I was traveling on a spring break trip with a dozen others when I met Gracia.
Gracia and her family escaped from the Congo when “she was in her mommy’s belly,” or so she told me as we walked around her refuge at a Houston apartment complex. We were passing out flyers to a Kids Club held in the community’s clubhouse. We were given about 100 to distribute, and Gracia ran around sliding them inside door frames as fast as she could.
She ran from building to building. She ran from door to door. She ran up the stairs and down the stairs and then she ran up the stairs again. She ran and she ran and she ran.
Gracia and her family have been running all their lives.
Before I visited Gracia’s apartment complex I visited another. It was filled with Pakistani immigrants. Dozens of kids came out for games and snacks and laughs. Their families did not have to flee Pakistan, necessarily, but they are strangers in this land for sure. Whether they are seeking a better life or seeking not to die is of little importance. Either plight landed them in America as strangers. They settled in similar spaces for community.
To most people, strangers mean little other than to be strange. Different languages, different customs, different clothes–these differences drive us apart. At best we are judgmental from a distance and remain aloof and ignorant. At worst we are driven by hatred and prejudice and our only contact with people different than us is confrontational.
Houston, Texas, is home to more people groups than any other city in the United States. The stories I told above emerged from a week spent with Global Frontier Mission. In a single week, I met people from Turkey, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Congo, Iraq, and many others. They gather in apartment complexes and worship in temples and mosques and most of them have been running all their lives. They are strangers in a foreign land.
As the most diverse city in the United States, Houston stands alone. As the church in the Houston metro area, we have a unique opportunity.
- More than 1.2 million residents of Houston were born outside the United States
- From 2000 to 2009, more than 300,000 immigrants settled in the Houston metro area
- There are more than 350 people groups in Houston
- If Houston were a country, it would be the 6th most diverse country in the world
- The suburbs of Sugar Land, Katy, and Missouri City are more well known cities in India and Pakistan than they are in the United States
- There are more than 60,000 Urdu speaking Pakistani residents in Houston. They represent an unreached people group with no missionary to reach them
People are starting to notice the diversity in Houston. WORLD Magazine recently did a cover story on the subject.
Jesus said in the Great Commission that we were to take the Gospel to all nations. In Houston, the nations are actually coming to us. It was such a thrill working with GFM. I would encourage you to check out their website and get involved. By praying, sending, or going, you can make a world of difference. You could make an impact in someone’s life who has actually never heard the name of Jesus.
You won’t even have to leave the United States.
photo credit to WORLD Magazine and Global Frontier Mission