CBF affiliates help Slavic immigrants start new life in United States

By Laurie Entrekin, CBF Communications
Friday, January 05, 2007
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As part of their ministry, the Grahams have connected immigrants with farms where they can glean produce. Photo courtesy of the Grahams

ATLANTA – Five years ago, Fran Graham became aware of the large community of Slavic people from Ukraine, Russia and Moldova living in her city of Asheville, N.C.

The Slavic population in Asheville – currently between 6,000-7,000 people – continues to grow. A new group of immigrants arrive each fall to escape the oppression and poverty of their countries, most speaking very little English and having been persecuted for their faith in Christ, but all needing life’s basic necessities – housing, furniture, food, clothing and the love of a neighbor.

Fran and her husband, Mike, were both employed full-time, so they formed a task force at their church, First Baptist Church of Asheville, to aid new families as they arrived in the U.S. They solicited donations of used furniture, started English as a Second Language classes and organized traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas ministry activities for the families. More than anything, said Fran, their purpose was to get to know the Slavic people.

In 2005, realizing they needed stronger connections with churches, the Grahams became Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions AsYouGo affiliates. As an affiliate the Grahams have access to benefits provided by CBF Global Missions, including physical, emotional and spiritual support, training opportunities and being part of a peer team. This infrastructure, which is funded by gifts to the CBF Offering for Global Missions, allowed the Grahams to draw on Fellowship resources and relationships.

Since they became AsYouGo affiliates, the Grahams have been able to pursue new areas of service – including offering dental treatment at a minimal fee on a dental van one week each spring and coordinating Slavic families to go one day a week to glean food from local farms.

"[The ministry] has just grown. The Lord has been in this so much the way it’s grown!" said Fran. "Every church I have called on in the past couple of days to help new families has agreed to help – I haven’t been turned away."

Since 2002, the Grahams estimate they have helped about 1,000 new immigrants.

"The great thing about Fran and Mike’s ministry is that it’s happening in a community like Asheville," said Matt Norman, CBF Global Missions associate coordinator. "Many times, when we think about missions, we think of going somewhere else. But the world is coming to us. There are opportunities all around to bring global missions home, to reach out in our own community."

For more information on becoming an affiliate or encourager church, contact Matt Norman at norman@thefellowship.info or (770) 220-1609.

CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

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