Embracing Immigrant Populations in Ohio

January 29, 2024 |Orchard Alliance

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When nearly 10,000 Haitian immigrants arrived in Springfield, Ohio, over the past six years, they faced significant challenges. Like many other emigrant populations fleeing adversity in their homeland and seeking asylum here in the States, these families faced a severely backlogged immigration system, resulting in delays in securing work permits and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which are essential to establishing residency and finding gainful employment. Many also faced uphill battles in seeking safe, affordable housing, obtaining medical care, and keeping food on their tables and clothes on their backs.

 

 

To add to these woes, many felt unwelcome, often facing public criticism for their presence in the city and accusations of criminal behavior—despite employers and city leaders acknowledging them as kind-hearted, hard-working members of the community. Last August, in the wake of a fatal school bus accident involving a Haitian immigrant driver, protestors gathered at City Commission meetings and outside City Hall in an effort to paint the immigrants in a negative light; but God redeemed the tragic event and brought healing to the community and a warmer embrace of the city’s immigrant populations.

All along, God had been hatching a plan. He cast a vision simultaneously among pastors in Haiti and leaders of the Ohio Valley (OV) District of The Christian and Missionary Alliance to establish a culturally relevant gospel presence among this struggling immigrant community. Through their joint efforts, the First Haitian Evangelical Church of Springfield was launched November 3, 2022, in the basement of a two-story house. As the congregation grew, it moved to a garage and, eventually, into a small building to hold worship services and conduct outreach.

 

     

Old church building

Right off the bat, the church began ministering Christ’s love in tangible ways to Springfield’s Haitian immigrant populations by providing for basic needs, holding English classes, helping them secure work permits and complete TPS documents—while introducing them to Jesus, teaching them Biblical truths, and discipling them into mature, Christ-honoring disciples who are contributing to their community in meaningful ways.

But the church quickly outgrew its tiny facility. Pastor Reginald Silencieux soon realized he needed to hold three Sunday morning services to accommodate his rapidly expanding congregation. And even then, dozens of attendees were left literally “on the outside looking in” as the building consistently exceeded its maximum allowable capacity.

Pastor Reginald Silencieux

Late in 2023, the OV District contacted Orchard Alliance with an urgent request to help the church with its meeting space crisis. After visiting the property and meeting with the church and district leaders, Orchard Alliance approved a loan to secure a new, larger facility.

“I love working with all of our Alliance churches,” notes Dave Graf, Orchard Alliance’s VP for Lending, “but it’s especially exciting when the movement of God’s Spirit is as evident as it is with First Haitian Evangelical Church. Many factors made this loan request challenging to process, including the need for a very quick approval during the holiday season. But the Ohio Valley District and Orchard Alliance found a way to get it done and meet a strict deadline, and partnering with God in the work He is doing was worth every ounce of effort.”

The church has shown itself to be wholeheartedly committed to evangelism and discipleship, boldly proclaiming its mission “to depopulate hell and populate the Kingdom of God” as conversions and baptisms have become weekly celebrations.

 

     

     

New church building

Now in its new facility with an expanded sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen, and room to hold Sunday School and host community meals, the congregation has flourished to more than 400 attendees and continues to grow each week. The church is ever-extending its Christ-honoring hospitality to the Haitian immigrant population, providing a meaningful, impactful presence in the greater Springfield community, and pledging its ongoing support for churches in Haiti in the midst of the country’s economic and political upheaval and violence.

As with everything God does . . . it’s simply stunning! My heart sings as I watch Him working so beautifully among these displaced people that He so dearly loves!”

“I love watching the desire of the Haitian believers to reach the rest of the larger Haitian community,” notes Dan Nesselroade, a licensed Alliance church planter and Springfield pediatrician who has delivered many babies in the Haitian community and was instrumental in supporting the church’s ministries and securing its new facility. “The new building is already being used extensively. Church services, Bible study, worship practice, and English learning classes are already happening. As with everything God does . . . it’s simply stunning! My heart sings as I watch Him working so beautifully among these displaced people that He so dearly loves!”

“Hearing the story of the First Haitian Evangelical Church in Springfield was super exciting for me,” says Sandy Grant, one of Orchard Alliance’s underwriting analysts. “The church desperately needed more space to accommodate the many folks coming each week as a result of its outreach to the Haitian population. Because this is a relatively new church, there were many challenges to work through. At many points along the way, we recognized that spiritual warfare was clearly at play. When difficulties occurred, we would pray as a team or with the church (and once even with the seller!), and the Lord continued to work on our behalf, answering prayers in so many amazing ways. My heart was stirred as I heard about the work of the church and the revival in the community over the past year. Our heart at Orchard Alliance is more than lending and investments; it is to accomplish His purposes for His glory. The joy of my job is hearing how God is moving and being able to pray for and dream with our churches. I am looking forward to seeing how He will continue to move through our partnership with this church for His purposes.”

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