Refugees & Immigrants
Unemployment permeates South Africa, despite several job-creation efforts. Because locals blame refugees and immigrants for taking their jobs, xenophobia — the fear and hatred of foreigners — occasionally flares up in Johannesburg. When this happens, foreigners are the victims of violent attacks. But one inner-city pastor believes God works through xenophobia in ways people may not understand.
“I have friends now in the Lord, because of xenophobia,” Raphael Kayamba, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, said.
Kayamba shared about a time when foreigners were attacked because of xenophobia and fled to the local police station. Members of Bellevue Baptist took the opportunity to bring food and water to the victims, while at the same time bringing the love of Christ to them.
“God can use us through xenophobia,” Kayamba said. “It doesn’t make sense to most people, but it is a reality. We should always take advantage of opportunities to present the Gospel.”
When Kayamba ministers to victims of xenophobia, he first encourages them to find hope in Christ and persevere, and then helps with their physical needs.
On the other hand, when ministering to those struggling with the fear of foreigners, Kayamba starts by telling them this world does not belong to them, it belongs to God.
“If the person is not a believer, then by the grace of God I will explain to them how to become a believer,” Kayamba said. “Then they can understand this world is temporary for us, before we go home with God, so there is no need to hate people.”
Hatred usually comes from fear, according to Kayamba, so he believes it is crucial to bring hope, strength and confidence through Scripture to those suffering from xenophobia.
Kayamba immigrated to South Africa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1992 to study civil engineering. Seven years later Kayamba was working on a water sanitation project when God had him stop what he was doing, leave the project and pursue ministry.
“It was very strange …” Kayamba said. “God just led me one step at a time.”
Kayamba never dreamed of being a pastor, but now he loves the people God enables him to minister to through urban missions. Each day Kayamba reaches out to those who are unemployed, homeless, students, children, professionals, refugees and immigrants from places like Nigeria, Zambia, Rwanda, Congo and Swaziland.
Kayamba believes his purpose in life is to bring people from different parts of the world to know Christ by sharing God’s love with everyone.
“For everything that we do, the driving passion is the love of Christ,” Kayamba said, referring to all Christ-followers. “That way people will see the love of Christ in us, and then they will believe.”
- God will bring the people struggling with xenophobia and victims of xenophobia to salvation through Jesus Christ. Kayamba said to pray the Spirit of God will soften their hearts, because He is the only One who can.
- God will send investors to Johannesburg to provide work opportunities. Kayamba said the biggest stronghold in the city is unemployment, because many people use unemployment as an excuse to do evil.
- God will send people with His specific mission to reach inner-city Johannesburg by His grace.
- God will restore families in the city and transform fathers to be the spiritual leaders of each household.
- Young people will follow God’s will for their life – especially if He is leading them to serve in vocational ministry. Kayamba said the biggest problem in Africa is false teaching. He prays God will raise up a generation of sound biblical teachers trained and led by the Holy Spirit so the ministry in Africa may move forward.