern District umbrella but not as a district staff member.
For the past 4 years, I have been giving leadership to Immigrant Hope which serves the immigrant community in our district, sharing the HOPE of the Gospel, giving HELP with legal pathways and offering a HOME in the church that cares for their needs.
Why Immigrant Hope? Why now?
- It’s biblical. Jesus asks us to help the vulnerable in society – widows, orphans, poor and the stranger or alien. In our Free Church history there are many examples of ministries to Norwegian seamen, a home for single immigrant women, orphanages, etc. Loving our neighbor is a proper biblical response. (Lev. 19:18, Mt. 22:34-40)
- It’s missions. Previous to the years of service with the district, Judy and I spent 10 years as Free Church missionaries in Africa. When we returned due to civil war in the Congo, I was attracted by the demographics of our district. So many of the world’s cultures that missionaries were trying to reach overseas are HERE! It has been a joy to work with our pastors/co-workers from South America, China, Korea, Egypt and other countries to plant churches and begin ministries here in the Eastern District. At our Immigrant Hope office in Brooklyn, 43 countries were represented among the clients in 2015. We are Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8).
- It’s intentional. I have great respect for the EFCA national and district leadership who put a stake in the ground and said, “we are a movement that values all peoples and we will build a foundation to allow ministry to all peoples”. Immigrant Hope is a national 501c3 and, just like new churches, can be added under the EFCA umbrella. At present there are five centers around the U.S. with 3-4 more in the planning stage.
Isn’t immigration a messy issue? What about all the undocumented immigrants who do not have permission to be here?
We fill out forms only for those who have legal pathways. But in a very complex immigration mess, we can still help those who do not have papers by giving them good information and loving them. Even though immigration is a thorny issue politically, Free Church leaders determined that we are Christians first and foremost and God has placed people here in our midst so they can find Jesus (Acts 17:26-27).
Charles Colson once said, “Christians should be careful not to go beyond worrying about illegal immigration to dehumanizing the immigrants themselves. Regardless of where one stands on the policy debate, the dehumanizing of immigrants is at clear odds with Christian values of compassion mercy and dignity”.
And so, we want to be known for our love for the immigrant. Many of our churches are doing ESL classes which is a fantastic way to love the immigrants around you. Immigrant Hope is another way to meet a felt-need and do it in the name of Jesus. We have shared hope, prayed with clients and put scripture in the hands of immigrants representing all of the world’s religions.
In this next phase of ministry I will no longer be receiving district funds but individual and church missions support designated for my ministry. I will explore various options for recruitment, training and sustainability. I am convinced that there are people in our churches who have gifts that can be expressed through a ministry like Immigrant Hope.
Please continue to stay in contact with me for questions regarding immigration cases that you have in your church and for information on ways you can be involved. My contact information is:
Roy Larsen, Immigrant Hope/Eastern District