A lot could change if we’d be willing to just go in a grocery store and strike up a conversation with the people who work there.
At least that’s what Alan Cross says. “Imagine if you moved to South Asia. You would want to know somebody local in the community. It just makes your life better.”
And Alabama Baptists can make that happen here for someone else by being willing to befriend the South Asian — or immigrant from any other country — here in our state.
“It’s amazing how much first-generation immigrants are open to having relationships with Americans,” said Cross, president and executive director of Community Development Initiatives and former pastor of Gateway Baptist Church, Montgomery. “If we just got to know people and built relationships with them, what a vehicle that could be for the gospel.”
That’s the thought behind Global Impact Alabama, an effort to reach out to immigrant populations around the state with the gospel, he said.
A spinoff of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions’ (SBOM) Impact Alabama effort, the new initiative focuses on gaining traction specifically in multihousing developments, he said.
It’s a joint project with SBOM and the North American Mission Board and it’s something near and dear to Cross, who works with immigrant and refugee ministry and advocacy across the Southeast.
“We are trying to plant missional communities … in apartment complexes, mobile home communities and housing projects … in the 12 largest Alabama cities,” he said. “If there are people here in our community from other countries, then it’s our privilege and opportunity to share Christ with them.”
Unreached people groups
For example in Montgomery, one apartment complex is host to a large population of Mixtec people, an unreached people group from southern Mexico, he said.
“We had a couple who went in and rented an apartment there and took on tangible ministry helping with schoolwork and English classes,” he said. (See story on the Cagles’ work with the Mixtec people in the May 31 issue.)
In Tuscaloosa a group has started reaching out to an apartment complex with 900 immigrants from Guatemala, Cross said.
And he and others are praying about sending a church planter to the Huntsville and Madison area, where about 15,000 Hispanics live with no Baptist church of their own to serve them.
“It’s just journeying alongside people and finding out how we can love them,” Cross said.
The project is in its initial stages, he said, noting that at the moment they are just trying to “look at these pockets of people” and get a handle on what’s already happening around the state.
It’s just conceptual for the moment, but Global Impact Alabama is hoping to harness a lot of resources for the sake of the gospel among the state’s immigrant population — like partner with churches already running English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, or connect with International Mission Board missionaries returning from overseas.
Kristy Kennedy, state missionary who leads ESL ministry efforts for SBOM, said, “We want to find the ministries and churches that are already doing it really well and be able to connect other churches with them to learn how they’re doing it. A lot of exciting things are happening and people are coming to know Christ. We have a lot of good stories already and we just want to see it grow.”
Gift from God
Kennedy said it’s a gift from God that these immigrants have come to our state, and Cross agreed.
“We should be going toward people instead of running away from them,” Cross said. “As Christians that’s what we should be about.”
For more information or to share about ministries happening in your area, email Kristy Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.