For nearly 15 years, Steve Moses has educated, equipped, and mobilized college aged students to live out a World Christian lifestyle wherever the Lord places them. He served for two years with the International Mission Board in Northern Africa and the Middle East. He then served for nearly five years at Germantown Baptist Church. For three years, Steve served as the Executive Director of Mission Leader, which mentors church leaders in developing a biblical strategy for local and global missions. During this same time, he served as a consultant with the International Mission Board to help engage young adults in missional living. He continues to develop and implement mentoring strategies targeting college students and young adults.
Since 2009, Steve has served as the Refugee Coordinator at Christ Community Ministries. He seeks to bring greater awareness and exposure to the needs of local refugees by connecting volunteers to newly arrived refugees.
Steve is one my dearly trusted brothers in the Lord. I wanted to include an interview with him in this issue as we explore the beauty of Jesus and explore how giving a taste of Jesus’ grace and goodness is a key part of helping others see His glory. [ This interview appears in part in the 2011 December issue of follow
that focuses on the glory of Jesus. Click here to get that issue ]ST: Steve, tell us a little about the work you are doing with Christ Community Ministries.
I have been at Christ Community Ministries for about 2 1/2 years as the Refugee Coordinator. I am seeking to raise awareness to the thousands of refugees in the city of Memphis by exposing individuals, teams, churches, small groups, Sunday school classes, organizations, etc. to the life of a refugee. ST: What led you to get involved with ministry to refugees?
Scripture centers on God’s Glory displayed throughout all the earth, all creation. There are two ways in which He wants His glory to be displayed. First, the Lord-God has a heart for the widow, orphan, alien/stranger, and the poor. Part of His glory is seen in the way He takes care of these. He desires that His people have this same concern. There are over 2000 verses that deal with the poor. The Lord condemns Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49 for not assisting the poor (imagine that!). James talks about caring for the widow and orphan as true and pure worship (1:27). We also know that the Lord desires all languages, tribes, tongues and nations to see His glory and come to Him in worship (Revelation 5:9, 7:9; Matt 28:18-20).
So while prayer-walking my neighborhood, it hit me so clearly. A REFUGEE IS ALL OF THIS WRAPPED UP IN ONE! Most refugees are women and children. They are urban poor with many more layers. They are “the least of these” and some of, if not the most, vulnerable people in our city. They are voiceless and oppressed. This is why I work with refugees. This is what drives me daily. ST: I think many people may not be aware of the refugee population in Memphis. Could you lay that out for us?
By definition, a refugee is one who flees. One who flees to a foreign land or country to escape danger (war) or persecution (religious, racial, political). Refugees are brought to the USA by our government. They are legal and documented. Memphis receives roughly 250 refugees a year. Memphis has about 6000 refugees and tens of thousand of internationals.
Give us a little more on understanding the situation of the refugees here in Memphis.
Imagine your family for a moment. Imagine how you get around, communicate, see family and friends, eat your favorite foods. Now imagine your family living in the middle of Mozambique. You have no extended family, no friends, you don’t know the language or culture, you don’t understand how to get around, and the food is really odd. Imagine that you are not there for two weeks but for life. What would make life easier for you and your family in Mozambique? Clearly it would be some Mozambicans who could teach you and show you around the city. Locals who know the language and culture.
This is what we are asking of our Memphian volunteers — show refugees around the city, teach them American ways, and assist them. You are now getting to understand the life of a refugee. It’s challenging and hard and lonely at times and life in Memphis is all new. ST: So you help connect refugees to those who can help?
My main role is to connect teams of Memphians with refugees. The commitment is 3 months and to spend 2 to 4 hours a week with the refugee family. We ask our volunteers to invite a refugee into your life not add a refugee to your life. We are all busy people with Bible studies, soccer practice, jobs, kids, errands, etc. So rather than add another program or activity to your life, bring refugees into your life. Include them to go to a basketball game, zoo, park, get ice cream, go to the grocery store, etc. Refugees are event-oriented people whereas Americans are time-oriented. Refugees are not a 30 minute block on your schedule.
We are really asking people to build relationships. This seems to be a lost art in America. We can communicate via texting, Facebook, Twitter, or email but face to face interaction and actually slowing down to listen and just be has escaped us.
ST: What are some of the needs of these refugees?
