Welcoming Migrant Workers: A Neighbourhood Story

Mexicans NSRev. Sam Jess, Pastor of Barss Corner Baptist & Emmanuel Baptist Church of Parkdale-Maplewood (NS) shared this story about how they welcomed migrant workers from Mexico working in the Christmas Tree industry, some of whom have been coming to the area for 10 years.

“In September 2016, I knocked on the door to say “hola” using my broken Spanish. Over a few months we developed a relationship with Felix, a committed Christian but he was having a rough year when we met him. He welcomed our friendship and support, and he helped me improve my Spanish.”

Esau baptism“Our prayer was that we could build bridges with others when they returned from Mexico in the spring. God answered that prayer, and surpassed our expectations as we connected to more of the workers in the following months. We saw God at work in their lives. One of the men named Esau was baptized in a cold lake at the end of October. He is eagerly growing in his faith.”

“In December on their last day before returning to Mexico, 17 joined us in our worship service. Our prayer that God will keep working in them and through them, that our little churches would have the privilege of blessing their entire nation.”

What we’ve learned:

  • Joys and Benefits:
    • Learning a new language. And, my children grow up learning Spanish.
    • Being Missional – Our two little churches feel the joy of being “missional,” by showing hospitality. One of the churches put on a year-end Christmas dinner for the Mexican workers. The tables were set beautifully, the food was “rico,” or rich, and the atmosphere in the room was of grace and joy in both directions.
    • Sharing – When the cold weather came, many of the guys didn’t have warm coats, and many people in the churches went into their closets and got extra coats out for them. (John the Baptist named that as an act of repentance, Luke 3:11)
    • The community looks at the church differently – It’s easy for people in the community to write the church off as narrow, old-fashioned, closed-minded, etc. But when they see the church engaging with people no one else is, then they take another look.
    • Training ground – Just as the work load was becoming too much for me, God brought some help. Two Canadian men came across our path, both of whom have the goal to serve as missionaries, and both of whom already started learning Spanish. By joining us here they will learn both the language and the cross-cultural ministry skills that they will need.
  • Challenges:
    • Language barriers.
    • Time and tiredness – they work long days and are far from their families. Sunday is often the one day they have off.
    • Food tastes – Canadian food can be difficult.
    • Cultural barriers & past experiences of being exploited. Trust takes time to build up.
  • Practical Tips:
    • Learn the language! Get some Bibles in their native language, find online resources that can help with translation. Learn some songs!
    • Maintain contact through the week. Drop off leftovers.
    • Do some sightseeing – show them around and the beauty of Atlantic Canada.
    • Be available to help them run errands.
    • Pray with them and for them.

To read more learnings and details about this story, click here: https://barsscornerbaptist.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/ministry-with-mexican-migrant-workers/

Submitted by Rev. Sam Jess, Pastor of Barss Corner and Emmanuel Baptist Church (Parkdale-Maplewood) in Lunenburg-Queens Association, Nova Scotia.

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