Four weeks from today I'll pack my clothes and my cats into the Jetta and head to Michigan for two months. The cats are going to live with Grandma and Grandpa in Grand Rapids while I work on my practicum on the other side of the state in Dearborn.
Dearborn, Mich., is the home of Ford Motor Company and the second largest concentration of Arab Americans in the country (according to the 2000 Census). The city also has the highest percentage of population that are of Arab ancestry. A city of around 100,000 people, close to 30,000 are Arab Americans; that's 30 percent of the population. By comparison, New York City has the biggest population of Arab Americans but with over 8 million people and about 70,000 Arab Americans, less than one percent of the population is of Arab ancestry (numbers from 2000 Census).
Many of the first Arab Americans that immigrated to the area were Lebanese Christians but over the last couple decades more Arab Americans began to come from Yemen, Iraq and Palestine. These latter groups were more predominantly Muslim. In 1963, Dearborn became the home of the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America.
This is the community that I am going to live and work in. I'll be working with home missionaries Trey and Becky Hancock at Dearborn Assembly. As part of my project, I will do an ethnographic study of the community: learning the culture, language and traditions of the Arab community in Dearborn. I will also do a study of the church through interviews with leaders, lay leaders and members to discover the culture and organization of the church. I will then make suggestions to bridge the cultures by developing various marketing and communications pieces.
In a conversation with Becky, she mentioned that there are only two evangelical churches in Dearborn and that their call is to bring the church back to Dearborn. So I will look to help create some pieces for the church to send to supporters to share the story of the church and the community and their needs and to mobilize believers to reach out to the unreached people groups within our own borders, in some of our most popular and populated U.S. cities.
Pray for me! I'm jumping into a new city and new culture with a huge project on my plate. I believe this project could become a model for my future and I hope this initial trial run will shed some light on that.