By Lita and Rick Sample
The San Francisco Bay Area is a beautiful area – in more ways than one. It is a pocket of mountains, ocean and most beautifully, diverse people.
There are around 150 languages spoken in the Bay Area, and with the many languages come many religions. These great number of people share their culture and their history with our large Bay Area community and because of the long standing number of groups represented, the Bay Area has a feeling of acceptance and a mentality of “it’s okay to let everyone do their own thing.”
One ethnic group that really drew us to the East Bay was the vast amount of Afghan refugees in the city of Fremont, Calif. About 50,000 Afghans live in this area, and the Muslim religion is reflected in the many mosques and women who wear head coverings, some of whom wear traditional clothing. In addition, there are other Muslims in the area who are Iranian, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, and others. Many of these refugees have come from areas where they have suffered war, persecution, hunger and the murder of loved ones.
In the Bay Area, with its vast ethnic diversity, we find Christianity to be just a mere whisper. There are about 30% Christians in some areas, and as little as 6% in the city of San Francisco proper. Because of the mentality of acceptance of everyone, evangelism is not strong. We believe that God called us to this area to reach those internationals who have had little opportunity to hear the gospel.
We are called to share the message of hope and salvation with these international brothers and sisters whom God loves. We partner with other local Christians to reach Afghans and share the gospel. While here, we’ve had a chance to help welcome new arrivals into the country, proclaiming Christ in many ways, as we spend time with them and help them in different ways, by sharing with them food, clothing and friendship.
The transition to Christianity is not an easy one for a Muslim. It is a difficult decision, backed by centuries of tradition and generations of Muslim heritage. However, it is not impossible for the Holy Spirit to turn hearts through the work of Jesus Christ.
God has also given us a great privilege to start a church in a very diverse area of Hayward, where 13 countries are represented among the internationals living in the neighborhood. Here, there are no churches to reach them for miles around. We have done several pre-church events in efforts to really get to know our neighbors and for them to know us. As we celebrated the Easter season, we found a great opportunity to share the story of Christ through Easter Egg Hunts. We are focusing on starting the new church in the coming year.
Join us in praying for those who have had little opportunity to hear the gospel. Pray that hearts will be open and that they will hear the truth of Jesus Christ. Pray that we will be strong and show courage in our efforts to share the gospel. Pray also for our family’s protection, wellness and unity. We are excited to share the stories of what God is doing in the Bay Area in coming days!
To learn more about how you and your congregation can partner with field personnel like the Samples through participation in the CBF Offering for Global Missions, visit www.cbf.net/OGM.