We identified three main areas of need within the refugee community 1) job training and placement, 2) quality and affordable housing, and 3) teams walking along side refugees to help in the assimilation and acculturation process. We start working with the last need and believe the other two will fall into place once people see, know, and understand the situation of a refugee. ST: So as you are looking for people to get involved, are you looking for those who have already had some “cross-cultural” experience?
We say everyone can do 5 things well: love well, serve well, listen well, learn well, and pray well. You can do these 5 things without overseas experience or knowing another language or whatever. ST: I know that there are opportunities to share the Gospel with these people. How important is it to balance speaking the truth with meeting the needs? Do you give priority to one or the other?
We don’t say that one is more important than another, so the balance is essential. But timing is very important. We don’t blurt out the Gospel day one with refugees. We also don’t hide the fact that we are followers of Jesus. We are not ashamed of Him. Paul in Colossians 4 asked for clarity of speech and in Ephesians 6 he asked for boldness. If the apostle Paul needed both clarity and boldness, then I think we do as well. Sometimes we can shout the gospel from the mountain top but have little clarity—people are not at a place where they can hear the truth. We think we shared the Truth but maybe all we did was confuse people more. ST: So how does serving these refugees help clarify the speaking of the Gospel?
Serving refugees is a key aspect of our work. We assist—I use this word more than serve because we seek to empower refugees not just serve them—virtually on a daily basis. We like to teach a man to fish rather than just give him a fish. We call this MAWL or Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave.
Nevertheless, we serve refugees through making doctors appointments, taking them to the appointments, helping them apply for jobs, helping them enroll their children in school, assisting with other governmental or social services, practicing English with them, listening to their stories, giving them rides to the grocery store or wherever, teaching them how to operate an oven or other appliances, advocating for them and the list goes on.ST: So helping, assisting creates opportunities to share the Gospel?
I believe our culture has swung the pendulum to the far side of causes and service. We Americans’ tend to be a self-interested culture that likes to serve (sometimes, for our own benefit in my opinion). By swinging the pendulum this far we have gotten away from the proclamation or “preaching” of the Word. I do believe the old adage “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. However I don’t believe the famous quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, “preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words”. The Gospel is a message that must be spoken; it has content, it is truth.
The Gospel is word and deed. Its both/and NOT either/or. We live in a time and culture that focuses on either/or. We have to choose one side or one thing or one cause or one activity over another. I think about 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” If we do good deeds then we need to be ready to say why we do them. Good deeds should lead to questions.
So many times we pray for opportunities to communicate the Gospel but when asked “why are you doing this?” or “why are you helping me?” or “you seem different than others” or “you are such a good person to help these refugees” we are tempted to respond with courteous Southern cultured answers: “I just like helping people” or “Its not that big of deal” or “Don’t mention it”. We want our response to move toward the Gospel, to be more in line with, “I do this because I am compelled by the love of my Lord Jesus” or “I do this because my Father loves all people and so do I” or “Thanks but I am not a good person. I am driven by how God extend His grace toward me.”
Actions cannot replace words. Words cannot replace actions. Both are needed and necessary. We tend to lean toward one or the other. Scripture is clear that it is both. Jesus did both—He healed and He preached. We use Luke 10 as a guide and philosophy of ministry.
ST: We have talked about the Luke 10 model before, explain that a little for us.
In that passage, Jesus sends out the 72 disciples in pairs and tells them to HEAL and PREACH. If you follow what Jesus instructs the disciples to do there, you see that this type of ministry is team based (2x2), rooted in prayer, has the potential to bring peace to an area, its dangerous (we go as sheep among wolves), and is completely dependent on the Lord’s provision: eat whatever (accept hospitality), go with nothing (depend on others), etc. The main goal, however is to make known the Kingdom of God.ST: Are there any stories you can share of how giving people an experience of grace has opened doors to deeper opportunities?
I have a few stories to share with you. But, I want to be very clear that we do NOT serve others to manipulate a response. The label “rice Christian” has come to refer to people who convert to Christianity out of a need for survival, rather than from a genuine desire to embrace the Christian faith. The term references historical missionary policies in Asia in which some missionaries offered rice and other food items to people who agreed to convert to Christianity. Faced with the choice of starving or converting, some people chose to convert, or to at least appear to convert. We have to be very careful not to give the impression that this is what we are up to.
