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The Word in Arabic

Arabic Fellowship of the Assemblies of God strives to connect with refugees.

Born and raised in the Holy Land, George A. Rafidi understands the culture and needs of Arabic people like only a native could. After he moved to the United States in the 1990s, his heart for his homeland didn’t change, and he is now filling an important role for a population of Middle Easterners now living in the U.S.

Call him translator, chauffeur, mentor, or minister, Rafidi has been each of these and more to the Arabic community in Florida. In 1996, Rafidi and his wife, Jessica, moved to Jacksonville as district-appointed missionaries. At that point, approximately 5,000 Arabs lived in the area. The Rafidis pioneered Arab Outreach Ministries, an Arabic church in Jacksonville, which Rafidi still pastors.

As the Arab community’s needs became more apparent, Rafidi and his team have continued to minister. Rafidi became an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary with Intercultural Ministries and started a second Arabic church in Tampa. As he saw the need for more pastors and missionaries, he connected with others around the country working to serve this group of immigrants. In 2005, the Arabic Fellowship of the Assemblies of God officially formed, and Rafidi became its first president. In recent years, the global refugee crisis has heightened the need for ministers to this population.

“Friendship evangelism is the key for this type of ministry,” Rafidi says. “When we ask refugees their major needs, they’ll say food or clothing, but what they really need is friendship and the truth. They want people to be friends with them; they feel lonely in America, they don’t know the language or the culture.”

Today, the Arabic Fellowship of the AG encompasses seven churches, and 36 pastors and missionaries. Many of the appointed missionaries in this fellowship are, like Rafidi, originally from the Middle East, which provides a bridge to connect with refugees. The ministry serves individuals who have come from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, and elsewhere.

Missionaries are taking creative measures to reach this population. Recently, Rafidi and his staff acquired a booth at a secular Arabic festival in Tampa. While most merchants sold Arabic food or trinkets from the Middle East, Rafidi’s team attracted a crowd by distributing free Arabic Bibles and literature, as well as a DVD about the life of Christ. Their presence at the festival gave them a unique opportunity to pray with some individuals for healings and other specific needs.

Yousef S. Habibi is the secretary/treasurer for the Arabic Fellowship of the AG, and a U.S. missionary with Intercultural Ministries. In Detroit, Habibi produces a television show that broadcasts the gospel in Arabic throughout the world. He echoes Rafidi’s sentiments about the Arabic Fellowship.

“It’s a great privilege that we are able to be one body, to pray together and create another type of unity,” Habibi says.

Ana Pierce Elliott

Ana Pierce Elliott is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Missouri.