HOUSTON—More than 10 percent of the refugees from Asia, Africa and the Middle East who arrive in the United States each year settle in Texas, offering Texas Baptists an unprecedented ministry opportunity, an intercultural ministry specialist told a Houston-area conference.
Last year, 7,214 refugees arrived in Texas from 65 countries, and one-third of that number settled in Houston, Mark Heavener told the Refugee Ministry Summit at Chinese Baptist Church in Houston.
“Clearly God has chosen the state of Texas and the city of Houston to be the center of his work of redeeming refugees,” Heavener said. “I believe we are in the center of God’s heartbeat.”
Heavener pointed to Psalm 107:1-9, in which God takes refugees into his arms and leads them to a safe place to settle. For many modern refugees, their safe place is Texas, and there is no better time than now to open church doors for ministry, he said.
Refugees not only respond well to churches that minister among them, but also desperately need that ministry, said “Pastor Andre” Onokoko Shango from the International Ministries for Propagation of the Gospel Church in Houston.
Enduring hardships, sufferings, humiliations
Refugees “have gone through hardships, sufferings, humiliations, running from one place to another looking for a secure place to live,” he said. Many “have lost everything and have witnessed their family members being killed. So, the only hope they can turn to is God.”
He expressed encouragement in seeing churches become passionate about refugee ministry.
Refugees “have been told that God can restore, he can vindicate, and he can bring hope,” he said. “Churches need to get involved in the refugee cause in order to give them hope that restoration is possible through Jesus Christ.”
Opportunities for ministry
Kathleen Yarborough, from West University Baptist Church in Houston, was amazed to discover all the opportunities to serve with refugees.
“Serving with these refugees can make a huge difference in our community,” she said. “Houston receives more refugees than any other city in the United States. There is room for everyone to be involved in this kingdom work. … It is a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”