Growing up in white-bread America—his high school graduation class of almost 600 included only three non-Caucasians, and they were all exchange students—Joe Gosha was “ambivalent” about foreigners. Then he met some Vietnamese refugees, among the first wave of 1970s “boat people,” while playing volleyball at the local YMCA, in his early 20s.
Through getting to know and care about “people who were not like me,” Joe was awakened to the truth that “God exists in each human being He has created, not just those who look like me.” That “eye-opening” experience has guided his ministry ever since, working with, and on behalf of, refugees and immigrants.
Joe has helped coordinate resettlement efforts by Methodist churches, and worked with the International Rescue Committee, an NGO helping those fleeing conflict and natural disasters. He also pastored Foursquare congregations in North Carolina and Nevada before joining Foursquare’s central office staff nearly 20 years ago.
As Foursquare’s religious worker visa coordinator and immigration specialist, based in Phoenix, the fluent Vietnamese speaker assists Foursquare ministers and missionaries from other parts of the world called to the U.S. with their application process. Each file for government approval can generate a pile of documents more than three inches high.
But Joe sees his role as much more than pushing paper; by facilitating the presence of these Spanish-speakers from South America, Brazilians, Nigerians, Indonesians and others, Joe believes he is helping fuel the growth and life that many leaders believe is being seen more in ethnic and immigrant churches than most others.
“God exists in each human being He has created, not just those who look like me.”
Noting that many immigrants to the U.S. are from parts of the world closed or resistant to traditional missionary efforts, he says that “we would be well served to open our eyes and ears to other cultural perspectives than our own, and to begin to recognize what God is doing in allowing people to come to this nation. We could be missing an incredible opportunity God has given us to minister to people we could not reach there; in fact, [some] are pushing back against it and saying we are afraid to bring them here.”
Based in Phoenix, where he is part of Jesus Church of Arizona, Joe also works with Foursquare’s Refugee Care Network (one of our movement’s 11 Affinity Networks), championing outreach and ministry to those seeking safety in the U.S. as part of God’s mandate to His people to care for those in need.
He is concerned that the current heated political and cultural climate, stoked by fears of terrorism and talk of building a wall, has dimmed some Christians’ view of immigration; he observes that when he first got involved in the issue, refugee welcome and assimilation efforts were mostly led by churches, whereas today it is largely the concern of government and other non-religious agencies.
“I’m afraid that with the loud voices of many evangelical leaders around the country siding with politicians who speak fearfully regarding refugees and immigrants, I think it is a very difficult environment in which to be a Christian voice saying, What does Jesus say about it?”
But he finds hope in a recent event at a Phoenix church, when volunteers from different national and faith backgrounds gathered to assemble welcome bags for asylum seekers released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It was, he believes, a glimpse of Revelation 7:9, which describes people from “every nation, tribe, people and language” (NIV) before God’s throne.
“It wasn’t a ‘Christian’ event, but the Holy Spirit spoke to me that this is what God wants to do,” says Joe. “Our job as believers in Christ is to get on board and be leaders rather than followers.”