Mission to Arabs, Chinese, & Albanians in Northeast Philadelphia

by Michel Hatem April 27, 2014

Did you know that Iraqi refugees are often relocated to Northeast Philadelphia? Did you know that a third of Northeast High School’s 3,000 students are of Chinese descent? Did you know that there are over 30,000 Albanians in Philadelphia, with a hub in the Northeast?

These are only three of the ethnic groups that Northeast Community Church (NCC) is serving through ESL classes, through assistance with citizenship applications, through soccer, and through being there. NCC is reaching people from around the world right here in Philadelphia. 

“Northeast Community Church is unusual because it is reaching three different language groups. It offers simultaneous worship services in English, Albanian, and Chinese—led by three different pastors,” says Bruce Finn, Metro Philadelphia Church Planting Partnership Coordinator. Since then, a fourth service in Arabic has been started twice a month. 

Vinny Tauriello, senior pastor of NCC, says, “Northeast Philly attracts a significant number of immigrants.” His vision to plant a multicultural, multilingual church has always been to have an English core ministry as the most effective way of reaching whole families with the gospel. First generation immigrants need to be reached in their mother tongue, but their children and other people in the community will be best reached in English, their dominant language. The goal is that these ministries will stand together for the gospel’s spread in NE Philly. God has brought together a unique team of church planters, missionaries, pastors, and volunteers to accomplish this. Since Tenth seeks to support church planters, especially among ethnic groups in the Philadelphia area, we provide support through our outreach budget.

Jason Stryd, who has worked with ethnic Albanians before, and Martin Katro, an Albanian American, lead the Albanian church community. In the past year Jason has baptized several converts. Two are men in their 50s whose journeys to Jesus have taken years of hearing the gospel and gradually having the atheistic brainwashing of communism replaced by the message of Jesus Christ. Their public professions and baptisms are huge steps for them, their families and this community. There are many more like these men who are nearing the point of making a public profession of faith and identifying themselves with Jesus Christ.

Maranatha Chung preaches in Mandarin (the official language of China) and Cantonese to the Chinese church community and is reaching out into the neighborhood to other Chinese residents. Part of Maranatha’s support comes from Hong Kong, China, and he has an ongoing biblical teaching ministry in Southeast Asia every year. Recent baptisms of both adults and children have been exciting movements in the Chinese community.

Dennis Blankenbeckler, an elder and former Tenth partner in North Africa, leads a worship service in Arabic twice a month, along with an Egyptian pastor who currently attends Westminster Theological Seminary. Dennis and his wife Judy are reaching out to those who have come to Northeast Philadelphia. Some have had dreams of Jesus, and most are very thankful to receive the “Jesus Film” in Arabic. Dennis also helps lead “Meetings for Better Understanding” where mosques and churches collaborate to share their respective views on selected topics.

Integral to the outreach of NCC is its ESL ministry. About 150 international adults come once or twice a week from September through May to learn English. Up to 40 children come with them. Their desire is to get jobs, help their children with homework, and become U.S. citizens. Over 60 volunteers from Philadelphia area churches come to teach English and show the love of Christ to immigrants and refugees of all ages and backgrounds. This ministry helps reach the nations and directly links international neighbors to the church and its various language communities. Jennifer Taylor Hogg, leader of this ministry, was a member of Tenth’s youth group (Maranatha) in the ‘90s.

God is reaching the nations here in Philadelphia! Pray for the pastors and the church community, that God would open doors for gospel-sharing, and that the church plant would not grow weary in doing good in Northeast Philadelphia. For information, visit www.nccphilly.org and www.esl.nccphilly.org, or email Vinny.