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Embracing the Immigrant Waves

African pastors relaunch C&MA association

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“It is a privilege for me to minister in the United States,” the pastor said quietly. “I feel I am paying back a debt to this country whose missionaries sacrificed everything—many their lives—to take the gospel to Africa so I could know Christ.”

He was among 13 U.S. Alliance church leaders from Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Liberia attending meetings in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last fall to discuss relaunching the African Churches Association of The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). One of 11 U.S. Alliance associations that provide fellowship for culturally and/or linguistically related people in the C&MA, this long-standing group’s activities had lapsed after their former president relocated to his homeland several years ago.

“Encouraging, ministry-related relationships for these pastors are greatly needed,” says Rosilio Román III, assistant vice president for Alliance Multicultural/Multiplication Ministries, who coordinated the summit. “It isn’t easy to reach their people within the cultural context of the United States.

“Many of these leaders must work two or three jobs to support themselves, so time for ministry is limited. Finding a place to meet also is difficult; often, there isn’t financial means to secure property. Sharing church facilities can mean meeting at odd hours during the week when space is available.”

In spite of the challenges, God’s Spirit is moving among Alliance multiethnic ministries in the United States.

Non-Anglo Church Growth

“Today, 40 percent of U.S. C&MA churches are non-Anglo,” says Román. “Our denomination is growing at a significant rate among these groups.” Approximately 800 U.S. Alliance churches—in which 37 languages can be heard on any given Sunday—are ethnic specific.

C&MA associations help to address the explosive growth. Meeting one to two times a year for fellowship, mentoring and training, they serve as a bridge between their language and/or ethnic groups and corresponding C&MA districts. Associations also help to advance outreach initiatives among their respective groups.

All 13 African leaders expressed a strong desire to pursue pastoral training opportunities through their association, which will reconvene this spring at a yet-to-be-determined location.

Persecution

Representative of the immigrant populations that continue to arrive on U.S. shores, many of the African leaders at the fall summit experienced coercion and imprisonment in their homelands. Persecution is a common thread among our ethnic pastors, says Román.

Much of the immigration to this country since the 1970s has been the result of civil conflicts that have displaced whole people groups from places like Liberia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Today, because of unrest in the Arab world, The Alliance needs to be ready for the wave of immigrants arriving from the Middle East. To do so, the Arab-Speaking Churches Association of the C&MA was launched at General Council 2013 in Tampa, Florida.

Welcoming the immigrant

“The world keeps coming to this country,” says Román. “How do we ride the current wave God is sending us?

“We will continue to empower our ethnic leaders to assume greater participation and responsibility in leading the affairs of the denomination. We must develop the younger leaders to go—to be the bridges for the gospel to those nations that are closing to Anglo workers. Ethnic believers are the face of the changing global missions movement.”

Although current ethnic participation within the U.S. Alliance core of international workers is just 13 percent, “It is only logical that this will grow,” Román observes. “This is our history; this is how our founder A. B. Simpson, himself a Canadian immigrant, began this movement“reaching Italian immigrants who were pouring into New York City. We need to continue our history of welcoming the immigrant waves.”

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