The animated man talking to me from the left side of this photograph is Rev. Dr. Getachew Kiros. He is the President of a newly formed organization called “African Lutheran Mission in the Americas” (ALMIA). ALMIA was launched this past August in Bowie, Maryland, and continues the work of the former African Immigrant Mission of North America. ALMIA is an organization of African-immigrant leaders in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that seeks to equip, train, and strengthen existing African Lutheran congregations as well as to plant, in cooperation with LCMS districts, new churches in the United States.
Recently, Dr. Getachew was at Trinity First Lutheran Church in Minneapolis to meet with African Lutheran pastors to discuss with them how to do just this, and it was my privilege to sit in and listen to them as they strategized how to better reach out to and serve the bourgeoning immigrant population of the Twin Cities.
One of their suggestions (which has already come to fruition!) was to send two of their local members through the specialized training offered by the Immigrant Pathway Institute (IPI).
"And WHY," you ask, "is this a good thing?"
What long-time, long-term citizens are oftentimes unaware of is that every immigrant hoping to live in the United States legally must pass through the complex, oftentimes daunting, immigration legal system. For such individuals and families, working with an informed and caring advocate who understands this unusually complicated process can be the difference between successfully obtaining a visa for themselves or family members and incarceration, deportation, separation from family, or thousands of dollars of unnecessary expense.
Not just anyone can offer immigration legal advice. To prevent abuse and malpractice by unqualified advocates, the Justice Department allows only two groups of people to practice immigration law: attorneys and non-profit workers who earn Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accreditation. Among other requirements, BIA Accreditation applicants must show that they are knowledgeable and experienced in immigration law. Completing the Immigrant Pathway Institute fulfills the knowledge requirement for BIA Accreditation and positions the graduate to work with other students and Immigrant Pathway Institute presenters in order to gain experience, build a referral network, and know who to call with legal questions. In other words, Immigrant Pathway Institute graduates are well on their way to being able to offer vital and valuable service to individuals and congregations desiring to serve the new people groups that surround them.
With this in mind, and with the encouragement of local ALMIA pastors, Trinity First Lutheran Church and the Minnesota South District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod partnered financially in order to subsidize and scholarship the participation of two local ALMIA members in the Immigrant Pathway Institute. Pastor Demelash Oumer and fellow Ethiopian evangelist, Mi’eessa, successfully completed their IPI training and stand ready and willing to consult with District congregations that may need advice and assistance working with immigrant populations in their communities and churches. Helping our new neighbors in this way has the potential of earning for us the right to share the Gospel with them and imparting to them, and their extended families, the life that really is LIFE!