“A glimpse of heaven on earth” is how Ken Tan, leadership development consultant for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), described the Heavenly Banquet Nov. 15 at the Koury Convention Center. The luncheon, an event during the BSC annual meeting, celebrated diversity as families of different ethnicities worshiped and shared a meal together.
Standing in front of a banner with “Hallelujah” painted in various languages, Phil Kitchin, former pastor of Clarkston International Bible Church in Clarkston, Ga., challenged attendees to actively see and serve refugees and immigrants coming to North Carolina.
Speaking from Luke 10, Kitchin drew on the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what it takes to reach and care for immigrants and refugees in the state. Before pastoring the multi-ethnic congregation of Clarkston International, Kitchin served as an International Mission Board missionary to Belgium, where he ministered to refugees.
The first step N.C. Baptists must take, he said, is to stop and look. He acknowledged that many in the hall were pastors of ethnic churches and encouraged them to look beyond their own familiar places.
“You see your people group, you know exactly where your people group is. Do you see the other people groups that are in North Carolina?” Kitchin asked.
Second, he said, Christians must stoop down and use their resources.
“To bandage this guy, the Good Samaritan had to get off his donkey and use what he had: oil and wine,” said Kitchin. Likewise, N.C. Baptists can offer the two things refugees perceive as their greatest needs: jobs and the English language.
Kitchin spoke about Clarkston International’s decision to clear out the church library, which was not being used, and turn the space into an internet cafe used solely for helping refugees and immigrants find job openings, create resumes and practice interviews. Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., partnered with the church and provided 10 new computers for the cafe.
“Two things – English and jobs – is what they think they need,” Kitchin said. “What we know they need is a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
So Christians must make financial sacrifices and be willing to face the messiness that comes with cultural differences.
“In order for this guy to get a wounded man on his donkey, what did the Good Samaritan have to do? He had to walk.” Kitchin said. “Are you going to walk beside immigrants and refugees so that they would know Jesus?
“When I read this story, here’s what I see: I am the priest, I am the Levite, some days I’m the Good Samaritan,” said Kitchin. “But you know where I was when Jesus first found me? … I was wounded, and I needed him. … He picked me up and took me to his house and adopted me as His son and said, ‘Whatever the cost is, I will pay it.’”
At a breakout session that later followed the banquet, Kitchin elaborated on other channels of refugee and immigrant ministry, such as providing furniture for families moving into apartments, after school tutoring and healthcare classes. He emphasized that the purpose of each service was ultimately to tell immigrants and refugees about Jesus.
“This is how you earn the right to teach them about Christ.”