We hear them telling in our own tongues the great things God has done.Acts 2:11
Internationals Outreach is a community of international students, scholars, and Philadelphia residents, who meet together to build friendships, enjoy intercultural exchange, share ideas, study, understand the Christian faith, and worship God.
We host a number of free English (ESL) programs, Bible studies, fellowship groups, outings and activities, holiday dinners, a spring weekend retreat, and monthly Sunday potluck luncheons.
Tenth’s ministry to internationals started in 1951 when a former Tenth pastor, Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, invited Dr. Bob Finlay to come to Philadelphia to start a ministry to reach out to the international community around Tenth. Dr. Finlay then organized a dinner that included a gospel presentation and invited internationals from various campuses around Tenth Church. This became an annual event hosted at Tenth with the focus of reaching out to international students. This motivated Dr. Finlay to start a campus-based ministry to internationals known today as International Students Inc. (ISI). Eventually Dr. Finlay moved to Washington D.C. and continued serving there through ISI.
After Dr. Finlay moved to Washington, another couple, the Baldwins, moved to Philadelphia in 1959. Upon visiting Tenth Church the first Sunday, they met a woman from the Philippines who was a student at Temple University. In talking with her they learned that she had many international classmates, and they felt motivated to invite them to their home for dinner. They also invited an InterVarsity staff worker to speak at the dinner. To their surprise, between 50 and 60 people showed up for the dinner, 20 from India and others brought by the InterVarsity staff worker.
This motivated the Baldwins to buy a house a couple blocks from Tenth Church and remodel the first floor with the purpose of offering hospitality to international students with an aim of reaching them with the gospel. This was successful as the Baldwins’ dinners served an average of 40 international students. Around 1966 the Fellowship Hall of Tenth Church was renovated, and because of increasing numbers, the dinners were moved there to be hosted in the church. Gordon and Beverly Palmer, another couple of Tenth, joined the Baldwins to help in the ministry. Miss Leda Jomeruck joined them as well to help with meal preparations.
In 1964 the Baldwins left Philadelphia and moved overseas to work, but before leaving Mrs. Baldwin left a written document on how to run this outreach to internationals. Tenth Church realized this ministry opportunity and organized a committee of six to eight people that included representatives from InterVarsity with Mr. Manfield Gairbotti as the chairman of the committee. The ministry continued to host the dinners at Tenth Church inviting speakers and the Palmers continued to host the dinners with Miss Leda Jomeruck in charge of the kitchen and Miss Diamond helping with the mailings.
In 1975 Dr. Ken Brown replaced Mr. Garibotti as the chairman of the committee and served until 1983. Mrs. Doris Schroth replaced Mrs. Palmer as coordinator and served for seven years. Late in 1982, Mr. Bruce McDowell became coordinator and director of the ministry.
The ministry had adopted the name of International Students Christian Fellowship (ISCF), and as the ministry was more consolidated, they decided to hire Mr. McDowell as the new coordinator. Tenth Church included a small budget in the mission commission to support Mr. McDowell. Until this point the ministry had never paid a staff person as everyone who served did it as a volunteer.
Development of Tenth’s Internationals Fellowship (TIF)
Prior to a time resetting the ministry, it had gone through a variety of names and ended up with Tenth Internationals Fellowship (TIF). Even though this was a good name and a name that was in the minds of many for so many years, it was communicating something to the congregation that limited the impact of the ministry. When the ministry was named this way, it was not done extra legally thinking of the implications this name had for the ministry. As can be seen, TIF describes “a fellowship of internationals meeting at Tenth.” Besides that, for many years the ministry expended most of the year meeting outside the premises of the church. All these circumstances had created a disconnect between the ministry, members of the ministry, leaders, and the larger congregation of Tenth Church.
The ministry became established and stable within the church, yet it was not featured as one of the key ministries of Tenth. This is not because there was no interest from some members on what was going on with the ministry or because there was no support for the ministry from the leadership of the church. Rather it was because the church had not realized the great potential the ministry had and how God was using it for His glory and honor reaching out to nations. Also, Tenth’s congregation did not have a sense of the ministry being theirs, but they only saw it as a ministry of a group of members interested in this particular ministry and the internationals at Tenth. It was considered by many a good ministry but at the same time many members of the congregation were not familiar with what was happening in the ministry and the ministry opportunities that this presented for the congregation. Though year after year many came to Christ through this outreach, were baptized, and returned to their country of origin with the gospel, many in the congregation were not even aware at the leadership level of the church of the kind of impact the ministry was having on many people’s lives.
Many in the congregation did not even know what TIF was about, even among the elders of the church. Many did not know the people attending the ministry activities and the leaders of the ministry. In fact, the ministry hosted one of the weekly worship services of Tenth Church, yet it was not acknowledged by many as an official worship service of Tenth. So even though the ministry was part of the church for half a century, it was not fully part of the fabric of the church nor embraced by its members. In reality there is no one to be blamed for this because the ministry grew in a natural way and many of the aspects of the ministry’s growth were not planned. It continues to grow and be established because God is blessing the ministry with good leaders and internationals connected with the ministry. There was a good portion of the harvest assigned to TIF by God.
The Need to Develop the Ministry Further
It is important for us to increase our outreach to internationals. Why? Because our Lord Jesus Christ said these words, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). These words are so true about the need for evangelism and kingdom work everywhere around the world, but they are even more relevant when we consider the need of reaching out to internationals here in Philadelphia.
First, not many churches have an outreach to internationals as Tenth has. There are a good number of churches, even small ones, that want to have a part in missions and invest in missions overseas, but when it comes to reaching out to the nations that are right here at our doorstep, there are very few churches engaged in outreach to internationals.
