Reaching the Nations With Refugees in Small Town Georgia

More than 1,000 refugees come to Clarkston, Ga., each year. Send Relief missionaries Trent and Elizabeth DeLoach and the believers at Clarkston International Bible Church (CIBC) have made it their mission to help these men, women and children feel not only welcome but at home in their new country.

A U.S. refugee resettlement program in the 1990s opened the door of opportunity for people from around the world to start a new life in Clarkston. This suburb of Atlanta eventually became known as “the most diverse square mile in America.” More than 60 countries and 100-plus languages are represented, and the population continues to grow. A place so rich in culture is exactly the kind of city the DeLoach family dreamed of finding — however it was hard to believe such a place existed in North America, especially in Trent’s home state of Georgia.

Matters of state

Raised on a farm in southeast Georgia, DeLoach attended Toccoa Falls College, north of Atlanta. During his freshman year, he met Elizabeth, and they volunteered for a project with World Relief. “It was my first exposure to working with refugees in the city of Atlanta” DeLoach said. “I didn’t think much of it past that one opportunity.”

Elizabeth, on the other hand, volunteered because she heard there would be Bosnian refugees there. Her love for missions started early, working alongside her father in relief efforts in Rwanda and Bosnia. “That’s where my heart for a specific people group began,” she said.

After they married, the DeLoaches moved to Kentucky to work with a church in Louisville. They were astonished that more than 5,000 Bosnian refugees lived in the area. They started “restaurant hopping” and praying for connections. “The different cultures, religions, languages — it was all very intimidating,” DeLoach said.

Over the course of two years, Elizabeth’s influence and passion for those forcibly displaced from their homelands slowly affected her husband’s heart. “It was really in Louisville, Ky., where our heart for refugees began to blossom,” he said, “and the burden went incredibly deep. We started living life intentionally, you know, as missionaries to serve those who were new to our country. We had the opportunity to spend many years in Louisville trying to help the local church connect to the international community.”

The DeLoach family returned to Georgia in 2015 to be part of CIBC. Formed in 2003 by combining three churches, CIBC originated as Clarkston Baptist Church in 1881. It also happens to be the same ministry where Trent and Elizabeth served during their freshman year of college. Today, CIBC is a place where people from diverse backgrounds find common ground. A key player in the small community, CIBC hosts seven other churches and 12 community ministries reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

In 2017, CIBC became a hub for The North American Mission Board’s Send Relief compassion ministry and now hosts college interns.

“There are opportunities to minister every day,” DeLoach said. There’s recreation ministry that offers athletic activities for youth and adults; the job training and placement ministry helps residents build resumes, learn computer literacy and discover opportunities for employment.

All the churches who share the meeting space engage in outreach and discipleship. Soon, a Swahili-speaking church will be added to the list which already includes Pakistani, Burmese, Nepali and Sudanese churches.

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Source: Baptist Press