A new initiative for ministering to international people groups in North Carolina was announced at the 2015 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting Nov. 2-3 in Greensboro. The effort is called Peoples Next Door N.C. and it is part of the Office of Great Commission Partnerships (GCP) under the Church Planting and Missions Partnerships team, led by Chuck Register.
The initiative’s goal is to assist individuals and churches in identifying and engaging international people groups in North Carolina with the gospel. At least 154 distinct people groups currently live in the state.
“God, in His sovereign will, has seen fit to bring the nations to North America,” Register said. “Now it is up to His people to be obedient in reaching those He has brought to us with the gospel.”
Political asylum seekers from countries like Myanmar, Iraq and Somalia are among the people groups in North Carolina.
World Relief High Point Facebook photo
One group in particular – Syrian refugees – became a source of national controversy after a Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris, France.
A Syrian passport was found near the site of one of the Paris bombings, and Islamic State supporters have allegedly expressed intent to infiltrate the West while posing as refugees.
President Barack Obama recently ordered his administration to prepare for the admittance of up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. More than 30 state governors across the nation have voiced opposition, calling for a halt on the resettlement of incoming Syrian refugees in America, due to potential terror threats.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is among those in favor of bringing Syrian immigration to a standstill, and at least one N.C. representative has suggested the National Guard round up and deport those currently living in the state, according to The News & Observer.
State officials say 44 Syrian refugees are already settled in North Carolina, making up about 5 percent of the total refugee population.
The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement utilizes nine non-profit organizations, most of which are faith-based, to manage the immigration and assimilation of asylum seekers.
World Relief is one of those organizations, and GCP often connects churches and individuals with their N.C. offices for ministry opportunities among refugees.
Andrew Timbie, office director for World Relief High Point, said he works closely with the individuals and families resettling in North Carolina.
“I know the names of every refugee that comes into North Carolina through my office,” Timbie told the Winston-Salem Journal. “And I know it months in advance.
“I also know their middle names, their birth dates, ethnicity, religion, what country they are coming from, their languages, their previous occupations, and other facts.”
He added, “I also know where they work now and where they live and even their updated phone numbers.”
Timbie also praised the involvement of volunteers. “[M]ost refugees are even connected to members of local churches who help these refugees live life on a daily basis,” he said.
“Through World Relief, N.C. Baptists can minister to arriving immigrants as they work through a host of resettlement issues, such as housing, medical care, food acquisition and education,” said Register.
The Peoples Next Door N.C. initiative and the GCP’s effort to help refugees and other immigrants will continue despite the political controversy.
“Regardless of a person’s origin of birth, the need of every human heart remains the same,” Register said, “all people, from every nation, need Jesus.
“Therefore the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, through the Peoples Next Door N.C. initiative, is committed to assisting North Carolina Baptist churches as they engage all people groups, brought to North Carolina by our sovereign Lord, with the life-transforming message of the cross.”