A Gateway of Grace

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Samira’s call to a refugee ministry started with her own story of suffering in her homeland of Iran. Fleeing persecution, this Muslim student escaped through the mountains to save her life. She landed in Mexico with no documentation or Spanish language. From Mexico, she made her way to the United States, seeking asylum and navigating the complexities of the court system.  And, along the way, God got her attention, and she became a follower of Christ.

Desiring to serve in Christian ministry, she enrolled in seminary. After seminary, Samira wondered how she could link her unique life experiences with her training to serve the American church. The question drove her to research the needs of her adopted hometown of Dallas-Fort Worth. When she learned that 3,000 refugees take up residence in the city each year, Samira’s calling to both the American church and foreign refugees began to take shape. Her ministry, Gateway of Grace, would be to mobilize the American church to reach out to these foreign newcomers.

How did Samira and Anglican Frontier Missions join forces, especially since AFM’s mission is to plant churches in areas of the world where there is very little Christian presence? Dallas-Fort Worth just doesn’t qualify!   Although AFM is not about planting churches in Dallas, it is relying on churches in Texas and throughout the Anglican Communion to partner in the work of going to the unreached. One barrier in mobilizing for the work is the lack of exposure that the average person in the pew has with the Muslim-Hindu-Animist world where AFM serves.  Encouraging congregations to act locally can make them aware of and more interested in the needs globally. Samira explains that her ministry helps:

“local churches and individual Christians to connect with the work of the Holy Spirit in and among the refugees and for them to be transformed by the Holy Spirit for the work of evangelism and mission.  Relationships with refugees helps remove some of the fears and prejudices that Americans might have toward people from other cultures and religions, particularly Islam.”

Samira has seen this transformation first-hand. She tells the story of her volunteer Resource Coordinator who initially had no interest and experience with immigrants until the day they needed a truck to move furniture. Michelle stepped in and got hooked. Today she spends numerous hours ministering to refugees, generously devoting her resources and talents to these newcomers. Michelle has adopted one particular Iraqi family, caring for them as she does her own family. No wonder the entire clan now calls her “Mama”.

When asked what advice she might give someone considering a new work with refugees, Samira had this to say, “I think the key to this type of ministry is listening to one’s own life experiences and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Nothing is wasted with God. Our past experiences, most often, are how the Lord leads us to our future tasks. Samira referred to Henri Nouwen who spoke of the healing of past wounds being for means of present ministry. According to Nouwen’s Wounded Healer, those wounds, by God’s grace, can become rivers of overflowing compassion.

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