Baptisms and Confirmations for Refugees
A recent confirmation ceremony at Grace Community was a long time coming for Leili Momeni, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity before leaving Iran eight years ago.
Momeni was one of 35 confirmations and 14 baptisms recently at Grace Community, led by the Rev. Dr. Samira Izadi Page. Those baptized and confirmed, by the Rt. Rev. George Sumner, came to Dallas as refugees from Bhutan and Iran. Many of those from Iran had converted from Islam, and those from Bhutan had converted from Buddhism.
Some of the confirmands from Iran were already Christian, like Momeni, but had suffered persecution because it’s illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity. In Iran, Momeni’s husband spent a week in jail after authorities discovered him worshiping as a Christian in an underground house church. “They told my husband if you change religions, we can take your wife,” Momeni said. They were able to leave Iran legally, but spent three years in Turkey as refugees before coming to Dallas. Once arriving in Dallas, Momeni's family connected with Page.
Gateway of Grace works to help with the practical, emotional and spiritual needs of refugees. “It’s a holistic approach. It’s not a project,” Page said. “We are meeting the whole person and the needs they have.”
Coming to America as a refugee is challenging. Momeni remembers crying a lot in the early days of living in a new country with a language she didn’t yet understand. But after spending time at Gateway of Grace and becoming self-sufficient, Now Momeni works for Gateway of Grace in pastoral care, helping new refugees adjust to their new lives.
The beauty of the ministry is that when these refugees get established they start helping others by serving, Page said. “We create a culture in them that is conducive of service not just receiving. That’s a Christian value we place in their lives, regardless of their religion. They like these values, they see how good they are. Even if they don’t become Christian they pick up Christian values.”