World Refugee Day 2017
By Sarah Kay | Canada in North America
More than 65 million people were forced from their homes as refugees in the last year. SIM is committed to responding to this crisis in various ways across our ministries in more than 70 countries. To help meet the needs of some of its refugee population, SIM Canada has a focused effort to assist churches to reach out to their neighbours.
When Pastor Ihsan came to Canada in 2014, he had already been serving as a pastor in the country he and his family had fled to as refugees. War in his home country had forced him out, but hadn’t taken away his passion for planting churches. He carried it with him all the way to Canada. God led him to John Chung, a SIM Canada Field missionary, helping churches to partner with people ministering to ethnic communities inside Canada. Together, they prayed for churches to be established in the Arabic-speaking community around them.
While SIM is committed to ministering “where Christ is least known”, SIM Canada director John Denbok says, “SIM’s involvement in missions isn’t just beyond but around. The world’s unreached are now across the street.”
Sending missionaries to Africa or Asia remains a need, but a church’s involvement with the least reached can start with noticing who’s next door.
“Barriers to the gospel aren’t all about culture, they’re also about worldview,” says Denbok.
The homeless, international students, immigrants, and First Nations people all surround Canada’s churches, each with their own potential barriers – and entry points – to the gospel. SIM has missionaries involved with each of those groups, connecting existing churches to the opportunities.
Women who have been illegally trafficked into the sex trade, about 30 percent of all sex workers in Canada, routinely feel “unaccepted [by the church] and often for good reason,” says John Cassells.
Cassells, an SIM missionary, spends most of his time coaching churches on how to grow in their capacity to provide a safe and healing environment for women freed from the sex trade in Canada. Barriers like fear, anxiety or appearance and behavior outside of social norms keep them from experiencing church community, he says. But when supported well, these women can thrive in their lives and faith.
Thirty SIM Canada Field missionaries like Cassells and Chung currently work within Canada. They are passionate about helping Christians learn to understand and befriend people with different worldviews in their neighbourhoods and workplaces. The first step is to carefully survey the neighbourhood around a church. This is a discovery process - finding whom God has strategically placed nearby.
After that consultation, one of SIM’s missionaries acts as a coach – training church leaders as they build new cross cultural ministries based on the informed understanding of the neighbourhood’s needs and the church’s vision. It’s a process that releases fresh leadership within the church and results in new ministry that is relevant to a church’s neighbourhood.
As an example of this partnership model, after his connection with Pastor Ihsan, John Chung linked Pastor Ihsan to an established, non-Arabic church in his area. Together, the church and Pastor Ihsan befriended the mostly-Arab immigrants around them. The work started as a home church meeting, but only five months later the Arabic-speaking congregation held their opening celebration service in the church with 35 members.
SIM has 124 years of experience in sending missionaries cross-culturally to more than 70 different countries. As Canada increasingly becomes a more diverse, post-Christian society those years of experience become vital to helping Canadian churches serve their changing neighbourhoods.
“If we do not reach out to the communities whom God is bringing to Canada as our neighbours, we lose the chance to obey the Great Commission here and now!” says Chung.