For Danial Habte, pastor of Kingdom Gospel Church and All Nation Worship Church—two congregations connected to Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo—international evangelism begins with relationship and can occur in the unlikeliest of places.
For Yusuf Hussein, All Nation and Habte have been lifesaving.
Habte, a native of Eritrea, planted churches for 13 years in
Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey before arriving in Amarillo at the end of 2012, when the Turkish government refused to renew his work permit.
From Turkey to Texas
When persecution prevented his return to Eritrea—a small African country bordering the Red Sea—Habte, his wife, Weini, and their children applied for and were granted asylum in the U.S.
Embassy officials asked the Habtes where they would like to relocate in America. They prayed that God would choose the city and state for them, assuming they would be sent to a large city.
“Do you know anyone in Texas?” an embassy official asked.
“We don’t have anybody. We don’t know where to go,” Habte replied, assuming they would be sent to Dallas or Houston.
Instead, their destination became Amarillo, a city they had never heard of before.
The family arrived in Amarillo in December 2012. Missionary friends from Turkey introduced them to Paramount Baptist, where Danial shared his desire with church leadership to evangelize internationals. Before long, a significant multiethnic, multicultural ministry began right in the heart of the Texas Panhandle.
Kingdom Gospel Church started as a
Bible study for followers of Christ who met in Paramount facilities. Danial, eventually on staff as missionary-in-residence at the church, led the study and became the group’s pastor. Today, services continue every Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. In 2014, Kingdom Gospel Church affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Kingdom Gospel members are primarily Eritreans and Ethiopians, Habte said.
Recently, a second Bible study, geared partly but not exclusively for Arabic-speaking peoples, launched at Paramount and has become a separate congregation: All Nation Worship Church. The group meets later in the afternoon on Sundays than Kingdom Gospel. Migrants from seven to eight countries attend, including South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, and the Congo.
Paramount also offers English as a Second Language classes on Wednesdays and during the traditional Sunday school hour.
Sundays are busy days for Habte, who is building the two congregations by befriending Panhandle area migrants.
“We build friendships with all communities: Muslims from the Middle East, Somalis, and Sudanese. They know I am a pastor and work in the church. We help them with things like rides, Walmart trips, applications,” Habte said.
Somali and Sudanese migrants tend to cluster in two areas of Amarillo, he said, adding that he and his family live close to Paramount. He has found that if you build friendships with migrants, they will come.
Yusuf Hussein understands living in constant danger. In 2014, the Somali native came to the U.S. from the Awbare refugee camp in Ethiopia.
“I had to leave my country for fear of genocide, killing. [It was] generally unsafe for life. Every day people kill each other for no reason,” Hussein said.
His path to the U.S. first took him to San Diego, Calif., where he heard of work available in a meatpacking plant in Amarillo. To Texas he went.
A Christian friend gave him a Somali-language Bible in 2016. Hussein hadn’t encountered Christians in Somalia but remembered contacts with believers in Ethiopia, where he “started to see good things from Christians.”
Christian behavior contradicted his preconceptions about the faith gleaned from his Muslim background in Somalia. “I found out it was misconception and contradiction; what I had heard before about Christianity was wrong,” he recalled.
Hussein decided to read through the Bible, and he said he “believed and accepted Jesus in the same year I finished reading the Bible.”
It hasn’t been easy since.
Once they learned of his conversion, family members forbade Hussein from associating with them. He was barred from the Amarillo Somalian community and businesses. Once he was harassed and physically beaten by local Somalians. He has experienced “cultural discomfort” not only learning to live in the U.S., but also adjusting to Christian community itself.
“Living among people with whom I had never lived before was hard for me,” he said.
But through Habte and All Nation, Hussein has found a home.
Hussein said he thanks God that he found Pastor Habte: “I feel relieved and comforted. Pastor Danial helped me connect with other followers of Christ who have the same background and culture.”
Hussein serves as treasurer of All Nation and, though forbidden from formally socializing with other Islamic migrants, has learned to share the gospel with them nonetheless through YouTube presentations, thanks to training provided by Habte and others at Paramount.
Hussein’s experience illustrates the power of relationship and the methods by which All Nation is growing God’s kingdom. “We use relational evangelism skills. Evangelism is all about relationship,” Habte noted in a description of his ministry, Kingdom Gospel Mission.
Were it not for Paramount’s ongoing partnership, Habte’s work would be far more difficult. “Paramount is always missional and continually supportive,” he said.
With the nations migrating to the U.S., sharing the gospel internationally can take place on one’s own doorstep, even in the Texan Panhandle.