"If God Shows You a Need..."

Earlier this year Spectrum magazine published an article in the “Migrant Journeys” section by Pastor Will James, entitled “Paradise Valley Refugee Assimilation Project.” In it, Pastor James described the work his church was doing with their local refugee community. This quarter we have had numerous thought-provoking essays on the role of the Church in the community, but they have been mostly theoretical. As this week’s lesson is on “Urban Ministry in the End Times,” we thought it would be worthwhile to have a commentary that elaborated on one church’s concrete, and very inspiring, urban ministry.

In 2011, prompted by the desire to help the refugees in your area, you began offering English language lessons, and opened a thrift store. Can you explain how these two are connected, and how they benefit the refugee community?

When we found the refugees and learned of their needs, we discovered that they needed to spend 35 hours a week in a combination of English Language classes and work experience. So we opened a thrift store as a place where we could offer work experience hours. We are looking for ways to open other microenterprise endeavors to have other ways to offer work experience as well.

Working either as a volunteer, or on a work/study program through the local colleges provides the refugees with the opportunity to gain valuable retail experience which they can put on their resumes when looking for a full-time job.

The Thrift Store benefits the refugees by providing work experience for some, but affordable clothing, household items and furniture for all, including the community around our church. The volunteers have opportunity to share about our ministry and about our God as they visit in the store with the customers. It also provides around $25,000 a year towards our ministries.

Some of the funds from our thrift store are helping to sponsor 17 children of refugee families at our local San Diego Academy.

You have also added other elements to your community services, including a community garden and food boxes for needy families. Tell us about these and how they are connected to the whole package of services.

We found the refugees often struggle with depression, so started a garden where they could get their hands into the soil and find healing for mind and body. It has been miraculous to see how getting out in the garden really does help with their depression. They begin to sing and chatter together in the garden and the depression lifts.

We are not here just to teach refugees English, but to literally become their family in a new country and minister to them and love them. Nurturing them and helping them to learn the lessons we would have taught our children on how to related socially, physically, and culturally in their new land.

The community garden provides food for the refugees, and recently they have begun to sell their organic produce to our community, providing a small source of income as well.

We currently distribute over 10,000 lbs of food and 400 articles of clothing each week in our community. We prepare 30-40 lb boxes of food Monday, Wednesday & Friday for about 30 of our Refugee Families who are studying English, and another 10 boxes of food for families at our academy who are struggling.

You have said that since becoming involved in the refugee ministry, your church has become transformed. Can you tell us about that?

I have discovered that when members are actively involved in serving someone who can never repay them for their service, it changes how the member faces life. It gives a whole new perspective on what being a Christian really is all about. Our eyes get turned away from ourselves and onto those who need our help. There is no time or desire to parse the latest theological arguments, or judge or criticize what brother or sister “so & so” are doing, or not doing right.

When we are actively serving together with God, it consumes all of our time and energy, and there is no time for the insignificant debates the enemy of our soul loves to get us sidetracked into. The judgmental attitude disappears and is replaced with a loving acceptance.

On any given Sabbath you will find 50-75 non-members in attendance, because we have become a loving caring safe place where God can bring his children. We have Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and yes, even Atheist, people attending and feeling welcome in our church.

We have over 60 different nationalities attending church together and regularly translate our services over FM headsets into Arabic, French Kinyarwanda, Swahili, Laotian and Spanish.

You are also averaging 30-50 baptisms a year, with no public evangelism (a statistic every pastor would aspire to). Do you think this is achievable by other urban churches, and do you have a blueprint others could follow?

It is very achievable. Just last Sabbath we welcomed 5 new members into our fellowship. I am not saying that every church must be involved in refugee ministry, although that is certainly open to many more churches, and is a wide open field in most of the cities of America today. I do have a strong conviction that every church must find their reason for existence, and become relevant to the community in which they exist. Church must be more than just attending church on Sabbath morning! Church is fulfilling the Gospel Commission to GO.

