BTS students research people groups in Louisville

Communications Staff — February 11, 2009

Two students at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are helping local churches share the Gospel with people of more than 100 different nationalities.

But these students are not involved in foreign missions. They are working in conjunction with the North American Mission Board, Kentucky Baptist Convention and Long Run Baptist Association to identify and reach the thousands of international immigrants in Louisville.

The students, who wish to remain anonymous so that internationals are not offended to learn about their goals, have identified more than 70 languages spoken in the city among 101 nationalities. They say no one knows how many separate ethnic groups are represented.

“The nature of this assignment is identifying who are the nations that are represented in Louisville, then raising awareness among local churches that they’re here and they’re unreached, and then really equipping Christians in the city to serve cross culturally effectively,” said one of the students who is working on his doctor of missiology degree in Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

The students’ vision is to see Christ worshiped in every language spoken in the city. That goal will be fulfilled only when many churches take steps to infiltrate specific populations with the Gospel, they said.

“Louisville is becoming what they call a tier-one refugee relocation center. Where previously perhaps we would bring in 700 to 800 refugees (per year), that number is going to be growing to perhaps even 1,000 refugees.

These are all fleeing their country because of fear of
persecution, and they are unable to return to their home country,” the doctoral student said.

“They come with very meager belongings. Most of them do not speak English. The economic downturn is hitting them very hard.”

In the past, more than 80 percent of Louisville’s refugees were placed in jobs. Now the number has dwindled to less than 40 percent—which provides churches an opportunity to minister to refugees, he said.

In addition to financial assistance, refugees need help filling out basic government paperwork and developing life skills, the student said, adding that Sunday School classes should consider adopting refugee families.

“Most refugees are never invited into an American home,” he said. “When that happens and Americans reach out and become their friends, the opportunity for Gospel ministry is amazing. Even those that come from Hindu or Muslim backgrounds are so receptive to building relationships with Christians.”

Among the nations represented in Louisville are Iraq, Burundi, India and Bosnia. Iraqis are showing particular receptivity to the Gospel and at least seven are waiting to be baptized.

The doctoral student and his wife have invested their lives in ministry to Bosnians. Like many of the city’s ethnic populations, Bosnians have resisted the Gospel message. Yet there are signs that God is breaking down the resistance, he said.

“Several of our friends have asked us what the difference is between us and Catholics,” he said. “It’s very confusing to them, and that’s given us the opportunity to share Christ. But every time we think that we’re making headway the next conversation is all about how much they love being Muslims. So it’s almost like a yoyo.”

Ultimately the two students say they will have succeeded when churches are planted and international refugees commit their lives to Christ.

“Our heart is to see churches planted and people baptized as they become Christians,” the doctoral student said.

For more information on reaching internationals in Louisville, contact the Long Run Baptist Association at 502-635-2601.

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