Cornerstone

“Please join me in praying for the launch of Grace Iranian Church and if you see any of them on campus, welcome them and let them know how excited we are to have them here. To God be the glory.”

It was a Wednesday in the middle of January when I got an random email, the kind I would usually just delete.  We had just baptized 7 people the previous Sunday.  But what was unique about the baptisms was that 4 of the people who had been baptized were Farsi-speakers from Iran.  God had drawn a number of Farsi-speakers to our church, and we were in the midst of trying to figure out how to disciple these young believers as we didn’t know anyone who had the spiritual maturity to disciple them and could also speak their heart language.

The subject line of the email read: “Hello from missionary Jamie Gibson.”  Now, I don’t mean to sound callous, but as a pastor I receive an unsolicited email from a missionary that I’ve never met at least once a week.  This was the type of email I would usually skim, recognize that it’s a form letter, and either type a quick reply or just delete.  But as I skimmed the email (which was longer than this blog post) the word “Farsi” caught my eye.  I stopped and read the sentence: “Ara and I (as well as our other Iranian believers) all speak Farsi well and the church would be in Farsi...”  Farsi-speaking pastors/missionaries? Just hours earlier we had prayed in our elder meeting that God would provide Farsi-speaking leadership that could reach out to the Farsi-speaking community in West LA.  Could this possibly be an answer to that prayer?  It was enough to cause me to stop and actually read the email.

As I read I quickly realized that this wasn’t a form letter.  It was a personal letter to us asking if we had a heart for the Farsi-speaking community in West LA and if our facility could be used for a Farsi-speaking church plant.  It was definitely at least worth taking a meeting for.  The next week I sat in our conference room with Jamie and Ara. Jamie is a missionary from St. Louis who just returned to the states from 10 years overseas, the majority of which was spent ministering among Irani refugees in southern Turkey.  Ara is an Iranian refugee who had been imprisoned for his faith and for smuggling Bibles.  He has been in the states for 6 years and has spent most of that time pastoring a small church plant in the Glendale area.

Because of the concentration of Farsi-speaking Iranians here both Ara and Jamie have developed a heart for West LA.  In West LA, over 4% of the population was born in Iran (not just Iranian by descent).  In Beverly Hills and Westwood the percentage of the population born in Iran is over 10%! That’s right, 1 in 10 people living in Westwood and Beverly Hills were born in Iran.  And the heart language for every one of them is Farsi.

Over the past six months I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Jamie and Ara, getting to know their stories, learning about their theology and their philosophy of ministry.  Over that time they have also met with our elders a couple of different times as we have sought to explore the possibilities for a partnership together.

After much prayer and discussion we determined that a Nueva-Vida style ministry as a part of Cornerstone wasn’t quite best at this point in time.  But what Jamie and Ara believe they are called to do is to plant an independent Farsi-speaking church that not only uses another like-minded church's facility, but partners closely together for the sake of the gospel.

It’s for this reason that I am excited to announce that Grace Iranian Church will be beginning this Sunday.  They will be meeting in Fletcher Hall beginning at 1:30pm on Sundays, and we could not be more excited.  We are hoping that our close partnership together will allow the new believers that become a part of their church to take advantage of our kids ministries like Awana and Fusion in a way that will bridge the church experience for second-generation immigrants who will grow up here and, ultimately, end up being more comfortable with English than they are Farsi.

We also look forward to being able to send Farsi-speakers who would prefer to hear the Word of God in their heart language their way.  They also cherish the opportunity to send Farsi-speakers who would prefer to hear the Word of God preached in English because of their presence here to be a part of Cornerstone.  We believe this is the beginning of an exciting new partnership, and can't wait to see what God will do through the ministry of Grace Iranian Church.

Jamie signed his original email to me, “Yours for the least-reached, Jamie Gibson.” That's excactly why we’re doing this.  God has broken our hearts for the least-reached and the immigrants and refugees in our community, and this is just one more way we can serve them, and remind them that no matter where they are on this planet, they have a home in Christ.

Please join me in praying for the launch of Grace Iranian Church and if you see any of them on campus, welcome them and let them know how excited we are to have them here.  To God be the glory.

Scott Mehl

Scott serves the church by overseeing leadership, development, global ministries, and counseling/discipleship.

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