ST. CHARLES – The “Good Neighbor Initiative” of Oasis International Ministries in the Bevo neighborhood of St. Louis, was the recipient of a $2,080 offering by MBC annual meeting messengers on the last day of the convention.
Darren Casper, the Association Mission Strategist, for the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, said the Good Neighbor Initiative attempts to connect volunteers from St. Louis area churches with an organization called Oasis International Ministries, located in the South City region of the metro. He said this is where many immigrants and refugees get their new start in the U.S. as they arrive in St. Louis. Casper used to be the pastor of The Church At Bevo there. He said the people from many Muslim countries arrive as refugees, and they have very little in the way of furniture, money or connections in their new country.
The media director of Oasis, Denise Rhoades, said the MBC offering funds will help purchase items in their “free store” where immigrants may “purchase” (at no cost) things such as clothing, sewing items, shoes and hygiene supplies. She said the organization also provides a lot of food for the asylum seekers and refugees, helping them with groceries and to apply for government assistance as well. Sometimes they can pay rent for the people until they are able to get jobs in the community.
“Due to COVID-19 this year we put out over $120,000 in rent assistance,” she said.
“God provided it through people’s generosity, and He is still helping us now,” she added.
Rhoades said they provide English language classes, help with obtaining U.S. citizenship, assistance with equipment and supplies for those having new babies as well as helping people learn how to drive.
In their history Oasis has helped people from over 50 nations. Recently the immigrants have been mostly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Congo. She said, “A lot of these individuals are veterans. They served alongside U.S. soldiers in the mideast and now that many of those troops have been withdrawn, it is not safe for those nationals to stay there.” So they are assisted to come to live in the U.S. Many find their way into Bevo in South City, St. Louis.”
Casper said, “The funds from this love offering will go directly into the homes of refugee families. They will provide things like blankets, fans, rice cookers and will help create new friendships between St. Louis believers and these Muslims, Hindus and those from other religious traditions.”
Rhoades said they share the gospel with the families in Bevo. “Many of our Muslim friends tuned in to online church services this spring. We brought boxes of fresh fruit and food to their homes and included a copy of the “Jesus” DVD in their native language. We invited them to tune into the American church worship services online. It take years to evangelize some of these people. It is very hard for Muslims to convert, but we have a lot of people moving closer to receiving Christ.”
She told of an Iraqi single mother who sent back photos of her and her family watching the “Jesus” DVD together.
Rhoades also said the Concord Church, located in nearby South County, really stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a widow from the north African nation of Eritrea who needed help fixing up their home and volunteers from the church helped her with the repairs.
She also told of a single mother from the Congo who had four teenage boys. She was tested positive with the COVID-19 virus and the family had to be under quarantine. During this time she could not work and there was no family income. Oasis was able to arrange for food to be brought to the family from the Concord Church, and they worked with the family to arrange for application for government food assistance. “This church purchased and delivered the food to this family. They had no one” (to help them),” said Rhoades.
Casper said there are 88 churches affiliated with the St. Louis Metro Association, and he helps as many as possible to get involved in the Good Neighbor Initiative of Oasis.
For more information about Oasis, check their website at: www.goodneighborstl.com.