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Ethnic Ministry Opportunity

Ethnic Ministry Opportunity

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Asian Indians are one of the fastest-growing people groups in the United States. An estimated 5 million people of Asian Indian descent currently live in the U.S., and Asian Indians are among the largest groups of people moving into the country on skilled work visas, as international students, and as legal permanent residents.

As more come to U.S. soil, many bringing with them their Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim beliefs, U.S. Intercultural Ministries missionary Simon Gounder sees a mission field ripe for the harvest.

"It is one of the best opportunities for us to reach Indian families right here," Gounder says.

Gounder and his wife Anjana serve as directors of Global Asian Indian Ministries, the only U.S. Missions organization focused on reaching Asian-Indians in the U.S. He says the organization has seen hundreds of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims accept Jesus as Savior over the past decade.

Global AIM has six locations in California -- Orange County, San Diego, Inland Empire, Bakersfield, Fresno, and Artesia -- as well as one in Milwaukee and one beginning in western Texas.

Gounder says Global AIM reaches Asian Indians through friendship evangelism, which involves building relationships and trust.

"You cannot just meet with them once or bring them to church once and say, 'Oh, they are saved now,' " Gounder says. "With Indians it takes time."

Born in the Fiji Islands, Gounder followed Hinduism until age 16, when he attended a Christian youth meeting with a persistent friend. That night, he says, he went in a Hindu and came out a Christian. Gounder speaks at missions conventions around the country to tell his conversion story.

Simon and Anjana married in 1993 and he was ordained through the Assemblies of God. He became an AG executive presbyter for the National General Council of the Assemblies of God Fiji.

In 2002, the Gounders moved to California, where they planted a church in Artesia, known as "Little India" for its high population of Indian immigrants. In 2004, the Gounders became the first Indians commissioned as U.S. Missionaries to the Asian Indians of the U.S. Their ministry received nonprofit status under the name Global AIM in 2010.

Over the years, the organization has made inroads with Hindu and Sikhs. Workers travel to Indian festivals and invite Asian Indians to monthly fellowships.

Global AIM also offers English as a second language (ESL) courses, allowing workers to reach immigrants and refugees who come in not knowing how to speak or read the language.

This fall, Global AIM will release its own ESL curriculum, designed by ordained AG minister Randy Moon, Global AIM's ESL director. The curriculum will enable churches to start ESL programs at a minimal cost. It also integrates Bible verses to serve as discussion starters about faith.

Jason and Jackie Taylor, who are missionary associates in Bakersfield, use a form of this curriculum in their city, which Jason estimates has 12,000 Sikh families.

He teaches a class of four Sikh priests. Taylor says Sikhs, especially men, have difficulty finding jobs and the couple helps them locate employment and connect them with resources. Jason's wife, Jackie, teaches another ESL class of the same size.

"We ask how their days are, we ask how their families are, and just get to know them and who they are," Jackie says.

While Global AIM's mission is Asian Indians, it reaches others, as well. In Milwaukee, Tony and Zorina Lopac teach ESL at a center that reaches 50 refugee and immigrant students per day. Their center is also accredited to offer immigration and citizenship services. 

The city's growing refugee population includes people from the Middle East, Myanmar, and Somalia. The Lopacs, who are U.S. Intercultural Ministries missionary associates, work with refugees and immigrants adjusting to life in Milwaukee, helping them with doctor visits, filling out paperwork, and delivering furniture and household goods. Tony and Zorina also tutor high school students, conduct baby showers for expecting mothers, and visit homes.

Many immigrants and refugees, Zorina says, come with physical problems, which opens doors for prayer.  

"When we come into their homes, we're able to ask them if they need prayer, and they never say no," she says.  

Zorina says they also are hearing of people overseas being saved because of the testimonies of family members in Milwaukee.

Global AIM partners with local churches to help them reach Hindus and Sikhs in local communities. Global AIM is launching a program in which families spend a year building relationships with an Asian Indian family in their own neighborhood.

The Gounders live in Orange County, California, where Global AIM is based. Their 18-year-old son, Sylvanas, attends Vanguard University in Costa Mesa.

 

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