Eight years ago, Pastor Suresh Sammangi arrived in Boston with the big goal of reaching Asian Indians with the gospel.
There were “85,000 people and no evangelical churches and no gospel, so we started the first evangelical church for Asian Indians in greater Boston,” Sammangi said.
As lead pastor of Indian Community Church in Framingham, Massachusetts, Pastor Suresh’s vision has not only become a reality but even expanded.
The church has been been reaching Asian Indians and additionally receives international students who attend surrounding schools that include Harvard University, MIT, Northeastern University and Wellesley College.
“[We have] gatherings of 25 different nationalities, sometimes 30. International students come to our place and feel it’s a sanctuary, God’s hiding place, where they can get safety and hospitality; they feel this is their home,” he said. “We invite them to our church and our home, share a meal and share about Jesus Christ.”
‘First impression ministry’
Reaching international students comes with its challenges, though.
When asked how people find out about the church, Pastor Suresh said, “We are ethnic, coming from a different country and land, it’s easy to attract. [Internationals are] always looking for families who can talk to them, who are more hospitable.”
He added, “They come easily; it’s the easy part. The problem is it’s so transient; we build a relationship, and then they move.”
Boston is a very transient city with many colleges and universities, and many will move to larger cities after completing their degrees. Pastor Suresh has continued to persevere despite the consistent turnover of church attendees.
“In this journey, we’ve reached probably more than 400 Asian-Indian families in greater Boston,” he said. “Some stayed; some moved out. We call it first impression ministry.
“It’s a seed we put into their hearts, so when they move, the seed will grow,” he added. “As Paul said, ‘Some sow seed, some water.’ For international students, they don’t even know who Jesus is. Sometimes they’ve never heard the name of Jesus before coming to our church.”
Throughout the year, the Indian Community Church has received grants from Baptist Churches of New England for multiple outreach projects to support its efforts to sow seeds of the gospel.
At two events commemorating Indian Independence Day held by large state organizations, Sammangi and a team of volunteers from the church were able to “buy a table, so we have the complete right to speak out.”
Thousands of Asian Indians gathered at these events, and the team gave out New Testaments and Gospel tracts, shared about the church and invited interested people for lunch and upcoming church gatherings.
Sammangi has been looking forward to this fall semester and additional outreach projects, including volleyball and cricket games, cookouts and a Christmas event. He noted, “We’re excited for what’s ahead this year.”