When it comes to international language ministry, Michael Barrett doesn’t have to travel very far to reach his missions field.
A longtime pastor and missions leader, Barrett has been associational mission strategist for Piedmont Baptist Association in Greensboro, North Carolina since 2018. He noted 23 of the association’s 120 churches are language congregations.
“Just a conglomerate of the world is coming to us,” he said. “God has brought the world to us — literally.”
Included in the language churches are Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Congolese, Ethiopian, Hispanic, Karen, Korean, Laotian, Pakistani and Vietnamese.
Reflecting the region’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity, church plants in recent years include First Indo Pak Church, Heavenly Bread (Chinese) Church, High Point Matu Christian Church, Iglesia La Red, Lao Christian Fellowship, Life Community Myanmar and Pinecroft Korean.
“We always have a baptism of one of our language churches at our annual meeting and it’s the highlight of the meeting,” Barrett said. “We’re seeing them reach people and just to be a part of that is wonderful.”
Open door for ministry
Tamran Inayat, pastor of First Indo Pak Church, noted Piedmont Association provided “the first door that opened up for ministry in North Carolina” for his congregation and other language groups.
Citing the challenges of serving in a new setting while “learning a new language and learning a new culture,” Inayat said the association “was a bridge that connected us with local Anglo churches and connected us with other international churches.”
Affirming Barrett’s close relationship with the international pastors and churches, Inayat added, “He knows our pain and our struggles and he accepts us. That comes from his experience and from his heart.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic Inayat expanded the church’s outreach to include home Bible study groups as well as a preaching ministry on video and Facebook that is reaching thousands of viewers around the world each week, especially in his homeland of Pakistan.
“With the Internet, our online service goes everywhere,” Inayat noted. “Many, many people are coming to Christ.”
“That’s just been a wonderful experience and our whole association gets to hear that testimony,” Barrett said. “It’s been a great encouragement to everybody to be a part of what he’s doing because we are together in ministry.”
In addition to Inayat’s video ministry, association churches have partnered with language congregations through a variety of projects, ranging from English as a Second Language classes and international student ministry to pastoral leadership training and providing facilities for language groups to gather and worship.
Noting “God has supplied pastors” for Piedmont’s international churches, Barrett said, “We’ve been privileged to be a part of the ordination of several of those pastors just recently in some of our new churches.”
The association’s Khmu Laotian congregation recently celebrated the milestone of purchasing its own building.
“They’ve been meeting in one of our churches for 20 years, saving their money so they could buy and have their own building,” Barrett said. “So we’ve just celebrated a great day with them.”
Estimating that there are more than 700,000 people in the Piedmont Triad region who haven’t been reached with the gospel, Barrett said his personal ministry calling is “to invest the rest of my life in kingdom ministry, in kingdom focus, in kingdom work.”
“We have a great responsibility, a great calling of God to penetrate that darkness, to be about the gospel,” he declared. “I’m thankful for the churches that are doing just that.”
As churches in Piedmont Association work together to reach across language and cultural barriers, Barrett said, “We’ve become one church, one body, one heartbeat — with many ministries, but one heart for the nations.”
He encouraged other churches and associations to seek opportunities to minister to internationals in their communities.
“If you will open your heart and open your doors, you’re going to be a part of reaching the nations, and that’s what the Scripture is all about.”