Sharing Christ’s light to immigrants and refugees
Written by Brad Jenkins

Wael Melek, who is completing his studies at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, recently joined First Pres as a pastoral intern. He will be completing an internship through the end of the year. We recently did a Q&A with Wael to get to know him better. 

How did you come to know Jesus?

My story starts with the light of Christ: I was born in a Christian family in Upper Egypt, where only 10 percent of people are Christians. My mom used to teach me Christian Arabic songs, one of them says, النور ينور حياتك نور المسيح العجيب  (“the light illuminates your life, the wonderful light of Christ”). My mom provided me with spiritual care by teaching me hymns and prayers. This is the earliest I can remember Jesus enlightening my life.

At college age, I came to know Jesus as my savior and Lord. The seeds that my mother and my church planted in childhood became fruitful at college.

And I kept asking, “God How do you want me to be the light of the world that you called me to be?”

How did God answer that prayer?

I came to the United States in October 2009. As a young adult who lived in an immigrant community, I felt the struggle of immigrants: being in a new culture, hearing a new language and living in a new social system. At times, I found myself like a newborn discovering their world.

The church, though, was a help to me.

In time, God led me to help immigrants’ and refugees’ families and individuals from the Middle East. Eventually, the Lord led me to leave my full-time work to go to seminary.

During seminary, you began to fell called to do ministry in Harrisonburg, with its growing immigrant and refugee population. Why do you feel called to serve immigrants and refugees?

So many times, as immigrants, we may wonder how God can use us outside our home countries. We are no longer among our families, friends and those ‎who may support us. ‎Even the language we speak is not our first language.

In the Bible, God used Joseph, and he was away from his country. Also, Ruth left her family to accompany her mother-in-law in a strange land, and she found grace in the eyes of God. And from her descendants, Jesus came.

God is at work with immigrants and refugees ‎‎who are here next door to us. The United States blessed us with missionaries who went to the Middle East and reached out to us with the Good News of Jesus; now that immigrants and refugees are here in the United States, we can reach them with the same Good News.

How do you see God at work in building a ministry for immigrants and refugees?

The little things that we may do showing Christ’s love to our neighbors may become life-changing experiences for those who receive them. Following the footsteps of Jesus, who loved us not with words, but with deeds and truth, we are seeking to depict the love of Jesus through little things that may help others and make their life a little bit easier.

We are blessed and should go and bless others. My vision is to welcome all immigrants from the Middle East into Christ’s family.