Psalm 66:5 “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!”
At nearly every turn, refugees face crises:
- Learning a new language
- Adapting to a new culture
- Even coping with a different climate
Added to these is the crisis of finding housing. Recently, Grace Evangelical Free Church of Fridley, MN, has had a front-row seat to witness God’s provision for refugees and minority churches. It has had both an outward and an inward impact on their church.
In the fall of 2020, Grace EFC reached out to the houses bordering their property on the east with a request: If and when the homeowners thought about selling their homes, would they first inform the church? One family responded affirmatively, and over the next six months, conversations ensued, which resulted in a win/win situation for both the homeowners and the church. After receiving pledges, “The Grace House” was purchased in the summer of 2021. After the closing, the Good Neighbor Team of Grace spent the next two months preparing the home for their first refugee family. Arrive Ministries arranged the logistics for the Arbab family of eight from Darfur, Sudan, to be the first residents of The Grace House in September 2021. The family was exceedingly appreciative of their new home. Little Huda, fresh from arriving at the airport, entered The Grace House and exclaimed, “My home is marshalla! Marshalla!” (marshalla is Arabic for “beautiful”).
The volunteers from Grace EFC have worked as a team to walk alongside the Arbab family in practical ways. They take the parents to ESL classes and the church’s monthly food distribution. They’ve collaborated with the local schools to arrange transportation. Several from the Good Neighbor team have learned to cook Sundanese dishes, and they have taught the family Uno and other fun games.
The need of immigrants is not only to have houses in which to live but also to find church homes in which to worship. In the fall of 2021, John Yoder of Church Connectors challenged Pastor Gerald Stigall and the elders at Grace EFC to ponder and pray about the possibility of partnering with an immigrant church that desired a meeting area. After several fruitful conversations between leaders of the South Sudanese Church of the Twin Cities and those of Grace EFC, they all discerned the Lord was forging this partnership. Starting February 6, 2022, the South Sudanese Church began worshiping in the Upper Room (the church’s former sanctuary) on Sunday afternoons. The week before they started, a commissioning service included giving literal keys to the building and symbolic keys to Grace EFC’s hearts. The goal was not just to provide “space” but to forge a partnership: “Mi casa, Su casa.” Or, more appropriately, in Arabic – منزلي هو منزلك.
Pastor Gerald Stigall commented, “We see that partnership developing with each passing month. A few of our church family regularly join them for their worship service. Some South Sudanese children participate in our Awana ministry on Wednesday nights, and their families join us for the Wednesday Fellowship Dinner.”
On March 27, the two churches enjoyed a potluck meal after Grace EFC’s morning ministries and before the South Sudanese Church’s afternoon ministries. They look forward to June 26, when the two churches worship together. Pastor Khamis and Pastor Stigall will collaborate to bring the morning message. They will preside at the Communion Table, distributing the Bread and Cup as a symbol of their unity with Christ and with each other.
As Pastor Stigall reflected over the year, he remarked, “We stand amazed how the Lord has orchestrated all of this in less than a year: the purchase of a house, the refugee outreach for a family from Darfur Sudan, the partnership with the South Sudanese Church, and even our recent Christmas contribution focusing on translating disciple making materials for Arabic-speaking South Sudanese pastors. We are humbled and grateful to witness what only the Lord could do. This partnership has enriched our lives in so many ways. I heartily encourage churches throughout the North Central District to consider forging a significant relationship with an immigrant church.”
The Arbab family arriving and meeting Grace’s Good Neighbor Team
A child from Grace EFC and one of the children of the Arbab family.
The commissioning service on January 30, 2022.
Families from the two churches eating together at a Wednesday Fellowship Dinner.