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Advocating for Immigrants

Helping ethnic minority pastors find their place in the U.S.
Pastor Amon Kajabika of Rehoboth International Church Assemblies of God in Dayton, Ohio, gratefully recalls the people God used when he and his family came to live in the United States. Although he had ministry responsibilities in eight countries in Africa, the situation changed when he sought asylum in America.

“I was lost in a huge country without knowledge,” Kajabika recalls. “I was not able to speak one word in English.”

The Lord helped Kajabika’s family settle in Dayton and find fellowship with other African Pentecostal believers. Having to leave a church site where he had been leading services, Kajabika says God gave him a dream of a building. The next day he saw that building, which turned out to be Kettering Assembly of God. Kajabika felt welcomed there and God began opening doors for the congregation to integrate with the AG.

Before long, 50 other African Pentecostal pastors living throughout the U.S. reached out to Kajabika, asking for guidance in how they might become part of the Assemblies of God.

“I had a burden in me that we need American pastors to equip us to serve in this land,” says Kajabika, 59. At the suggestion of Ohio Ministry Network leaders, he wrote a letter to AG General Secretary Donna Barrett to present this need.

Kajabika then connected with Julie K. Kraus, who would become an advocate, friend, and resource for these ministers. Kraus, an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary with Intercultural Ministries, had served three terms alongside her husband, Paul, as AG world missionaries in Côte d’Ivoire, a French-speaking country in West Africa.

The Krauses moved to Springfield, Missouri, where Paul became vice president of the Global Center of Evangelism and Discipleship. While at Global University, the couple assisted a friend originally from Côte d’Ivoire who had pastored churches in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. This helped open their eyes to a great need for advocates on behalf of pastors who have come to live in the U.S.

New York Ministry Network (NYMN) Superintendent Duane P. Durst invited Paul and Julie to relocate to the Empire State, where Paul subsequently served as the first NYMN Intercultural Ministries department director. They became appointed U.S. missionaries. However, Paul died from cancer in 2020. Durst asked Julie to carry on the ministry role Paul had started.

“When Paul passed away, I was exhausted,” says Kraus, 64. “But, for me, the pandemic was a real gift when everything shut down and I could just sleep and grieve. And when things picked up, everything was on Zoom, so I was able to really engage online. I called every ethnic pastor in New York.”

Kraus is praying that God will send missionaries to New York City.

“The most reachable unreached people groups are in New York,” she says. “Every nation is here, but we have such minimal missionary focus on the city.”

Kraus regularly presents workshops to help ministers learn capabilities of moving in and out of other cultures effectively.

Chris Delmadge, the NYMN ethnic fellowship general presbyter, believes Kraus has impacted his ministry.

“Julie has this incredible gift of allowing you to learn these things about yourself and then provide solutions,” Delmadge says. “She is able to provide an awareness to others who might not realize that they have blind spots. They may not realize that some of their own behaviors, or cultural biases, can prevent ministry from occurring, but because of the way she presents it, it’s more than palatable.”

Kraus is cultivating relationships between various AG Ethnic Fellowship officers based in New York, as well as coordinating connections between AG Intercultural Ministries directors from districts and networks around the country. They meet with Dennis J. Rivera, director of the AG’s Office of Ethnic Relations and Hispanic Relations to share ideas on how to maximize their ministry efforts.

“Everyone needs an advocate,” Kraus says. “And when you can serve as an advocate, you can be a good listener and then advocate for what you’re hearing.”

Steve G Arnold

Steve G. Arnold is a U.S. missionary serving with Intercultural Ministries.