The number of internationals coming into our country is great and this is God’s will because He is sovereign, and the nations are in His hands. Considering the great number of people converting to Christianity among these internationals, we can assume that there is a great portion of God’s harvest among the people whom God has brought into our midst from other countries, and since there are not many churches involved in outreach to internationals we have a lot of work to do.
For this reason, we need to pay attention to this and to work hard to expand our outreach to internationals so we can make sure that they hear the gospel while they are here, praying that they will come to faith in Jesus and take this message as missionaries back to their countries of origin while those staying here will continue to work for God’s kingdom as they reach out to the next generation in our country. Because of this, the ministry at Tenth experienced a resetting time when there were some changes in the staff of the church, and leadership of the ministry meditated on a new vision presented to them that had the goal of making the ministry grow, mature, and become more visible in the congregation.
Part of the proposal for expanding the vision included the change of the name of the ministry to reflect more what the ministry was. The new name proposed by the leadership team was Internationals Outreach. How does this name make any difference? It made a difference because rather than being a fellowship of internationals meeting at Tenth, the new name was reflecting that this was Tenth’s outreach to internationals. With this new name the ministry stopped being an exclusive group of internationals connected with some members of Tenth to become the outreach venues for internationals of Tenth’s congregation.
As was expected, even the leadership of the ministry struggled with the idea of changing the name used by them for many years because change is always difficult, but soon they all realized that this was for the good of the ministry. We have seen the fruits of this vision expansion as the new Internationals Outreach (IO). This has energized the leadership team around a clearer vision of what we do. This has also caught the attention of Tenth’s congregation because through the new name we had the opportunity to reintroduce the ministry to the church and help the congregation understand that IO is their ministry. In fact, the leadership of the church brought another ministry of the church, ACTS ministry, that was having a similar experience together with IO to form a new commission of the church’s overseeing mercy at Tenth.
Internationals Outreach (IO) better represents the ministry and can help Tenth members have a better understanding of the nature of the ministry and how members of the congregation can be part of it. First, IO better fits the structural organization of the church. Since we have Global Outreach and Metro Outreach, it makes more sense to call the branch of Tenth focused on reaching out to internationals in Philadelphia “Internationals Outreach.” Second, this name also has the intention of communicating to the Tenth congregation that IO is their ministry and venue to reach internationals here in Philadelphia instead of communicating that there is a fellowship of internationals meeting at Tenth premises, as the name “TIF” communicates.
Third, the name IO would make better use of communication at Tenth. For example, Tenth’s website, bulletins, press articles, living churches and weekly emails targeted to Tenth’s congregation do not connect with internationals as these are not lines of connection with internationals and our website.
IO connects with internationals through emails sent to the mail lists that were created through time by sending emails to international students, by word of mouth and by the information that we bring to our small groups, ESL, ESL Bible studies, events and worship services.
Considering this, it makes more sense to use Tenth’s regular channels of communication mentioned above to inform Tenth’s members of the venues and opportunities available to reach out to internationals through the IO ministry.
In summary the rationale behind renaming the ministry as “Internationals Outreach” and to continue to use “TIF” for our internationals worship service only can be summarized in three points:
- To help the ministry have a better engagement with Tenth’s congregation.
- To communicate better what the ministry is as a whole.
- To better fit Tenth’s church structure.
Resetting the ministry was done with the purpose of expanding the vision. We needed to start the ministry cycle again. We needed to brainstorm, as we did at the beginning of the ministry. The vision of IO was determined to be to help and mobilize Tenth Presbyterian Church to reach out with the gospel to the nations that God has brought to our doorsteps in Philadelphia. The mission of IO is to reach out with the gospel, disciple and provide Christian community for internationals here in Philadelphia through Tenth Presbyterian Church. And the Core Values of the ministry include outreach, discipleship, worship and community.
The next step in resetting the ministry was to create new venues for internationals outreach. This does not mean that we needed to eliminate the venues that were working well. In fact, we wanted to empower what was going well to get better, but we had to cut some things that were part of the tradition of the ministry but were not really working well anymore. As we did this, we also worked in creating new venues that would allow us to serve more people and incorporate more leaders into the ministry. The ministry had developed throughout the years. Starting with monthly dinners and some events throughout the year, it moved to hosting a worship service and an ESL (English as a Second Language) program conducted in Tenth’s basement, called the “catacombs.” In more recent years we have developed a network of small groups and today there are Bible studies every day of the week. Our most recent development was the creation of ESL Bible studies on campuses in which the Bible is used to help students with their English skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing. We do not want this campus outreach to become a parachurch ministry but to be part of the new church-based and campus-based initiative. Presently we have ESL Bible studies at the University of Pennsylvania and at Temple University.
After refining the vision and creating new venues, we needed to establish a new strategy for communicating the venues and the new vision with the congregation. This was an opportunity to relaunch the ministry, create new excitement among the leaders, and bring new leaders on board. At this point the ministry should have experts in internationals outreach, which would be the leaders serving in the ministry for many years. They will train the new generation of leaders for the future of the ministry.
The committee at Tenth formed a leadership team of ten to twelve people to work with Mr. McDowell, each member having a different responsibility. They had monthly meetings for prayer and vision building. They planned social events and ESL classes for internationals.
In 1988 Mr. McDowell became a part-time staff member at Tenth and the support grew gradually until he became full time. Mr. McDowell was ordained as an assistant minister leading the internationals outreach efforts at Tenth. As years passed, Dr. McDowell’s scope of ministry grew, and he was assigned to lead missions at Tenth with part-time workers assisting him to continue doing internationals outreach.
In 2013 Rev. Enrique Leal was hired to lead the internationals outreach efforts working with Dr. McDowell. Initially hired as a part-time worker, he eventually became full time as Minister of Internationals at Tenth Church.