Evangelical churches in rural community are collaborating to demonstrate the Gospel and meet needs of Somali immigrants.
One of the things that attracted the Rev. Aaron Brockmeier to Faribault from Denver was the rural town’s diversity. On a visit to the 23,000-person town in southeastern Minnesota, Brockmeier noticed that the Saint Luke’s Church parking lot was filled with “kids from the nations.” Coming from the inner city of Denver, Brockmeier and his wife immediately were enticed to continue their ministry in Faribault.
Upon accepting the call to Saint Luke’s, Brockmeier began to work on ways his church could reach out to the city’s Somali population. He called Mike Neterer, program director for Arrive Ministry’s SALT program, (Somali Adult Literacy Training) and asked how he could develop an outreach ministry.
“It was a very slow process,” Brockmeier recalled. “Getting our church ready, getting myself ready, kind of learning.”
But things came to a head in 2013 when Brockmeier and members of his church attended a banquet hosted by Cru, formerly Here’s Life Inner City. Neterer spoke at the event, and Brockmeier said a number of people from his church told him, “We need to get SALT down to Faribault.”
“That was the last push that I needed,” Brockmeier said.
Before Neterer had a chance to visit, however, Brockmeier had two Somali leaders visit him in his church office. They had heard of the church’s after-school program and asked him, “Would you help us teach English to our people?”
Brockmeier threw out the idea to other churches in the city—asking them if they would be interested in learning how to reach out to the Somali people as well.
Last November, some 15 to 18 leaders and pastors attended a meeting at Saint Luke’s with Neterer, and the group talked and prayed about ways to reach out and demonstrate the love of Jesus.
As a result, this past spring SALT Faribault was launched.
“We have a blessing of pretty much all the evangelical churches,” Brockmeier said of the support they receive from area churches. In addition to Saint Luke’s, the collaboration includes Bethel Ridge Church of the Lutheran Brethren, River Valley Church – Faribault Campus and The River Church.
The group is planning to put on a “conference September 20 at The River Valley Church with a goal of how do you love your Somali neighbor?” Brockmeier said. “Hoping to reach many of the Christians and believers in Faribault and maybe even surrounding towns to hear about ways to take steps to love your Somali neighbor and to share the gospel ….”
One of the most unique aspects of the SALT program is its ability to be reproduced in other cities. Willmar already has its own SALT program, and leaders hope other cities around the state will catch the gospel vision to love their neighbors and help meet their needs.
Asked why his church is involved with this effort, Brockmeier said, “That desire to reach out is just part of the gospel. I don’t think you can follow Christ and not seek to love your neighbor, and we love them by meeting their needs.”