Reaching Immigrant Communities
By Tom Herrick
There are more than 40 million foreign-born people who have emigrated to the United States in recent years, representing a tremendous opportunity for mission right in our back yard. This number continues to grow at a rapid rate, having increased by 8.8 million (28%) in the last 10 years alone. Many of these immigrants are transforming the face of the Church, strengthening and even revitalizing some denominations, representing a significant percentage of the new churches being planted.
Reaching these communities with the Gospel provides an opportunity to develop relationships and find ways to help meet their needs. The question for many of us is, “How to we do that?”
One significant possibility is to offer legal aid services that would be too expensive or otherwise unavailable to immigrants. In the wake of President Obama’s recent executive order, it is estimated that there are more than 5 million undocumented non-citizens in immediate need of legal assistance. With only 12,000 immigration attorneys in the entire country, there simply are not enough people who have the training to meet this need. In immigrant communities, churches are a trusted presence that can help address this shortage of services. Church volunteers can receive the training and certification quickly and inexpensively that is necessary to bridge this gap.
The Anglican Church in North America has joined a multi-denominational Immigration Coalition, spearheaded by World Relief, to help churches start such legal aid centers. Supported by World Relief’s existing network of legal services programs, The Anglican Immigrant Initiative (AII) provides training for volunteers to open a church-based legal aid clinic that can provide legal information, advice, and assistance with immigration applications – all for a nominal fee.
To learn more, visit http://greenhousemove.wix.com/immigrantinitiative