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Canadian home missionary shares Jesus with immigrants

VANCOUVER, B.C. (BP)–“Think globally, act locally” is more than a catchy phrase to home missionary Jim Graham. It’s at the heart of his ministry to immigrants.

Graham and his wife, Becky, made a commitment to foreign missions 12 years ago. They didn’t know it would mean serving in their native Canada.

A native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Graham was ready to go where God led him. Through God’s timing and circumstances, the Grahams were appointed by the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board to Vancouver, British Columbia, home to 1.5 million people.

“In Vancouver, approximately 56 percent of the population is made up of minorities,” he said. “Unofficially, we have about 400,000 Chinese immigrants living here, in addition to people coming from Vietnam and Korea. Vancouver is virtually a city of Asians.”

The great influx of immigrants provides the Grahams with a unique opportunity to not only minister to these newcomers but the communities in their home countries.

“Many times our Chinese Christians return home to start churches in China,” Graham said. “Even those who have not yet become Christians will call me from China and ask me to talk to their friends about Jesus. When you plant a church here, it ends up reaching the world.”

Immigrants to Canada are often more open to hearing the gospel because they are encouraged to maintain their cultural individuality. In fact, there is a minister for cultural diversity in the Canadian cabinet. As a result, immigrants feel comfortable in exploring aspects of their new home while remaining loyal to their own customs.

“They want to learn more about us,” Graham said. “They are eager to know us and to ask questions about us. That includes learning about Jesus Christ.”

Graham currently works with 25 Southern Baptist churches and missions in the Vancouver area. By establishing small-group Bible studies, literacy programs and other community ministries, many of these churches are attracting immigrants.

Formerly part of the Northwest Baptist Convention of Oregon and Washington, the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB) celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. A total of 125 Southern Baptist churches and missions in seven associations now exist in Canada and 73 home missionaries serve there.

Presently, the work in Canada is shared by the Foreign and Home Mission boards. Beginning in June, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) will coordinate work with the CCSB.

Graham, reflecting on the progress he has seen in Baptist work in Vancouver, said, “We believe God is at work in the lives of people here. He is at work in our world, and we are prepared to respond.”

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  • Traci Muller