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How Spokane Churches Can Become Globally Minded in Their Own Backyard


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How Spokane Churches Can Become Globally Minded in Their Own Backyard

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Guest Commentary by Rod Cosgrove | Lead Pastor, Garland Church

How do we, as a city, become globally-minded? And for those of us in this city who follow Jesus Christ, how do we respond to Jesus’ call to bring his invitation of life in Him to the world?

Spokane is a sizable city, but we’re insular. We’re often referred to as the largest city between Minneapolis and Seattle, but dominated as we are by majority culture, it can be difficult for us to see our connection to the multi-ethnic world.

It takes intentionality to put ourselves into a global picture where 110 million people have been impacted by crisis and where famine, economic collapse, violence and fear of persecution have created 35 million externally-displaced refugees. Most of these externally-displaced refugees live in camps very far from Spokane, so it’s tempting to ask, “What does any of this have to do with me?”

One of the best ways Garland Church has found to connect those dots is through our partnership with World Relief Spokane. Over the course of many years, we have had the opportunity to welcome and interact with people from Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Ukraine, Bhutan, Burundi, Eritrea, Burma, Cameroon, Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Somalia.

What a benefit it has been to our largely white congregation to interact with these diverse people from around the world! Collectively, we have said, “Listen, the Lord is bringing these people to us. We should engage them. We should do what we can to step out of our comfort zones and welcome them.”

Being a Good Neighbor

Garland has found a few avenues to serve that work well for us. First, we have formed what World Relief calls “Good Neighbor Teams.” These are groups of 6 to 10 people who walk alongside a family and build relationships, helping them learn English, showing them our favorite places in Spokane, sharing a meal or providing transportation to medical appointments.

Rebuilding your life from scratch in a new place with a new culture and a new language is a lot of work. We help where we can and try to be available as needed.

Imagine, if you would, if the situation was swapped around and you found yourself displaced to any of those above countries I mentioned. Wouldn’t you hope that someone from that culture would reach out and help you find your way?

A second way that we’ve found to serve the world’s people coming to us is through a property we bought next to our church campus that we call the “Garland House.” We put this property in service to World Relief for housing new arrivals, and we support and interact with them as we are able.

As you can imagine, it takes a team to keep that maintained, but over the course of nine years, we’ve been able to serve more than 700 people by owning that house.

Being Globally Minded

Our larger church family is the Christian and Missionary Alliance. It’s in our DNA to be globally minded for the sake of Christ. We send. We send and we send, and what’s been done through such global missions is amazing and good. Your churches — our churches — spend incredible amounts of money to send these international workers, and we need to keep doing that.

However, because of the global displacement crisis, literally millions of people have nowhere to go. They’re not welcome in their own countries.

Along with Congress, the president determined that 125,000 of these refugees could come to the U.S. last year. World Relief Spokane welcomed 591 of them in that same year. They’re set to welcome 500 more this year and preparing for 700 next year.

The people we are trying to reach — and spending lots of money to do so — are coming to us. These are the world’s people, and we get a chance to connect with them without traveling across the world. Again I say: They’re right here. Let’s not overlook them. Welcome them into your lives and see what you can do to help.

No Strings Attached

Naturally, some of the people we have served have become a part of our church. Others have joined us in worship. A few have chosen to enter into a relationship with Jesus. We celebrate that.

Many others have had little contact with us long term, and that’s okay. We’re not here to force anyone to do anything, only to serve them unconditionally in the name of Jesus.

It’s worth noting that the World Population Review estimates that 155,000 of Spokane’s 229,500 population are of some Christian tradition: Catholics, Mainline Protestants and Evangelical Protestants. Together we follow Jesus who once said that when we help the sick, the poor, the hungry and the stranger, a one-to-one exchange takes place: We actually serve Jesus himself.

If this is catching your attention, I’d like to say that Garland has found World Relief to be an excellent match with a value set we want to be alive and well in our church.

Walk in Another’s Shoes

Refugees and other immigrants are your neighbors, they are workers in your businesses and they are your clients. Our lives are intertwined. When I think about World Relief and our churches, what I see is a match of values because of what Christ has done for us.

As a servant leader in a church, I urge you to think of your fellowship and what can be done. How can you engage?

Take the first step of learning what it means to be a refugee, to leave your home and make your way in a foreign culture. Newcomers need advocates. They need people to give them rides, teach them English, take them to appointments, invite them to dinner and be their friend.

The world is a highly broken place. Many of the people coming through World Relief have been mistreated. Let’s step up and be the church, the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.

Rod Cosgrove
Rod Cosgrove
Pastor Rod Cosgrove has been a Christ follower since his teenage years and has served as lead pastor of Garland Church since 2006. He’s been married for 32 years and has four wonderful daughters and two active grandsons. He enjoys gardening, fishing, traveling, flying RC aircraft, cheering on the University of Colorado Buffaloes and mountaineering, having summited 34 of the 54 Colorado “Fourteeners” (peaks over 14K feet). A retired Air Force officer, he has over 3,000 hours as a command navigator in the KC-135 along with numerous gratifying command assignments.

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