I have just completed a book titled: The Joys of Partnering with God: The Story of a Church That Did. While it tells the story of the Paradise Valley Church’s ministry, I hope that it will inspire other churches to find their ministry and begin to partner with God in loving service. The premise of the book is that “If God shows you a need, it is because He expects you to meet that need, and if you will step out in faith to accomplish what He has shown you needs to be done, He will provide the resources to accomplish the task.”

The book should be in print by December 1, 2016, and will be available on our ministry’s web page:www.FriendshipsForHope.org, or wherever books are sold.

What are the greatest challenges you've faced with these projects, and what have been the most rewarding aspects? And what are your plans for the future?

Multicultural ministry has challenges: language, culture, and social issues certainly being among them.

Probably the greatest is the financial. In the past 5 years, God has proved faithful and has provided and we have spent over $1,000,000 in our ministry to refugees! We don’t know how He is going to sustain that, but we try not to dwell on that, and continue to do our ministry. While we are a rapidly growing vibrant church, the vast majority of our new members are extremely poor. This impacts the church in many ways as we endeavor to help these families without bankrupting the church in the process, but God is faithful, and continues to provide the resources as we face the needs.

We are not out actively soliciting funding, we are depending upon God to do His part and are actively doing our part. Our focus must remain on what He is asking us to do in meeting the needs of the people He has brought to us. We greatly appreciate those around the world whom God has impressed who are monthly supporting our ministry by donating on our web page!

Our future plans are to continue to walk through doors as God opens them! Right now that appears to be the Muslim community in addition to the many other refugee communities we are serving. God appears to be opening the doors with the Muslim community, we are currently studying the Bible with 75 Muslim families, and working in the local Muslim Mosques sharing our health message with Health Expos.

The Quran instructs its readers to search out “The People of the Book” if they have questions. This is understood by Muslim’s to be the Writings of Moses and the Gospels. What most Christians do not realize is that of the 25 prophets in the Quran, 24 are Biblical prophets, only Mohammed is not. The Quran highly respects Jesus, and the Muslims are looking forward to Jesus’ soon return. We are excited that God is bring these people to us and fulfilling the words of E. G. White in Evangelism:

A Means of Extending the Work to All Nations—God would be pleased to see far more accomplished by His people in the presentation of the truth for this time to the foreigners in America than has been done in the past.... As I have testified for years, if we were quick in discerning the opening providences of God, we should be able to see in the multiplying opportunities to reach many foreigners in America a divinely appointed means of rapidly extending the third angel’s message into all the nations of earth. God in His providence has brought men to our very doors and thrust them, as it were, into our arms, that they might learn the truth, and be qualified to do a work we could not do in getting the light before men of other tongues. (570.2)

It is God who is bringing the refugees to us! We need to stop fighting what God is doing and accept and love these refugees!

We recently baptized our first Muslim lady and she is actively sharing her love for Jesus with her family and friends, both here and back home in her homeland.

What Muslims don’t know or understand is the great love God has for them, and the gift God gave to them through Jesus when He came to die for their sins. When they catch a glimpse of this forgiveness, they become very interested, because their religion is a religion of works, and they do not have the assurance of salvation which we know. When we have the privilege of sharing God’s gift to them, they respond with enthusiasm and excitement!

We are attempting to be faithful to God, and simply go through the doors He opens before us! It is exciting to see what He has done in the past 5 years since we began this walk, and we are looking forward to what He will lead us to do as we are faithful to Him.

We invite you to come to our web page and learn more about what God is doing through us, His faithful members here at Paradise Valley. There are 5 different videos which have been prepared by others at their cost on our ministry, which you can view on our web page: www.FriendshipsForHope.org.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7638

It certainly is a privilege to click a few buttons and make a donation to this inspiring ministry. 30 to 50 baptisms a year is a nice statistic. I especially like the comment that every church needs to find its reason for existence.


The Joys of Partnering With God.
Perhaps we could get a Book Review on Spectrum when it comes out.
Would it be a book Spectrum lurkers and posters would want to purchase a
copy for their church boards to study, implement?

