This past Sunday, we had the pleasure of sharing about the Immigrant Connection ministry and our upcoming Central America trip with Dayton Center Wesleyan Church in my hometown of Fremont, Michigan. This was the very first time I have ever been invited to speak to a church on a Sunday morning. I’m often asked to speak at various community events, conferences, organizations, schools, etc., but never (until now) a church. On some level, I do understand why. You can’t talk about IC without talking about immigration law, a highly politicized topic. It’s not fun to dive into topics that carry a lot of emotion on a Sunday morning when so many of the people showing up are tired and ready to rest in God. At the same time, this ministry is a reflection of God’s heart, and over and over in the Bible we have been commanded to love and serve immigrants. Not only is it extremely helpful to our work to have other churches supporting us, it is an absolute joy to be involved in this work and we want other Christians to be able to experience it along with us.
What struck me as I walked in the doors of Dayton Center was God’s affinity for using the unexpected for his good purpose. Our IC office was started in a small, multi-ethnic, heart-of-the-city church that was largely built by recovering addicts and the homeless. When City Life took the dive into starting an IC ministry, it didn’t have boundless resources and a large platform to garner the support of the Wesleyan community. It had a couple thousand dollars for training and some books, an empty, windowless office, and willing hearts. God has built something amazing with a short list of donors that we can name off the top of our heads (Shout out to Riley, Melissa, Michelle, EB & Joe) and the prayer and support of the church and immigrant community. The bottom line is this: We shouldn’t be here. We should not have been able to build a low-cost immigration law office with this little. But I’ve learned God doesn’t really care what we should or shouldn’t be able to do. He loves to build amazing things from the unexpected places.
In John chapter 1, when Phillip shares that the Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, has arrived, Nathanael exclaims, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"
Dayton Center is a small, country church in a conservative farm town. By the world's standards, they, like City Life, shouldn't be able to accomplish much relative to big organizations and churches. Why were they the first to invite us to speak, when larger churches with more money and influence have hugged us and given us the thumbs up? When at first glance we seem like maybe we’re an unlikely pair? Why have they chosen to support an immigrant serving ministry? Because the Holy Spirit lives in Dayton Center. In the Holy Spirit we have a higher citizenship and, again, the Holy Spirit doesn't give a toot about the world's standards or expectations. When Nathanael met Jesus he was like "OH! You right, Phillip, you right! Obviously this is God! How ignorant was I to underestimate?!" I *may* be paraphrasing, but the point is that Jesus himself came from an unexpected place, in an unexpected form. Nathanael had his pre-conceived notions of what someone from Nazareth could achieve, yet his life, and the world, was completely changed by that someone anyway. Dayton Center welcomed us, listened to us, prayed for us, and donated to our ministry. After the service I heard stories of more amazing ways that God has been using Dayton Center in their community and across the globe. God doesn’t work from the top down, He works from the bottom up.
Now I’m not sharing this as a bitter statement about large churches. Just because they have not donated to us specifically does not mean they are not being used by the Holy Spirit to serve immigrants or that they meet IC with anything but love and support. Speaking at Dayton Center has not revealed an angst towards large churches, but rather a refreshed love and appreciation for the power of small churches when they work for His glory. To quote Veggie Tales, “With God’s help, little guys can do big things too!”
Thank you, Dayton Center, for your boldness and generosity!
P.S. I hope you aren't offended that I have labeled you as an "unexpected" church from the world's perspective! You're also like the Phillip of this scenario who was probably like "DUH NATHANAEL. I knew it all along and I told you so!"