Over the past several years, Columbus, Ohio has taken in large groups of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and Nepal. The majority have settled in the inner-city neighborhood of Northland. Once a mostly white and black working-class suburb, Northland has become one of the most multiethnic areas in the city.
Unless you took the time to visit Northland, you could live your whole life in Columbus and have no idea this influx has occurred. For Dustin Speaks, the commitment to open his mind and heart led to his awareness of this open door. He visited Northland and saw the opportunity to engage the world’s most unreached peoples in his own backyard.
When Dustin, the Mobilization Pastor at the Grace Polaris Church, first discovered the area a few years ago, the church developed an outreach ministry and used an apartment in the Northland area as their base of operations. In the apartment complex and surrounding neighborhoods, they taught ESL and helped kids with their school work.
Though the outreach ministry ran into some obstacles and has had to step back to reassess how they can be more effective, one of the volunteers established a long-lasting relationship with a Sudanese family there. This connection is at the heart of why Dustin wants to keep pursuing Northland with the goal of serving the community’s needs from a place of real relationship.
After attempting to develop friendships in coffee shops and finding that they could not go deeper than surface-level in that environment, Dustin and his team decided they needed to find a facility in Northland. They believe that having a base will give them the best opportunity to build relationships and to serve the community in tangible ways. They would love to lead ESL classes, citizenship classes, resume writing workshops, and coordinate game nights and after-school tutoring for the neighborhood kids.
So far, the hunt for a building has been incredibly difficult, but in the meantime, the training and mobilizing of volunteers continues. A recent prayer walk in Northland was attended by 24 people and a few team members just participated in a cross-cultural training course in Minneapolis in order to better serve the people of Northland.
As the hard work of necessary logistics continues, Dustin reminds himself of the broader goal to plant a multi-cultural church that fosters a Global vision. “In all that we do,” Dustin says, “we maintain our mission to honor God by multiplying devoted followers of Jesus and will regularly remind ourselves that the greatest goal is to introduce people to Christ.”
The unreached nations have come to Columbus. In fact, they are coming all over the United States. Dustin is taking hold of this opportunity and hopes you will too. His advice is simple: Open your eyes and heart to the internationals around you, become a part of their world, and mobilize others to do so too.