Episode 13: An Unexpected Ministry to Refugees – Interview with Pete Seiferth

Several years ago, Pete Seiferth’s church was feeling a bit down about declining attendance, declining giving, and all kinds of other declining. So they prayed. They prayed that God would send people to them.

And God answered their prayer. Except that the people God sent were not the people they were expecting. Rather than sending more middle-class white people, God sent African refugees and asylum seekers.

In this episode of Spiritual Life and Leadership, Pete Seiferth tells the story of how God brought these new people to their church and how their church learned to be open to a whole new ministry—one that no one was expecting.

 

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THIS EPISODE’S HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:

  • Pete Seiferth is the Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Multicultural Ministry at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson, AZ.
  • Pete got his Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.
  • When Pete started his D.Min. program, he thought of the degree as something to help him attract people to his church.
  • Pete describes the moment his church started getting involved in multicultural ministry. A Congolese man named Bienvenue asked if he and his congregation could use space in Pete’s church to worship.
  • The congregation agreed to the request on a two-month trial basis.
  • Bienvenue told Pete a story, asking if he would put a baby outside after only a two-month trial. Pete learned that for Africans relationships are not temporary.
  • Pete’s church started Refugee & Immigrant Ministry (RIM). They learned the unique needs of refugees and asylum seekers.
  • Asylum seekers come to the U.S. on various kinds of visas. While here, as things destabilized in their country, they applied for asylum in the United States. Asylum seekers are ineligible to work in the U.S. for the first six months. This puts them in a position of great need.
  • Pete’s church, Northminster Presbyterian Church, rents an apartment that they use to shelter homeless or near homeless asylum seekers while they wait for their work permit. They are also trained and prepared for seeking work and living independently.
  • Refugees receive support from the government for up to five years.
  • Refugees often come with less education than asylum seekers. Asylum seekers tend to be privileged to come to United States in the first place.
  • Pete shares that the church leadership prayed that God will send people to their church. And God did! However, the people God sent weren’t who they were expecting. But Pete’s church definitely believes that their new brothers and sisters were sent by God.
  • Pete’s church has five very different services every Sunday.
  • Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson is a multicultural church, but they are still learning to be an intercultural church.
  • Pete says for him the test of a true multiethnic congregation is when the kids who are white and who are black start dating and want to get married.
  • Pete’s story reminds Markus of episode 12 in which Christiana Rice unpacks the image of God as a woman in labor giving birth to the new creation as we attend as midwives to what God is birthing into the world. It sounds like Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson were attentive to what God was birthing in their midst and have been faithful in nurturing this new life.
  • Pete has been learning to keep his eyes wide open and not get too set in his ways too quickly.
  • Pete has learned to hold loosely his own plans and to take things one day at a time, being present with those whom God has sent to be present with him.
  • Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson can be found at www.npctucson.org
  • Pete shares several helpful resources which are listed below.

 

RELEVANT RESOURCES AND LINKS:


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