Wesleyans can learn more about loving and ministering to immigrants living in communities across the U.S and abroad through Immigrant Connection, a non-profit affiliated with The Wesleyan Church (TWC).

A new cohort, Discovering and Living God’s Heart for Immigrants: A Guide to Welcoming the Stranger, is offered for persons wanting to learn more on what God says in the Bible about loving immigrants. The eight-session, fully online event is open to TWC laity and clergy.

“We believe our online learning cohorts benefit all types of individuals — from those who are just beginning to explore this topic to those who are already involved in ministry to and with immigrants,” said Rev. Zach Szmara, Immigrant Connection director. “While there are many perspectives on immigrants and immigration, the goal of this learning community is to root your perspective on the Bible and God’s heart.”

According to Szmara, “The eight sessions explore both a biblical foundation on immigrants and an understanding of past and current immigration processes and categories.”

Rev. David Norman, Celebrate Church pastor in Mankato, Minnesota, shared about his cohort experience.

“I enrolled in the Immigrant Connection online learning cohort as a necessary step towards opening an office simultaneously with our church plant,” said Norman. “However, I did not expect to be so deeply affected by the realization that immigration is such a recurring theme throughout the Scriptures.

“Abraham was an immigrant. Jacob and his huge family were refugees [living] in Egypt. David sought asylum among the Philistines while fleeing from Saul. Even Jesus was a refugee in Egypt,” Norman said. “Paul used his preferred status as a Roman citizen to spare himself a flogging, and he taught us all to live as immigrants on earth, whose citizenship is in heaven … I am compelled to find ways that I could show abundant compassion in the name of Jesus.”

“[The course curriculum] helps to give a strong biblical basis to what Scripture says about immigrants,” said Rev. Matthew Hooper, co-pastor of Oakway United Wesleyan Church in Westminster, South Carolina.

Courtney Peñaranda, an assistant with Immigrant Connection, also attended the cohort. Part of her reasons for attending is personal.

“As the wife of an immigrant — and someone who grew up in a predominately Hispanic community and has worked in immigration for several years — it’s easy to think that I wouldn’t ‘need’ a course like this,” said Peñaranda, who attended an in-person course last summer.

“Growing up in South Texas, my identity as a young white girl was very unique,” Peñaranda said. “Somehow, I understood the privilege I had but also wanted to be identified as a person of the majority culture around me. This course allowed me to reexamine my childhood and the incredible example my parents set forth.”

Peñaranda, who also has experience as a legal assistant for an immigration attorney in the Indianapolis, Indiana, area, admittedly began the cohort with some personal assumptions. She felt people’s opinions on immigration were based on where they were from or what they looked like. She learned “quite the opposite. Some people surprised me in their love and care for immigrants for years, some of whom even had immigrants living with them.

“At the end of my eight-week study, I was completely changed. God, once again, dealt with my assumptions of people. It was also a crucial part of my own journey as I examined my own story in terms of my views on immigrants.”

To learn more about the cohorts, click here.

Immigrant Connection recently celebrated its seventh anniversary. Read the full article about its impact in sharing the love of Christ with immigrants.