We don’t serve SO THAT we can “get to the Gospel”. Serving others IS the incarnation of the Gospel. Does this make sense? We don’t help only if you want to be a Christian or if you already are a Christian. That is NOT the Gospel.
First of all, a woman from Afghanistan had some dental issues but it would cost several thousand dollars to have all the work completed. Through various networks of believers in Christ, this woman was able to get her dental work completed for a couple hundred dollars. The dentist was a believer and used his skill set to assist this woman. He charged minimal costs and other believers covered the expenses. This act of grace and kindness lead this woman and her husband to ask more questions. Why did you help ME? Through caring for a real need in this woman’s life, she and her husband asked questions, received a Bible in their language, and continue to want to know more about Christ.
Recently, Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice which is about Abraham laying his son on the altar. This is the largest Islamic holiday. I asked several of my Muslim friends how could we, as followers of Christ, help celebrate this holiday along side them. They said to distribute lamb or goat meat to people in need. Every Muslim eats lamb or goat meat during this holiday. Remember, Abraham’s son was replaced with a lamb or ram depending on who you ask. So we as Christ Community Ministries decided to buy some meat and distribute to our Muslim friends. We also decided to give some money to Muslims to buy meat for people in need. One key was to get the meat from an appropriate meat market. Muslims are very particular about their meat - who killed it and how was the animal killed. So we went to the local Islamic meat market and got 50 pounds of halal meat. Several volunteers assisted in distributing bags of lamb meat to Muslims on Eid al-Adha. Also, our Muslim friends gave 5 families meat from the money we gave them. We were serving 2 different Islamic communities here in Memphis. ST: So what happen and how was this received?
The people were so glad and thankful. They were shocked that we, as followers of Christ, would join in THEIR holiday. Most of the meat we personally distributed was to single mothers with lots of kids. Our women volunteers were able to get in conversations that otherwise might not happened. We asked questions about their holiday and shared the story of Abraham and his son from a biblical perspective. Why the need for a sacrifice? We asked why is so much importance placed on this holiday and on sacrificing/killing animals. Good fellowship and conversations came out of this act. Also relationships were developed and some strengthened by this act.
We also were able to follow up with the five families that received meat through our monetary donations. Our friends gave us the names and addresses of the people that received the donations. I along with a believer who speaks their language visited each family. We were able to ask if there were other needs and begin to develop a relationship with these 5 families. We would not have met ANY of these needy families if we did not partner with our Muslim friends. We now have an open door with this community and have been asked to come back to assist in other ways (English classes and job training).
This all happened because we asked the community what their needs were and listened to the community rather than simply dictating our ideas or what we thought they needed or wanted. Trust is being established and future possibilities are being explored. We will definitely serve the Islamic community in this way next year.ST: Now, I can imagine some people saying, “You were helping Muslims celebrate? Isn’t that watering down the truth or taking the focus off Jesus?
That is a good issue to clarify. I think of a couple of passages that might help. First, in Acts 17 we have Paul on Mars Hill among the non-christians laying the foundation for understanding the Gospel. There, he reasoned with the Greeks from their own philosophers and the story of the Scriptures. He was building a bridge to help them understand the Gospel.
Then 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Paul says,
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
I think we can make the case that Jesus and Paul started with people where they were and then worked hard to draw them closer to the Gospel. Cultural awareness and respect can speak volumes both positively and negatively.
A volunteer in training told a story of working with Hindus and Buddhist recently. His church decided to have a cookout for these Hindu and Buddhist peoples. They bought several hot dogs and hamburgers for their new “friends.” However, they came to realize that these newfound “friends” do not eat meat and actually revere cows!! Yikes!
This is also why I said Abraham’s “son”—not Isaac or Ishmael—when I told the story a little earlier. Muslims believe it was Ishmael not Isaac. Don’t miss the main point: a sacrifice was needed and given. Yes, the fact that it was Isaac is important in the long run but you will NEVER get there if you demand that it was Isaac at the beginning. You may win the debate but lose the relationship. I don’t think that is worth the fight. We are just trying to build bridges rather than put up unnecessary barriers.ST: So, If someone wants to get involved, how can they contact you?
They can contact me directly at email@example.com or 901-569-9797.