** Looking at the garden picture reminded me of Mulberry Methodist church here in town [est 1836]. They had a Mon - Fri lunch program for homeless [with lots of volunteers from many churches and groups] and serve up to 275 homeless every day, plus food bags to others, and have a clothes closet program.
Several years ago there was an idle piece of land on the outskirts of downtown that they obtained and have turned it into a huge garden area each summer. They use the food grown in the kitchen. They are able to get a lot of food stuffs from Kroger, Publix, Food Bank for their feeding program.

Tom – The MOST Important Baptism is Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This should be our primary goal in any endeavor for anyone. THOSE Baptisms would be credited to God the Father.
And would NOT show up on ANY earthly denominational statistics.


I have a two questions, 1. is the help aimed at Baptisms and 2. Are those baptisms designed to be Ted Wilson Baptisms, or Paul and Silas baptisms?

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Look at the one attempt to meet the environments needs. se anothet (successful) possibiity in a Viennese suburb. The children - they eagerly come, also to following actions with an ADWA group during the year, and then the parent are interested, looking for a better way : We meet a local - suburban - niche .

www.kigrumauer.at - ferienkinderwoche 2016 remeber : some are arlrady booking for 2017 !

Some general critical remarks :: There - especially in the Bible Study Guide, , Teachers Edition a diplay of anti-urban attitude, fed by phantasies and preassumtions.This is not new : Horatius, the poet fn claasic Rome, puts it : Beatus ile, wiui procul negottis - -(faraway from urban business life - praises the country life - iam iam futurus rusticus - and then goes back to Rome to contiue his credit - loan - business in time. And we have heard : “Leave th cities - !!” and some left to remote rural areas, settling there. they so lost their ablityties to share with urbantiy - and in the remote area were aliens. and then - aging - they were confronted with a bunch of problems in housekeping and mortgages. - - and encounters. - -But : the prejudices and refutations of city life are a heritage of Romanticism (besides - The NAZI also cherished!)

But this is i an ongoing attitude : The bad environment of he cities- and the quiet, secure, insolaed pious life up thera behind the woods. But nothing meets the idylle : Promiscuity, binge drinking in the only pub of the village, volontary firefighters with their beersrteamed festivals, the pub right acrioss the street from the chuch - everyone has to meet here, (“Stammtisch” and “Fruehschoppen”) - - or you are an outcast.

Nio,sorry to say I live in a suburb - these days I was downown : These plentitudes of possibilites, of encounters, of interesting shoppin possibilites, multile places to meet others and to commnicate - - the classic cafe, for a coffee and numerous glasses of water top national and international newspapers to look through, sharing ideas with interested and intrersting people - - pubs serving vegan dishes and coarrot - ape juice as a drink - the University and its libraries - - the book shops - -

I love the city life, albe - so sorry - never having had the chance to move downtown !

And : In spite of “Babylon” and “Rome” - The cities are milestones in the story of the remnant - through the OT and the NT - and recent SDA endtime developments here: The first and still main churches in Austria are in these cities where also still todays the Intercity and Eurocity trains stop ! Even with armies of colporters ( Father Hasel !) the souls won in the remote rural areas - well, just some.

I Thomas, good questions! We Never even talk about baptism, it is NOT a reason for our love and ministry to the refugees, we do not even ask them to come to church. We are there to help anyone God brings to us without predjudise or bias. We simply live the love of Gid before the refugees and let them ask for more. On any given Sabbath we have 50-75 non-members in attendance with no pressure for them to do anything.

We have had a couple of child dedications for Muslim families with no strings or hooks attached. Some choose to come to church, many do not, and it makes do difference on how they are treated.

The baptistery tank is often wet, and we accept anyone who desires to be baptized, and the Holy Spirit is allowed the freedom to grow them in His way.

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Would be honored to have someone do a book review, just let me know whom I need to send it to, and I will forward as soon as it is off the press…Probably December 1, 2016

Thank you for a comprehensive reply