Philadelphia is one of the oldest gateway cities in the United States for international migrants. Today it is home to a large community of West Africans. On the Southwest side of the city is a small cluster of blocks known as Philadelphia’s Little Africa. Travel agencies advertise flights to Dakar, Bamako, Monrovia, Freetown, and Accra. Greater Philadelphia host families from West African nations such as Senegal, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, & Sierre Leon, and 15,000 from Liberia. In the early 2000’s Liberian immigration followed an historical connection to Philadelphia, and soon after new residents from Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and other West African nations began calling Philly home.
In our experience, we can identity three major outreach opportunities when connecting with West Africans in a North American city. First, there are many who have come to Philadelphia and other U.S. cities as disciples of Jesus, and they share a zeal for God's redemptive mission, an ability to pray fervently, and oftentimes experiences of faithfulness in the face of hardship. However, they have not had the opportunity for cross-cultural training for mission in North America's post-Christendom culture. There are opportunities to partner together and learn from one another.
Second, many West Africans come to Philadelphia, New York City, and other metro areas from unreached people groups and from locations sometimes hostile to sharing the good news. For those who feel called to the most unreached or unengaged peoples, serving as an urban missionary in Philadelphia may be one of the most effective ways to open doors among unreached peoples from West Africa. Third, there are many international migrants who may have identified as Christian or Muslim but now are probably best described as secular or post-______. They have adopted North America's secular emphasis, and they represent another need for mission engagement.
Where a GCMI Mission Catalyst serves in Northeast Philly, he is regularly encountering Muslims from Senegal. While he primarily focuses on a different set of cultures in his community, we quickly recognized that workers among West Africans in Philadelphia could become an important ministry. If you are called to West Africans and are seeking where the Spirit might use you, Philadelphia just might be the mission field that is calling. Let us hear from you.