Movement Day Greater Dallas designed to inform and encourage participants to approach the immigration issue as Jesus might.
Two thousand kids are coming to be “housed” in Dallas by the end of July. This presents an amazing opportunity for local churches to come alongside the local Dallas government to “welcome” these displayed kids. They will need everything including volunteers.
-Brian J Considine, Ethnic Embrace USA Director
As Dallas currently considers the plight of 2,000 immigrant children from Mexico, Greater Dallas is also a magnet for immigrants coming to America from around the world. In fact, 44 percent of the Dallas-Fort Worth population is comprised of first or second generation immigrants, making the Metroplex the largest recipient of refugees of any metropolitan area in the nation.
Movement Day Greater Dallas is a multi-denominational Christ-based initiative that was kicked off earlier this year, when approximately 1400 leaders from the Metroplex Christian community came together to tackle a number of significant issues and discuss what might be done to make a tangible difference within the next five years. Their singular goal was to provide real solutions to real problems. One of the issues covered during the event was how the Dallas faith community can work in unison to help new immigrants coming into the area.
“The needs of the immigrant are many and diverse,” points out Brian Considine, leader for the immigration track at the first Movement Day Greater Dallas and director of Ethnic Embrace, USA, a multi-denominational prayer initiative. “Think about what you would need to go live in a foreign land,” Considine suggests. “A land where you don’t know the language, the culture, how to navigate the city where you live, and where you know no one else. What kind of stresses would you face? How long would it take you to acclimate to your new home?” This ‘put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes’ kind of thinking is important, Considine feels, because before we can help anyone else, we need to be able to understand the problem from their perspective.
There are already services being offered to immigrants, ranging from basic life skills to learning English as a second language, and Considine cautions any church to be keenly aware of that fact. Before starting a new program geared at helping local immigrants, he urges church leaders to first see who else may be already offering such a service and if one is already available, then offer to work as a partner, not a competitor.
Quick to recognize that the largest single group of new immigrants into the Dallas area are still coming from Mexico, Considine believes this poses challenges of “welcoming the stranger” that touch on both economic and political issues. He stresses, however, that what first must be understood about these immigrants is that they are all people: People whom God loves dearly and does not consider to just be statistics.
“Primarily, what church leaders must do,” he says, “is encourage their congregation to open their eyes and hearts to the beautiful mosaic of people. We do that best by entering their world, going to where they are and serving their needs.”
Immigrants cut across every socioeconomic sphere in the Greater Dallas area. Incoming immigrants range from refugees arriving with nothing but the clothes on their backs to medical and IT professionals already earning significant incomes when they arrive. While there are many statistics regarding immigrants, Considine believes the most compelling is that in the DFW area there are more than 2.5 million people who are “unclaimed” by any Christian denomination or tradition. “That number includes a growing population of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist Sikhs or other non-Christian immigrants, along with a general unchurched population,” he points out.
“When Jesus sent his disciples out into the world, he first told them two things: They were to serve those in need and say to them ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ With the most recent populations of these ‘New Americans’ coming from places where Jesus is not known,” Considine adds, “our emphasis must be on making disciples. That fact is we cannot transform a city without first transforming the hearts of the people of that city.”
“Many new immigrants, for various reasons, will not enter our churches or come to our buildings. Therefore, we must think as missionaries to our communities, which requires learning how to cross cultures effectively. Training is essential but as Jesus told his disciples, the opportunity is great but the workers are few. Therefore, we must pray for more workers. Prayer, in fact, is the most important thing we can do. But then we also must anticipate becoming the answer to our own prayers.”
Due to the overwhelming success of the first Movement Day Greater Dallas, work is already underway for next year’s gathering beginning January 22, 2015. The vision of Movement Day Greater Dallas is to see “city transformation through Christian communities working together.”
The original Movement Day began in New York City under the direction Dr. Mac Pier, CEO of the New York Leadership Center in collaboration with Redeemer City to City and co-hosted by the American Bible Society. When over 50 leaders from Dallas attended the New York event, the seeds were planted for bringing Movement Day to Greater Dallas.
For more information visit www.MovementDayGreaterDallas.com .
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