More Than A People Group

More Than A People Group

By: Carlos Soca, Lead Pastor and Planter of Christ Our Hope in Clifton, NJ
Over the last two years, "EthNYcity" by Chris Clayman, has become one of my most referenced books. The book has page after page of pictures, stories, prayer prompts, and information about the many different people groups found in the New York Metro Area. It's been a constant reminder of those we will minister to when we return to the NY Metro Area next year to plant a church. It's also been a helpful tool for our Monday morning prayer meetings in which we highlight a group and pray for them.

Nonetheless, people are more than just pictures and information. Each person has a name and a story, dreams and fears, successes and failures, values and worldviews. And as much as you think you know about them even after reading a book like "EthNYcity", there is always more to learn.
Last week we closed on the sale of our house. We lived in this neighborhood for over 5 years and got to know several families. But none were closer to us than our Afghani Muslim neighbors. From the time we moved in, our kids became close friends attending each other’s birthday parties, and playing for hours in each other’s yards and houses. We thought we had figured out this "people group" based on what we had read about them and what we had seen on documentaries; after all Afghanistan has been in the news quite a bit in recent years. The information we learned about them gave us an appreciation and respect for their customs, our ethnic differences and also helped us from occasionally embarrassing them or ourselves. But there was more to them.

Only by spending time with them and engaging them did we really come to understand them a little better. They had untold stories about wars and war injuries. They shared with us their fears and over time, they let their guard down. They even allowed their Quran trained children to come to AWANA one evening with us. It took time, 5 years to be exact, listening to them and allowing them to see us "walk our talk" for any of this to happen. Our prayers for them compelled us to want to enter their world and their world compelled us to pray more passionately for them. God's grace was seen through and through, leading to conversations where the gospel was shared in response to their stories and struggles.

Throughout the book of Romans, Paul reminds us that the gospel is God's power for salvation. And although he addresses both the Jews and the Gentiles, in the last chapter he doesn't just bid farewell to the "people groups" - he calls them by name. Paul had engaged each of these peoples personally and each had a story of God's mercy and grace in their life. I pray that one day like Paul I will be recalling the names of our dear Afghani Muslim neighbors, not just as friends, but as fellow believers in our one true hope and savior, Jesus Christ.

UncategorizedZach Nelson