Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sheba's legacy: Outreach to Yemeni Immigrants

The Queen of Sheba had heard many things about this King, about the wisdom that Yahweh had granted him. She had heard, but she did not believe until she went to see him, spoke with him, asked him all of her questions. Then she knew that Yahweh was a great God, who blesses greatly, and it took her breath away.
Yemen, the probable home of the Queen of Sheba, now the poorest country in the Middle East, no longer remembers Yahweh. With eleven civil wars in the past sixty years and the Arab Springs uprisings throughout the region, the country has had little opportunity to stabilize, creating an ideal climate for al-Qaeda bases to grow. Desert and mountains, camel herds and terraced farmland, slaves and businessmen, qat and mangoes, all rub shoulders in the still tribal, southwestern-most point of the Arabian peninsula, an entirely Muslim land. The Queen of Sheba once traveled great distances to witness the blessing of Yahweh and now her homeland is one of the least-evangelized countries in the world.
Some recent headlines about Yemen suggest the depth of difficulties their citizens face: Terrifying Yemen Hostage-Taking, Yemen Government Signs Peace Deal with Shia Houthi Rebels, Dozens of al-Qaeda Militants Killed in US Drone Attacks on Yemen, Yemen President Warns of Civil War. The tragic list goes on, the opportunities for Christian involvement there close, and Yemen’s emigrants pour into American cities.
In New York City alone, the Yemeni population is at least 20,000 members.
In each of the five New York City boroughs, as well as other American cities like Oakland, CA and Dearborn, MI, Yemeni immigrants own small grocery and convenience stores. They are hard workers, sometimes working fifteen hour days seven days a week, and sending much of their income home to their extensive familial and tribal networks in Yemen. Most of them have no intention of staying, but dream of making enough money to one day return to their country and family. They are as close as a can of Coke, or bar of soap. The most dangerous thing that one need dodge to get to them is a speeding taxi or a wandering pedestrian. But, is there anyone doing it?
Currently, there is little evangelical ministry focused on Yemenis in Metro New York.
Like the Queen of Sheba, they have come from the ends of the earth, to our street corner. They have left poverty, violence, and war; homeland, familiarity, and family to start a new life or sustain their current one, as our neighbors. They have come with questions, their eyes open for something great. If we do not go to see them; shopping at their stores, sharing with them the Good News of Jesus, and answering all their questions, when they are right before us, then how will they know that Yahweh is a great God who blesses greatly? What will take their breath away?

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