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Lorna Johnston /Wednesday, April 6, 2022


A small newspaper article in our local newspaper sometime in 2008 caught my eye. It headlined the news that Coquitlam would become the new home of some of the Bhutanese refugees being resettled in Canada after several decades stuck in refugee camps on the border between Bhutan and Nepal. As I read it, my heart was heavy thinking of all the help these people would need to be established well and flourish in their new lives. My only capacity at the time was to offer a prayer to God that the church in Coquitlam would respond with open arms and a warm welcome, loving these ones for the sake of Jesus Christ.

A Story of Teenagers Serving Refugee Families

Fast forward at least 10 years to when I heard the story that was part of the answer to my prayer…

As the Bhutanese community began to move into the Coquitlam area, God was moving a young Korean family into the leadership of a local Korean church’s youth group. The youth had grown up in Christian homes—but the youth pastor wanted to help them develop their own strong, resilient faith. Upon discovering the presence of this growing refugee community, he challenged them to put their faith to work by serving the needs of this community.

In the Fall of 2011, a core group of youth led by the youth pastor began responding to the various practical needs of the community, including the need for connection and relationship. Regular community meals of shared Nepali and Korean food quickly became a central focus.

The needs of the community were eye-opening for the youth. The love of the youth was eye-opening for the community.

Friendships developed. Children were nurtured.

Conversations started. Questions were asked. Motives were tested.  Why did the youth show kindness and compassion? Who was their God that should show such compassion through his people?

Questions answered led to further questions. It seemed good to all to begin meeting regularly to explore these faith questions. On the first Sunday in February 2012, Foster Community Church was born. Focussing on simple discipleship of whole families, the primary leadership of this church-plant was a youth pastor and his youth. Some Bhutanese refugees chose to leave their Hindu faith and begin to follow Jesus Christ. Others joined over time.

A Story of New Immigrants Serving Refugees

Fast forward to today.

The Korean youth who first served the refugee community and later the church are now adults, studying, working, marrying … They are strong in their faith, and many are leaders in Christian ministry.

The Bhutanese community have become more established, and many have relocated for better work opportunities. Some are strong Christ-following leaders in their own community.

The Korean youth pastor, who used to dream of, and was preparing to go to Central Asia as a missionary, had a change of heart after interacting with this Bhutanese community. Instead of changing addresses, he and his family changed focus, immersing themselves in loving and serving successive waves of refugees—those who have never heard of God’s love, expressed through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They now serve as diaspora missionaries in Canada.

As the Bhutanese community dispersed, the empty apartments in their complex began to be filled with Afghans and Syrians. This time it is the Bhutanese youth, led by the same Korean family, who are learning to serve their needs.

Korean youth loving Bhutanese immigrants. Bhutanese youth loving Afghan immigrants.

Teenagers serving refugee families; new immigrants serving refugees.

Ordinary Christ-followers discipling others through relationship and acts of loving service, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Joel 2:28-29 says,

“And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

It is an easy ‘trap’ for Christians to leave the work of God’s mission to other ‘more qualified’ people. Pastors. Missionaries. Professionals.

But the Holy Spirit is given to everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. And everyone who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit has the potential, power, and capacity to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ—irrespective of age, experience, education, culture, language, or wealth.

Joel’s prophecy, fulfilled as recorded throughout the book of Acts and beyond, makes it clear that the work of the Kingdom of God will be carried forward by ordinary people filled and responding obediently to the Holy Spirit’s leading. When believers do the works of the Kingdom—justice, mercy, compassion, love—then Christ will be made known, and Christ’s Church will be enlarged.

What chapters of God’s story will be written through your ‘ordinary’ life?

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Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.




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