There is an unprecedented movement of peoples in our world today: 1 in every 30 individuals is living outside their country of birth. In the United States, close to 14% of the population is foreign-born and more than 1 in 4 individuals living in the US is part of an immigrant family (first generation immigrant and their children).
This particular context hasn't existed since 1910 and impacts every context; whether you live in a rural, urban, or suburban community, whether you're a part of a small church or a large church, whether your church is monoethnic or multiethnic, whether your church is established or a brand new church plant.
Immigrant Connection believes every disciple of Jesus and every local church is called to welcome the stranger (Matthew 25:35) and to practice Biblical hospitality (literally "philoxenos" - philo - love, xenos - foreigner/immigrant). We also realize everyone is at a different place on the journey of welcome.
The goal of Welcome 2020 is to help each individual and each local church learn their own first step or next step on the welcome journey. Impactful stories will be shared from a diverse range of voices and experiences in order to give clear and innovative ways for individuals and churches to connect with and welcome immigrants. We believe Welcome 2020 will give new inspiration to overcome obstacles and practical steps for what to do next as you seek to offer welcome and build relationships with immigrants in your neighborhood and community.
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon serves on the board of directors of many organizations, including the National Association of Evangelicals Executive Committee, Bread for the World, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and Asbury Theological Seminary. She served on the Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama, founded World Hope International, a relief and development organization, and received the World Methodist Peace award in 2016 and the National Immigration Forum’s Keepers of the American Dream award in 2017. Dr. Lyon is one of the principals of the Evangelical Immigration Table, a broad coalition of evangelical organizations advocating for immigration reform consistent with biblical values. Dr. Lyon holds a master’s degree in counseling, continued graduate studies in historical theology and has been granted five honorary doctorates. She has written several articles and publications, including the book The Ultimate Blessing, and has served over 30 years in Pastoral Ministry.
Luigi Peñaranda is a bilingual professor at Wesley Seminary specializing in Biblical Studies and Leadership Studies. He was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. While pursuing a career in Sound Engineering, Luigi sensed the call to vocational ministry. He then embarked on his personal cross-cultural quest by coming to the United States to advance his education. Along with his academic endeavors, Luigi has actively engaged in pastoral ministry. He was a part of the core leadership of a church plant in Radford, VA. He also served as assisting minister in one of the largest Hispanic congregations in the nation located in Van Nuys, CA. Subsequently, he was an assisting minister in a congregation in Eagle Rock, CA, a church that is spearheading a vision known as the Los Angeles Church Planting Movement. He is married to Courtney, who serves in an immigration law office, and they have 3 children.
Adam Lipscomb co-pastors City Life Church with his wife, Christy. City Life is a multi-ethnic, core-neighborhood church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. City Life Church is made up of a group of people who are very different from one another -- different skin colors, different amounts of money, different life-experiences, different families, and different homes; yet they have the important things in common. City Life Church is located in the core city neighborhoods on a street known for drug dealing, prostitution and homelessness. However, Adam and Christy had a dream of a day when the reputation of the community changes because Jesus has transformed it through his Church. Adam did his undergraduate at Indiana Wesleyan University and has an MDiv from Asbury Theological Seminary. For fun, he enjoys camping with his family and kayaking with his friends.
Greenville Multicultural Church is located and serves the neighborhoods of West Greenville. Greenville, SC is a city of 70,000 with a metro population of over 500,000. West Greenville is home to a diverse population which includes a growing immigrant population. Greenville Multicultural grew out of a historically white church that chose to tangibly welcome, serve, and build relationships in their neighborhoods. Believing God's Kingdom is a gathering of people who love Jesus from all nations, ethnicities, and language groups, the church decided to make that happen here on earth. Learn more about a church that radically changed its ministries in order to better love its neighborhood and has promoted and pursued diversity across many levels: cultural, ethnic, linguistic, economic, generational, and educational.
When Justin and Angela Bradbury planted a church in Winnipeg in 2014, the launch team of five people held very little diversity; now New Horizons International Church is made up of approximately 50 percent recent immigrants and 50 percent Caucasian. Chinese, Nigerian, Brazilian, Iranian, South Korean, Eastern European and South Asian immigrants are all represented at the church. The New Horizons International Church launched The International Place of Friendship which offers English classes to recent immigrants and international students, job training, Canadian cultural orientation and education seminars, referrals to government programs, support finding affordable housing, international celebrations, cooking program, resume writing support, among many other innovative programs — all in hopes that folks are introduced to Jesus and that those who are already Christians grow in their faith.
Plano, Texas is one of the largest suburbs of Dallas which has a metro population of over 7 million. 1 in 4 residents within the Dallas metro area is foreign born. Sent Church was planted in 1985 and has sought to be a church committed to reaching out and being sent into their community. They have been on a continual journey to figure out new ways to express the sentness of the Church and leave God’s Loveprint on their surrounding community. This has led them to becoming an increasingly diverse church - from actively finding ways to serve and build relationships with their diverse community to becoming a diverse pastoral staff and leadership team to becoming a more diverse congregation. Learn ways that Sent Church has cultivated the posture of sentness and created a reputation of serving and caring for individuals and families from across the globe who now call the city of Dallas their home.
Olathe, Kansas is the fourth most populous city in the Kansas City metro area. Olathe Wesleyan Church has been an incubator of innovation and radical hospitality for the past 10 years. They have helped launch a plethora of ministries, programs, initiatives, and organizations to serve their community and beyond. From leading a full-service child care center with a diverse staff from several countries of origin, to planting a Spanish-speaking congregation, to providing a holistic ESL program, to launching citizenship classes, to providing low-cost immigration legal services, Olathe Wesleyan Church and its leadership have lived out radical hospitality in all that they do with a central focus on expanding the Church throughout their city and beyond. Learn ways to create an environment where bold new ideas can grow into sustainable initiatives and programs that can then reproduce and have an exponential impact.
Logansport, Indiana is a small, micropolitan city of 18,000 in a rural county surrounded by rural counties. Twenty years ago the population was over 99% Caucasian but now 1/3 of the households are foreign-born. The Bridge was a declining church and on the list of local churches to face closure in 2012. In the past 8 years, The Bridge not only has stayed open, it has become a community hub and leader in spreading welcome, cultivating connection, and helping build new relationships across cultural lines throughout the community. The Bridge is now a multiethnic, multilingual, multicultural church with individuals and families from around the world that worship together in one service. The Bridge also launched the first Immigrant Connection office in 2014 and has served over 2100 immigrants from over 70 different countries of origin. Learn how God chooses the small and the least likely and that if a church will just say yes and take their first step along the journey, God will bless their obedience abundantly.
Zach Szmara is the National Director of Immigrant Connection. He has been a Department of Justice accredited legal representative since 2014 and has served over 2100 immigrants from 70+ nations in the 6 years he has led his local Immigrant Connection site. He also serves as the pastor of The Bridge Community Church – a multilingual, multicultural, multiethnic church in Logansport, Indiana. He has spoken nationally on the topic of immigration, diaspora, multi-cultural/multi-ethnic diversity, and holistic outreach to immigrants and refugees. He is married to Lyndy, a special education administrator, and they have one son, Isaac.