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Reaching Out to Immigrants
Calgary churches are reaching out to immigrants with support to help them learn English and make social connections in their new country.

This letter is a response to the weblog, Balanced Evangelicals.

So often Evangelicals have been stereotyped as people who are only against things. Here is a vision for much greater Christian involvement in society.

Geoff Tunnicliffe says, "If we choose to live out this holistic message, many nations, including our own, will be profoundly impacted by the kingdom of God."

A group of people in Calgary organized themselves in 2002 into a non-denominational registered charity (Cooperative ESL Ministries Society) for the sole purpose of mobilizing and training churches to respond in love to the felt needs of new immigrants. These felt needs include practicing the English language (ESL), understanding the culture of their new homeland, making connections, and receiving acceptance and belonging. To date our Cooperative has held five training conferences, two networking luncheons, and a 30-hour training course. Eighty-eight people representing more than 36 churches attended our networking luncheon last month. Our next conference is scheduled for May 27th and 28th, 2005. For more information about this event, please visit our website at

Through the efforts of this Cooperative, there are now 18 churches offering these types of services to our new immigrants, refugees and other internationals. We are doing it in a way that will bring glory to God (see John 17) as we work together.

We believe God has given us this open door. While as Christians we are called to love our neighbour, we are also called to demonstrate that we love one another—other parts of the Body of Christ. We do that by working together. Incidentally, although we have a non-proselytizing policy, at least 15 immigrants have witnessed the love of Jesus in action through out efforts, and as a result have come to faith in Christ and have been baptised.

According to an article in Canadian Business, people are concerned about the waste of skill and talent when Canada accepts highly skilled immigrants who are then unable to get into jobs where they can use these skills (see the article, "Help Wanted: Canada needs more skilled workers," March 14-27, 2005). In this article and also in the Canadian Business editorial "Changing our destiny," (same issue), the case was made that our skills shortage will only worsen when boomers retire. The article asked the government to do more.

We are saying that we do not have to sit on our hands waiting for the government to do something. The crunch in achieving occupational integration is not only fluency in English, but also social integration so that employers will hire. That's where we Christians can help.

Welcoming our new neighbours falls into our mandate as Christians. Social integration (getting the salt out of the saltshaker and making life-giving connections) will make a significant impact on our society, reducing the waste of the previously-developed skills that immigrants import. Incidentally, it will also help our churches model the inclusiveness that Jesus desires and help them overcome latent racism. It is truly a win/win/win undertaking for society, immigrants and churches.

To learn how you can work with immigrants in your area, contact Madeline Johnson at or at (403) 275-3529.

Madeline Johnson is the president of Cooperative ESL Ministries Society. She can be reached at (403) 275-3529, or by e-mail:; or




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