The Open Door: Clarkston International Bible Church and its presentation of a multi-ethnic faith

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I recently had the wonderful opportunity to attend worship at Clarkston International Bible Church. This amazing congregation is made up of people from all over the world who have come to live in the Clarkston community.

It is often said that Clarkston is the most ethnically diverse square mile in the United States. Though this church was established in 1881 as the Clarkston Baptist Church, it later merged with the Philippine International Bible Church and in 2004 became the Clarkston International Bible Church.

Clarkson International decided to remain and develop a ministry of compassion to its growing immigrant population when the town transitioned from largely Anglo to multicultural in the 1980s. Clarkson is known as the Ellis Island of the South. JOE WESTBURY/Index

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the ministry of this church is how they adapted to the changing culture and population of their community. Rather than being satisfied to be a shrinking Anglo-congregation, this church under the leadership of the Holy Spirit determined to engage the diversity of its community and minister to the various needs that existed.

Today, they include a Sudanese Christian Missionary Church that worships in Arabic on Sundays at 1 p.m. They average 100 in Sunday worship. They are led by Pastor Gorashi. Also meeting at the church is the Atlanta Nepali Church, where 100 people gather at 10:30 on Sunday mornings to worship in the Nepali language. They are led by Pastor Michael Magar.

The Karen Christian Fellowship is a large Burmese congregation that worships every Sunday afternoon at 2:00. They average 350 in attendance and are led by Pastor Ku. The Vertical Life Church is a small Pakistani congregation with 50 in attendance. They meet on Sundays at 5 p.m. and are led by Pastor Jamshed. Ray of Hope is a Nepali congregation that worships Sunday afternoons at 3:00. They average 120 in attendance. Their pastor is Pastor Mon.

The Burmese Home Group Network is a congregation that worships in various Burmese dialects. They are made up of seven house churches that meet in the Clarkston area. One of the groups worships at the Clarkston International Bible Church facility on Saturday afternoon. They are led by Pastor James Amar.

These churches participate in a myriad of ministries including: Home Sweet Home, a furniture and home goods distribution ministry; Acts 17 Initiative, which serves as an evangelical platform to mobilize churches to minister to refugees and immigrants throughout North America; and the Bread Ministry, in which every week volunteers gather bread and other donated items from Publix and distribute the items to families in need in Clarkston.

The CIBC Rec Ministry offers athletic activities for youth and adults in Clarkston. The open gym time attracts over 80 participants each week. There are leagues for basketball, soccer, and volleyball that will be offered in the future.

Other ministries conducted in partnership with Friends of Refugees include: Refugee Family Literacy offering ESOL classes for refugee women and an early childhood development program for their children, ages 0-5; Refugee Sewing Society; Embrace: Refugee Birth Support; and CIBC/For Youth Programs providing tutoring for middle and high school students. Career Hub, as well, is a job training and placement ministry connecting refugees with livable wage jobs in the Atlanta area. It includes resume building, computer literacy, job classes, and job fairs as well as mentorship activities.

Proskuneo School of the Arts and the Family Heritage Foundation After-School Program ministering to children from kindergarten through 8th grade.

No wonder God is blessing the ministry of Clarkston International Bible Church, where Pastor Trent DeLoach and his wife, Elizabeth, are providing visionary leadership for a marvelous congregation with a heartfelt desire to reach people of the nations in their own community. Many of our churches find themselves in transitional communities. My hope is that the CIBC will provide encouraging inspiration for a new commitment to reach the people that have come to Georgia from all across the world.

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