Reaching the Nations from Home
For almost two decades, Assemblies of God U.S. missionaries David and Sue Hartmann lived on the other side of the world ministering to the people of Albania. Now, the Hartmanns have the opportunity to meet new friends from many different cultures and nations every day from their own backyard in Texas.
Since 2012, the Hartmanns have worked as U.S. Intercultural Ministries missionaries to refugee populations in North and East Dallas. The couple works with up to 20 different ethnic groups in the Dallas area from around the world, including some from parts of the Middle East, Asia, and Africa who have left their home countries because of genocide or persecution. Many refugees have come to the U.S. from countries with little or no Christian missionary presence, David says.
The couple spends time taking refugees to medical appointments, helping them with English skills, mentoring, aiding them in the citizenship process, helping with daily tasks, serving as their advocates, and distributing food to them as they adjust to life in the U.S. But at the heart of their ministry is getting to know the people, spending time with them in their homes, and establishing friendships. In forming relationships, the couple has discovered many of the refugees don’t really know any local long-term residents.
“Some of them have lived here 10 years and don’t have an American friend,” David says. “This is an incredible opportunity that God has provided. Refugees are begging for friendship.”
Through these bonds, God has opened up doors for the couple to pray for and share the gospel with the new arrivals who come from various religious backgrounds.
As the refugees are learning to adjust to their new lives, the Hartmanns are receiving an education alongside them, not just about the various cultures the refugees came from, but also about the trauma and tragedy they went through to get here. Some escaped violence. Others saw their homes bombed, or watched the murder of family members.
The Hartmanns also have come to understand the stress refugees experience once they resettle in a new place, often separated from family members. Sometimes the new immigrants don’t even know whether their loved ones in the home country are still alive.
One of the biggest challenges the couple faces is seeing the new families in their circle deal with the lasting impact of horrific events, whether it’s emotional stress, mental illness, or physical pain. The Hartmanns have discovered that offers to simply listen are readily accepted.
Healing frequently begins when a refugee shares a hurt or burden, then agrees to receive prayer, David says.
Despite everything the refugees have been through, the couple says they are amazed at how hospitable and friendly foreign born are in return, inviting them to share coffee or a meal.
“They care about us, too,” Sue says. “It’s humbling when they want to feed you. Usually they wouldn’t think of not feeding you.”
Knowing there are so many refugees and so many needs is what motivates the couple to continue their work. David looks forward to training other volunteers and equipping more churches to help through time, financial giving, and prayers.
“This is an exciting opportunity to reach the mission field,” he says. “If we win refugees here, they will win them there. They are the ones who will take the message back.”